Smith on the influence of her Catholic upbringing
The artist Kiki Smith has a persistent interest in the human body. A motif you’ll see throughout her work is the écorché, a figure that has been flayed to reveal the muscles underneath the skin. Here’s Kiki Smith.
The Virgin Mary, you know, is basically life-size écorché. You know, which is how students traditionally study anatomy, is by building muscle by muscle. You know, and it was about the Virgin Mary and about kind of an insistence of being in the flesh. But it was also about, you know, trying to learn anatomy. I cut channels into the bronze, after it was cast, and—and hammered in silver to—to expose her veins. I think if you’re Catholic, you have to think about the Virgin Mary, you know, a lot. And, you know, many of the artists in the eighties and nineties that worked, that made specifically, overtly work about the body, or transgressed, images of the body, were Catholic artists. You know, people at least with Catholic upbringings. In Catholicism, there are very few female deities; there’s only the Virgin Mary is the biggest one. She’s our, you know, sky goddess or something like that.
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