Campus welcomes Kiki Smith
March 8, 2017
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Kiki Smith is a world-renowned artist who admits she has friends who will not let her paint portraits of them, for fear she will make them look ten years older.
Smith shared that thought, as well as others, with a nearly-packed Young Auditorium for her opening lecture on March 6, the first day of Smith’s week-long residency at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater as the inaugural artist funded by the Annette and Dale Schuh Visiting Artist Endowment.
While flipping through dozens of slides of work, spanning from the beginning of her career in the 1970s to now, Smith shared anecdotes of time spent creating art and elaborated on some of the inspiration behind some of the work that has made her one of the most critically acclaimed artists of the last four decades.
“We’re as artists all completely limited by our ideas, our good taste, our imagination,” Smith said during her lecture. “Getting to walk out into the wind [is important], put a net out, capture things that are unexpected or that either go out of your own life or have something happen.”
Smith showed how she utilized pieces of her art across a variety of media. She emphasized that one event or idea can be pushed and evolved through time and encouraged the audience to not let “not being good at something” stop them from trying.
“Things are going to happen to all of us that are unexpected but it’s nice when you can not see it as a disaster, but see it as an opportunity,” Smith said.
Senior lecturer and Annette and Dale Schuh Visiting Artist Endowment committee member, Michael Flanagan said he was “super excited” with how many people came for the lecture after and admitted that he and others were very unsure prior to the event how well it would go over.
The Annette and Dale Schuh Visiting Artist Endowment was granted to the UW-Whitewater Art and Design Department with Annette Schuh’s intent to inspire students, the way she felt inspired as a UW-W student 46 years ago when artists Roy Lichtenstein, Wayne Thiebaud and William T. Wiley visited her art classes.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Susan Elrod, felt inspired by Smith’s lecture, so much so that she even tweeted one of the artist’s quotes that resonated with her most.
“I thought tonight, so many of the things she said should inspire students to really get engaged in whatever they are studying in whatever way it makes sense to them, that’s what I took away,” Elrod said. “Don’t be bounded by, you know you still have to do your assignments and get the grades, but make it your own, is what I heard her say and I think that’s wonderful.”
Smith, alongside master printmaker and developer of the solarplate print process, Dan Welden, wasted no time in beginning the creative process once arriving in Whitewater. As of the 7 p.m. lecture, the duo already created pieces since arriving that morning.
“We had a really good experience,” Flanagan, said. “We have turned the gallery into a printmaking studio and it has gone very, very well. Kiki and Dan Welden have been working together and they have actually been producing some prints already, so it’s moving along.”
Flanagan said that Smith had no intentional plan for the art she will produce at UW-W, prior to her landing in the Midwest from New York. When asked after her lecture what how being in Whitewater will influence her work, she said she still didn’t know, but she was very excited to work with Welden and be able to gain a better understanding of the solarplate printmaking process.
Professor in the Department of Art and Design, Dale Kaminski, was also on the committee for recruiting Smith to UW-W and worked for more than a year to organize the residency. Kaminski said the process of bringing the printmaking shop into the Crossman Gallery for Smith to work with students went over very well leading up to the week and for the first day of the residency.
“She’s just the most personable person to work with, a great artist, students are listening and they’re making work so the day went really well and then topped it off with a great lecture,” Kaminski said. “Being able to thank the Schuhs publicly was just a highlight. I think it went exceptionally.”
Students from a wide variety of programs beyond art came to listen to Smith talk, including students in the general education course, World of the Arts.
“I was expecting [to see] what she did, but she did more than that,” sophomore Sara Kussard said. “She did more showing who she is. I’ve never seen that from an artist, and she did that very well.”
While printmaking is the primary form of art Smith will be working on during her residency, students from all disciplines of art will get the chance to work and interact with Smith in the Crossman Gallery.
Smith offered a piece of advice for aspiring artists.
“Just work,” Smith said. “Take good care of yourself, take good careful of yourself and work and see where it takes you.”