Kiki Smith is best known for figurative works that explore mortality, abjection and sexuality. The artist has a special fascination with the body and bodily fluids, and frequently depicts excreta such as blood, semen and bile in carefully crafted sculptures that bear the influence of surrealism. Smith's work encompasses tattooing, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, textiles and photography, employing each medium to engage with a range of themes that relate to the human condition.
Kiki Smith has been recognized since the 1980s for her multidisciplinary work that explores embodiment and the natural world. The artist uses a broad variety of materials to continuously expand and evolve a body of work that includes sculpture, printmaking, photography, drawing and textiles. Smith briefly studied at Hartford Art School before moving to New York City and joining the downtown artist collective Colab, whose DIY approach to artmaking and creative community helped shape her trajectory.
Smith has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions worldwide, including over 25 museum exhibitions. The artist's work has been featured at five Venice Biennales, including the 2017 edition.
Smith is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2017 was awarded the title of Honorary Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts in London, UK. Previously, Smith was recognized in 2006 by TIME Magazine as one of the TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World. Smith has been the recipient of numerous other awards, including: the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture in 2000; the 2009 Edward MacDowell Medal; the 2010 Nelson A. Rockefeller Award from Purchase College's School of the Arts in New York; the 2013 US Department of State Medal of Arts, conferred by Hillary Clinton; and the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center; among others.
Smith is an adjunct professor at New York University and Columbia University, both in New York City.