Kiki Smith

Bird with Stars


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Not on display

Kiki Smith born 1954
Etching, drypoint and aquatint on paper
Image: 662 × 482 mm
Presented by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of Richard Hamilton in honour of Debby Brice 2013


Bird with Stars was printed by the fine art printers Harlan & Weaver, and published in an edition of seventy by the artist and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Editions of the print were given to high-level supporters of the 2005 annual International Fine Print Dealers Association Print Fair Opening Night Preview Party to benefit MoMA’s Department of Prints and Illustrated Books. One of these supporters, Debby Brice, made a gift of her edition of the print to Richard Hamilton, Director of the American Patrons of Tate, who has in turn offered the work to Tate’s collection.

The print depicts a bird in profile. The bird is situated near the bottom of the image and is surrounded by twelve stars. The figurative elements are rendered in monochrome against a stark white background, rendering the composition flattened and frieze-like. In this print the simple composition focuses the eye on the detail of the bird’s meticulously rendered plumage. The stars surround the bird in an irregular pattern, providing a decorative backdrop for the figure.

Throughout her career and particularly since the mid-1990s, Smith has repeatedly depicted birds and other animals in her work. She has described birds as ‘stand-ins for souls’ (quoted in Posner 2005, p.29) and her exploration of avian imagery coincided with a move in her practice towards an exploration of the natural world and natural history. Birds and animals in Smith’s work also often have a mythological resonance, suggesting anthropomorphic characters in fairy tales or symbolic talismans. The stars surrounding the birds in this image may also suggest astrological readings.

Further reading:
Wendy Weitman, Kiki Smith: Prints, Books and Things, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, New York 2003.
Helaine Posner, Kiki Smith, New York 2005.
Martin Hentschel, Kiki Smith: Her Home, exhibition catalogue, Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld and Kunsthalle Nürnberg, 2008.

Rachel Taylor
July 2009

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