Kiki Smith headlined the Nasher's Speaker Series last January and the thing sold out, fast. Now more of North Texas gets to glean off Smith: the Irish Catholic talent just moved into the IAA artist-in-residency at the University of North Texas where she'll work during 2013-2014 academic year. Students will get face time with her through classroom visits and she'll create large-scale, print-focused work for a March exhibition at UNT on the Square.
She's the daughter of American sculpture Tony Smith and was immersed in art-making since early childhood. In an episode of 'Art 21' (awesomely introduced by John Waters), she explained her upbringing like this: "We were a little bit like the Adam's Family. ...One part of our house was entirely our dead ancestor's clothing from the late 1800's. There were teeth and dentures. It was all lots of death - death everywhere."
That morbid appreciation of rituals, mythology and artifacts follows through in her work, much of which focuses on storytelling through the female being. She's done an entire sculptural series of dried dead animals fueled by a vision she had of recreating Noah's Ark. She's collected three generations of death masks, cast from the faces and arms of deceased family members. She tributes witches and saints and spirits through statuary, print-cuts and other compulsively-crafted mediums and she does so in a way that's beautiful, odd and reminiscent of things you might find in a dilapidated, ancient Irish cottage.
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It's exciting that she's here. It's quite 'a get' for UNT and an accomplished rounding-out of artist-in-residency talent for the institution, which previously welcomed screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga; opera-composer Jake Heggie (Ahab Symphony); and sculpture and performance artist Nick Cave.