Recent Acquisitions: Kiki Smith, My Blue Lake, 1995

Hood Quarterly, autumn 2014

Kiki Smith is among the most admired and significant American artists of her generation. As a feminist artist and activist, she has created a large number of highly memorable sculptures, drawings, collages, and prints in which the human body is imbued with political significance. Smith has often used her own face and body as material for her work, and this practice continues in My Blue Lake, her most important and best-known print. After making a number of works that included depictions of various parts of her own body, the artist became interested in creating a work that showed the skin of her body as a flat image, similar to the way a map becomes a flattened version of the globe. Searching for a tool that would help her to achieve this long-held desire, Smith gained access to a special periphery camera in the British Museum in London. Originally designed for use in geological surveys, this camera allowed Smith to produce a 360-degree image of her head and upper torso from all sides simultaneously. The artist spent two days at the British Museum in July 1994, during which she was photographed while sitting motionless on a rotating Lazy Susan-style turntable. The innovative process yielded several four-by-five-inch negatives, one of which was used to make an enlarged photogravure for My Blue Lake. The resulting prints, which were individually hand-colored by the artist as they emerged from the press, represent a subtle blending of landscape and human form, as Smith's face, hair, and upper torso are splayed horizontally across the surface. Smith literally skins herself, transforming her head, neck, and shoulders into a textured and tattooed topography in which the streaks of blue read as the water of the print's title, while the cascading red-brown hair suggests land and the shoreline.

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Written September 01, 2014