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Kiki Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Familiars (detail), 2001. Wool. 83 x 54.5 inches (210.82 x 138.43 cm). Unlimited edition. Kiki Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Familiars, 2001. Wool. 83 x 54.5 inches (210.82 x 138.43 cm). Unlimited edition. Kiki Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Owl and Pussycat, 2002. Pigment on cotton sateen, and Liberty print fabrics. 24 x 12 x 2 inches. Unlimited edition.
Kiki Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Familiars (detail), 2001. Wool. 83 x 54.5 inches (210.82 x 138.43 cm). Unlimited edition.
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Kiki Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Familiars, 2001. Wool. 83 x 54.5 inches (210.82 x 138.43 cm). Unlimited edition.
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Kiki Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Owl and Pussycat, 2002. Pigment on cotton sateen, and Liberty print fabrics. 24 x 12 x 2 inches. Unlimited edition.
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Kiki Smith

Kiki Smith approached her residency at the FWM as an opportunity to explore a traditional textile form, the blanket. Drawing on the well-established tradition of American weaving on Jacquard looms, Smith designed a wool coverlet, which the FWM fabricated in conjunction with a small weaving company in western Pennsylvania. The Jacquard loom produced a double-woven blanket in which the imagery and colors pictured on the front are seen in reverse on the back. After weaving, the blankets were put through a fulling mill—an industrial device equipped with hundreds of needles that grab and fluff the fibers—to soften the coverlets and slightly blur the imagery.

Titled Familiars, Smith’s coverlet depicts a benevolent scene of a woman surrounded by a menagerie of animals with snowflakes or stars dotting the sky above. Reminiscent of a fable, the scene is repeated twice on the blanket—a technical limitation of the weaving process that was used by Smith to accentuate the reflective nature of the text woven above the women and their flocks. “I see the moon, and the moon sees me” are the words from a nursery rhyme. The idea of reflection, or doubling, also highlights a fable’s inherent “function” as a mirror image of behavior, from which one can learn something new. The word “Familiar” is woven below the scene, a reference to a familiar as a spirit, often embodied in an animal, that extends protective powers over a person. Smith has said that she was drawn to the idea of these animals as a concert of witches, acting as a conduit to the spirit world. The subject of animals has been a consistent theme in Smith’s work since the mid-1990s when she began moving away from the body as the sole subject of her artistic explorations.

Bio
American, born 1954, lives in New York City
Kiki Smith was born in Nuremberg, Germany, and returned home with her family to South Orange, New Jersey when she was one. She grew up in a creative household led by her parents, the sculptor Tony Smith and her mother, Jane, an opera singer and actress. Smith attended Hartford Art School for a year in the early 1970s; during the late 1970s she moved to New York City and began working with Collaborative Projects, Inc., an arts collective. Her first solo exhibition was in 1982 at The Kitchen in New York, and it firmly established Smith’s interest in the human body, especially the female form. Since this exhibition, Smith’s work has been shown widely at museums such as Kunstmuseum in Bonn, Germany (2000), the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh (1998), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1996), and the Lousiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek, Denmark (1994).