Kiki Smith (b. 1954) is a West German-born artist whose work has addressed the themes of sex, birth, and regeneration. Her figurative work of the late 1980s and early 1990s confronted subjects such as AIDS and gender, while recent works have depicted the human condition in relationship to nature. Smith’s father was artist Tony Smith and her mother was actress and opera singer Jane Lawrence. She moved from Germany to South Orange, NJ as an infant in 1955. Her childhood experience in the Catholic Church, combined with a fascination for the human body, shaped her work conceptually. In 1976, she moved to New York and joined Collaborative Projects (Colab), an artist collective. The influence of this radical group's use of unconventional materials can be in seen in her work.
Prompted by her father's death in 1980 and by the AIDS death of her sister, the underground actress, Beatrice “Bebe” Smith in 1988, Smith began an ambitious investigation of mortality and the physicality of the human body. She has gone on to create works that explore a wide range of human organs; including sculptures of hearts, lungs, stomachs, livers, and spleens. Related to this was her work exploring bodily fluids, which also had social significance as responses to the AIDS crisis (blood) and women's rights (urine, menstrual blood, feces).
Smith has experimented with a wide range of printmaking processes. Some of her earliest print works were screen-printed dresses, scarves, and shirts, often with images of body parts. MoMA and the Whitney Museum both have extensive collections of Smith's prints. Smith also sculpts, and her first permanent outdoor sculpture was commissioned and installed on the campus of the University of California, San Diego. In 2010, the Museum at Eldridge Street commissioned Smith and architect Deborah Gans to create a new monumental east window for the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue, a National Historic Landmark located on New York’s Lower East Side.
Smith collaborated with poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge to produce Endocrinology (1997), and Concordance (2006), and with author Lynne Tillman to create Madame Realism (1984).