Kiki Smith Visits Bailey Pottery and Kingston's Midtown Arts District with Her Columbia University Graduate Students
A few weeks ago I got an email from Kiki Smith. I thought this is interesting. What does Kiki Smith want in Kingston? I found out from her that she had been having some of her sculptures fabricated at Workshop Arts Fabrication around the corner from Bailey. She was interested in bringing her Columbia University graduate students to visit the Midtown Arts District in Kingston, New York.
Midtown includes several world-renowned arts businesses including Bailey Pottery. Kiki mentioned Bailey was in a great cluster of successful arts businesses and she wanted to show her students that exciting things were possible even in small cities like ours. It was in this part of Kingston we brought our businesses to life. Over a period of years, many of these businesses have grown in size and stature. New arts businesses joined the neighborhood to create a vibrant and exciting neighborhood. All provide dozens of interesting arts-related jobs. Kingston today has over 100 small art entrepreneurs making everything from one-of-a-kind art pottery to handmade furniture in the Midtown Art District.
For those of you who do not know, Kiki Smith has been making important artwork since she was a young girl. Both her parents were well-known artists and she lived in a world where Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollack often visited her house. In this rarified world of abstract and minimalist art, was born a tremendous talent that would shock, engage and later enchant the world with her dynamic artwork.
Kiki Smith made the human figure acceptable in an era when it had fallen out of favor with galleries. Her sculptures from the ‘70s and ‘80s often spoke about distinctly female narratives: women’s bodies in relation to sex, birth, death, and regeneration. It should be noted she was deeply affected by the death of her father and her younger sister, who died at an early age of AIDS. Women’s vulnerability and the physicality of our flesh were constant themes. Art is a persuasive and informative way to convey anger and also sorrow.
Meeting Kiki a few weeks ago was like meeting the queen of a magical kingdom where anything is possible. Truly her output of artwork during her life is vast and extraordinary. Her students were interested in hearing our Bailey story but I was more interested in hers. They are lucky to have this vibrant star as a teacher. I told her I had recently seen a piece of hers made from glass in the Corning Museum of Glass. This work was lyrical, otherworldly, and gathered from the cosmos. It didn’t have the angst of some of her earlier pieces. That was then, this is now.
Kiki is an adept artist comfortable and exact in every medium she chooses to work in. Her thoughts flow freely from her fertile mind. We can’t wait to see what she will do next.
We talked about when she would return to Kingston. Soon she said, to talk about building a community around art. She is hoping to move out our way in the future and perhaps even get into a clay project. Yes, the ultimate material we love. I look forward to her return to the little city that could.