Kiki Smith, ‘Sojourn’ at the Brooklyn Museum

Messenger III, 2007

Messenger III, 2007

Currently on exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in the Sackler Center for Feminist Art is an installation by German-born (but New Jersey raised), feminist artist Kiki Smith entitled Sojourn. Ms. Smith’s installation is a collection of sculpture, mixed-media pieces, collage, photography, and drawing that are a meditation on the cycle of life and creative inspiration for female artists.

Silver Bird, 2006

The textures and translucence of the delicate pieces that Ms. Smith has created dominate the gallery space as you enter. She used predominately thin, Nepal paper to draw figures of women in dark lines of graphite with highlights of light blues, golds, grays, and glittering mica that give an ethereal quality to the figures and ideas her work seeks to convey. Each woman is captured in a different moment of contemplation depicted on the numerous pieces displayed along the gallery walls.

There is no direct sequencing of the women, yet the pieces move together in rhythm, echoing and reflecting details, colors, and images that draw the audience from one piece to another. One can trace the movement of life and death through the exhibit, noting moments of frustration, excitement, and inspiration in the dream-like environment created by the nature-inspired hues of the various pieces.

Singer, 2008

The atmosphere created by Ms. Smith’s work is one of the most powerful aspects of the exhibit. The cool, neutral tones and earthly textures of paper, mica, flower, and wood, evoke a feminine experience deeply in conversation with the natural world. The works invite the audience to look closer at the fragile nature of the material as it represents feminine experience–a metaphor, perhaps, of the narrative of female creativity that Smith constructs.

“In Sojourn, Smith, who is known for a psychologically acute, non-narrative approach to constructing installations, begins from the position of the adult female artist and cycles through a series of experiences and artistic genres that venture far beyond the autobiographical. Religion, mythology, and spirituality surface repeatedly throughout Smith’s work […] identifying the unknown and unexpected sources female artists draw upon for inspiration.”

Visitation of Bird I

On display through September 2010 and worth the journey to Brooklyn. While there, you can also enjoy Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party,  in the neighboring gallery.

Photographs and excerpts from the Brooklyn Museum and the New York Times.


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