Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kiki Smith

SMITH: The women—I put them together because they have a physical relationship to one another. The women on pyres came from a photograph I bought, in an anonymous collection of photographs, from someone’s notebook in the late 1890s from Lyon. And it’s like early collage work from Victorian times, when people started having access to cameras and started making these collages. And this person made these incredibly wonderful collages—chopping this woman’s head off and then her decapitated head sort of rolling around. And then he also made these wonderful ones—of a woman kneeling on a pillow—and then he collages that with a pyre, these women on pyres.
And I was asked to be in a competition last year, or two years ago, for an outdoor sculpture. And I spent a lot of time trying to do it, but I wasn’t good at doing it. And I decided that I didn’t want to make public sculpture that was of other people’s agendas. I couldn’t do that. I can only do things that come from my necessity. And so, then I thought I wanted to make these women on pyres, like these commemoratives for witches. I was making, at the time, drawings of drowned witches, of them floating with their hair in the water. And I thought these women on pyres—that I wanted to make these sculptures and that they should be in all these towns in Europe, like, in each town.
There aren’t commemorative sculptures for witches in Europe. There was a tremendous amount of killing, and there’s little commemoration of that. And so, no one has needed it in their town yet. (LAUGHS) But you know, I just make them anyway. Their arms are out, like Christ saying, “Why have you forsaken me?” I had originally made some, where the pyres were out of metal, but then I just bought wood for it.

Art21 article here.