Born in Nuremberg, West Germany in 1954, Smith is the daughter of American sculptor Tony Smith. Growing up in New Jersey with her twin sisters, Smith was introduced to art at a young age—as a child she would help her father fashion small cardboard models for his geometric sculptures. Smith’s early exposure to art, her relationship with her family, as well as her spiritual and mythological interpretation of Catholicism all had an impact on her art. In 1976, Smith moved to New York City and in the 1980’s, after the death of her father, began creating works based on the human body. According to Peter Plagens in “Mortality, Morbidity and More,” (Newsweek, 31 July 2006, 54)Smith’s interest in spirituality, storytelling, and “an unquenchable obsession with the vulnerability of the human body” pushed Smith to create a varied body of work including prints, drawings, sculptures, and installations.
Smith’s works can be found in a number of museum collections, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. She has participated in the Whitney Biennial three times in the last ten years. Past exhibitions include Kiki Smith: Homework at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PA (2002); The Smiths: Tony, Kiki, Seton at the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Lake Worth, FL (2003); and Kiki Smith: Prints, Books, and Things, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (2003). Additionally, the retrospective A Gathering: 1980-2005, organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis that features over 200 works by Smith, travels to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in November 2006.