Kiki Smith: Sojourn at the Brooklyn Museum of Art

As a part of the Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Kiki Smith: Sojourn exhibition is nearly perfect in how it compliments the collection and the space. It arcs, or triangulates rather, around Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party in a series of small rooms. The choice of using rooms was designed by the artist to mimic the traditional sphere of woman.

This exhibition view of the first room suggests the interaction between the varied pieces. It places Smith’s works, of woman, birds, light bulbs, chairs, and sticks, in delightful relation with each other, making the entire effect of each room greater than the sum of its parts. Overall, one gets an impression of pale, fragile, fluttering, glittering movement that feels ethereal while a sort of earthy honesty in her drawings and the rough materials she often uses keeps the work grounded in the real.

The woman of these pale images are scratched out as portraits rather than archetypes. The figures are presented large, full length, and often with serious or reflective expressions that suggest a gravitas at contrast with the light, crumpled paper they are drawn on. On the other hand, her sturdy sculptures take on the monolithic cast of ancient goddesses, and also serve to ground work that might float with with glitter and light. Interspersed with these representation of women are sculptural installations of glitter light bulbs and flowers painted on glass.

The final room of the exhibition centers around a pine casket opened slightly to reveal glass flowers springing up. The mix of solidity and delicateness is in line with the other works, but here seems much more pointed and affecting. 

In ending the show with this work, Smith also hearkens back to the 18th C. needlework by Prudence Punderson placed near the beginning of the exhibition, which illustrates a women’s journey from birth to death. Some things never change.

 Prudence Punderson, The First, Second and Last Scene of Mortality,1776-1783

Kiki Smith: Sojourn is up through September 12 at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.