Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kiki Smith

The interesting bits of New York then - Lower East Side, Soho, Tribeca - had no door bells. Neither were there cell phones, so you either shouted or rang from a pay phone. I can't remember which I did but I remember that that was the easiest part of taking the picture.

I remember being silently furious because I saw at once the picture I wanted to take. In a flash it was destroyed by Ms. Smith tidying up her unmade bed that she had plonked herself down on after greeting me. I said, "Don't do a thing." But she did. She straightened everything out.

After that, I sulked about wondering what to do, and landed up with this.

One of my regular commentators on this blog is a great fan of Ms. Smith's (especially now, for reasons she might disclose, that my friend is considering branching out into the performance art world). I think I would like this post to be a joint effort. "Please Heather, tell us what you have to say."


  1. What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing your stories and photographs. I empathize with both your perspective as a photographer, and her desire to hide the disorder. Sometimes, I've been in both. What a dilemma!

  2. I guess I'm late to the party! Dmitri, I'm sure Caroline told you of my travel adventures, and the ensuing volcano craziness. So it's been longer than I'd like since looking at your work.

    I'd love to share my thoughts, and thanks so much for posting this. I was so excited when Caroline said you'd photographed Kiki.

    This is not one of my favorites of yours, but it's not because of your efforts, Dmitri; I don't think it captures Kiki. When I went to see her speak at a casual engagement, she seemed loopy and distracted, flitting about from place to place. A real character!

    The way she's holding her hands here seems forced, and she looks very posed. This portrait is sort of like when a song is just slightly off-key: the lay audience might not detect it on a conscious level, but it just doesn't sound right.

    But the portrait does bring a lot of questions to my mind, like "is it necessary to see the artist that creates these things I love," because sometimes I find myself disappointed. Of course, it's a different situation with a painter as opposed to a performance artist like Marina Abramović, whose body IS her work.

    I'm sad that we'll never see the picture as you imagined it. Since you told us the background story to this photograph and your tone has a tinge of disappointment with the results, I wonder if it is influencing my opinion.

  3. Regardless of how successful you feel about this photo (I think it wonderful, incidentally), you have to empathize with Kiki. Like her work, which is often painstakingly detailed and brilliantly crafted, every situation she finds herself in will require her say so. Heather, you say that in life she's loopy and distracted? This is exactly what Dmitri captures here. I mean how can one 'force' hand gestures like that? They too compliment her wild curls famously, if not mirror the agitation going on inside. This is likely a portrait few will want to live with, though, it really is a great one of Kiki.


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