Kiki Smith (1954-)
Sheet (Irregular): 72 5/8 × 179 1/2 in. (184.5 × 455.9 cm) Image (Irregular): 68 1/2 × 174 1/2 in. (174 × 443.2 cm)
Printed and published by Kiki Smith
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Wilfred P. and Rose J. Cohen Purchase Fund and the Print Committee
Rights and Reproductions Information
© Kiki Smith, courtesy of Pace Gallery, N.Y.
In the mid-1980s, Kiki Smith began experimenting with printmaking techniques. Rather than using the printing process to make multiple examples of an image, she produced unique objects composed of repeated images. In All Souls, a screenprinted image of five curled fetuses, sourced from a Japanese anatomy book, appears thirty-six times, each on a piece of fine, translucent Thai paper. These individual prints are glued to one another to form a single sheet that hangs unframed like a tapestry on the wall. Close examination of the print, made at a time when Smith was creating a body of work about birth, reveals that each of the repeated images differs slightly from the next in density, placement, and completeness. In this way, the repetition of fetuses becomes a metaphor for the similarities and inconsistencies inherent in physical and artistic reproduction. At the same time, however, All Souls alludes to the spiritual presence of death. The work’s title is a reference to All Souls' Day—a Catholic feast day celebrated on November 2, when the faithful pray for the souls of the dead who have not yet fully atoned for their sins. This date also coincides with Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, a festival celebrating the spirits of deceased infants and adults, which Smith observed in Mexico in 1985.