Artists' Artists: Kiki Smith

Peter Hurd, Enemy Action over American Bomber Station, 1942

Being from the northeastern US, I found the New Mexico landscape to be such a radical departure that when I first went there, I had panic attacks. But, over the years, I have grown to love the unencumbered expanse. For one thing, you can see the weather from hours away, crossing the landscape. My mother was from Montana and told me that people in the east don’t have any space inside of them. The earth and sky of the west create a different space in a person. 

The New Mexican painter Peter Hurd was born in 1904. He studied with, and was the assistant to, the artist and illustrator N.C. Wyeth (whose son was also a famous painter, Andrew Wyeth) and married his daughter, Henriette. 

While Hurd was known as an American painter and illustrator, I was unfamiliar with his work until I came upon it in Taos, New Mexico, last year. He painted with watercolour as well as egg tempera (which allows for extremely delicate detail). The paintings of his that I love the most are the ones that show light and rain moving across the sky in sheets. The physicality of clouds, weather and light in his paintings gave me a new way to think about making sculpture. I am especially fond of Hurd’s painting Enemy Action over American Bomber Station because it reminds me of medieval woodcut prints of weather and heavenly phenomena – in particular, Hans Glaser’s depiction of a celestial event over my birth town, Nuremberg, on 14 April 1561. Hurd’s painting is like those woodcuts, which represent celestial fireballs. 

Kiki Smith lives in New York, USA. Earlier this year, she had solo exhibitions at Galerie Lelong, Paris, France, and Palau de La Música Orfeó Català, Barcelona, Spain. Her solo show at Oklahoma State University Museum of Art, USA, runs until 2 December. Her work is included in ‘Vive Arte Viva’ at the 57th Venice Biennale, which runs until 26 November. In 2018, she will have a solo show at Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany.

Issue 6

First published in Issue 6

October 2017

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