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Kiki Smith (1954-)






Etched glass bottles


Overall (pedestal): 48 × 192 × 24 in. (121.9 × 487.7 × 61 cm)

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Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation, Leonard A. Lauder, President, in honor of David W. Kiehl

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Kiki Smith has explored many different aspects of the human body in her work—the skeleton, limbs, and organs, the musculature and the skin, and the body’s fluids and forms. Through an elaborate, often metaphorical vocabulary, she describes the body's forms and functions and its relation to social practices. Inspired by the calendar of prayers in medieval books of hours, this installation consists of twelve glass water bottles that resemble antique medical specimen jars. Each bottle is empty, plated with silver, and etched in Gothic lettering with the name of a bodily fluid. The named substances range from life-sustaining (semen, blood, milk) to disease-bearing (pus, mucus, vomit), and evoke powerful emotional responses. Smith's self-described "calendar" of carefully-labeled vessels lends itself to an array of possible interpretations and points to humanity's complex relationship to the body and its byproducts.

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