Open Window, Chair with Flowers
Image/paper size: 92 1/2 x 86 inches (235 x 218.4 cm)
Signed and dated lower right in graphite
“I try to really be attentive to where my work wants to go and trust that it will take me some place that’s informative.”
Kiki Smith likes the bareness of colonial New England aesthetics and has explored the forms of chairs for many years. The women that she depicts are of all different ages and sometimes multiple ages. Oftentimes, Smith renders flowers at various stages of their life cycles, as well. Her subjects are grounded in daily living or historic narratives and yet they can become fantastical. In “Open Window, Chair with Flowers,” the bouquet placed on an otherwise unused chair is juxtaposed with an open window. The window is formed, piecemeal, so as to create a series of interlocking rectangles that make it hard to recognize which pane of glass is in front of which other pane. The symbolism of the different elements is open-ended, the ‘feel’ of the scenario is particular and yet it is not just a scene, an image on paper, but an object to behold: The flowers are collaged on the chair; the paper on which the chair is situated, is attached to the paper on which the window is assembled. The objects (pieces of Nepalese paper) on which there are depictions of other objects (chair, flowers, window) are as significant as the images. Physical reality, depiction, and imagination are in balance.
“I really like the chair as a stand-in for the lover but sometimes it stands in for the wake, you know you have these chairs and people sit in these rooms with chairs and the coffin. A chair represents a mantle that you sit in, a seat of power traditionally in culture, when people got off the floor, the throne. So there’s all these different connotations with the chair. I realized I’ve been making chairs in my work for a while. When I was young I would say, “all sculptures are just men in chairs” and now of course I’m completely fascinated with them, so they obviously held some fascination or power with me as a young artist.”