About Ann Hamilton
Ann Hamilton was born in 1956 in Lima, Ohio. She trained in textile design at the University of Kansas, and later received an MFA from Yale University. While her degree is in sculpture, textiles and fabric have continued to be an important part of her work, which includes installations, photographs, videos, performances, and objects. For example, following graduation she made “Toothpick Suit”—for which she layered thousands of toothpicks in porcupine fashion along a suit of clothes—that she then wore and photographed. Hamilton’s sensual installations often combine evocative soundtracks with cloth, filmed footage, organic material, and objects such as tables. She is as interested in verbal and written language as she is in the visual, and sees the two as related and interchangeable. In recent work, she has experimented with exchanging one sense organ for another: the mouth and fingers, for example, become like an eye, with the addition of miniature pinhole cameras. In 1993, she won a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. As the 1999 American representative at the Venice Biennale, she addressed topics of slavery and oppression in American society, with an installation that used walls embossed with Braille, which caught a dazzling red powder as it slid down from above, literally making language visible. After teaching at the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1985 to 1991, Hamilton returned to Ohio, where she lives and works.
About Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman was born in 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Sherman earned a BA from Buffalo State College, State University of New York (1976). In self-reflexive photographs and films, Cindy Sherman invents myriad guises, metamorphosing from Hollywood starlet to clown to society matron. Often with the simplest of means—a camera, a wig, makeup, an outfit—Sherman fashions ambiguous but memorable characters that suggest complex lives that exist outside of the frame. Leaving her works untitled, Sherman refuses to impose descriptive language on her images—relying instead on the viewer’s ability to develop narratives, as an essential component of appreciating the work. While rarely revealing her private intentions, Sherman’s investigations have a compelling relationship to public images, from kitsch (film stills and centerfolds) to art history (Old Masters and Surrealism) to green-screen technology and the latest advances in digital photography. Sherman’s exhaustive study of portraiture and self-portraiture—often a playful mixture of camp and horror, heightened by gritty realism—provides a new lens through which to examine societal assumptions surrounding gender and the valuation of concept over style. Among her awards are the Guild Hall Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award for Visual Arts (2005); American Academy of Arts and Sciences Award (2003); National Arts Award (2001); a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award (1995); and others. Her work has appeared in major exhibitions at Sprüth Magers, Berlin (2009); Jeu de Paume, Paris (2006); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1997); and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1997); among others. Sherman has participated in many international events, including SITE Santa Fe (2004); the Venice Biennale (1982, 1995); and five Whitney Biennial exhibitions. Cindy Sherman lives and works in New York.
About Kiki Smith
Kiki Smith was born in 1954 in Nuremberg, Germany. The daughter of American sculptor Tony Smith, Kiki Smith grew up in New Jersey. As a young girl, one of Smith’s first experiences with art was helping her father make cardboard models for his geometric sculptures. This training in formalist systems, combined with her upbringing in the Catholic Church, would later resurface in Smith’s evocative sculptures, drawings, and prints. The recurrent subject matter in Smith’s work has been the body as a receptacle for knowledge, belief, and storytelling. In the 1980s, Smith literally turned the figurative tradition in sculpture inside out, creating objects and drawings based on organs, cellular forms, and the human nervous system. This body of work evolved to incorporate animals, domestic objects, and narrative tropes from classical mythology and folk tales. Life, death, and resurrection are thematic signposts in many of Smith’s installations and sculptures. In several of her pieces, including “Lying with the Wolf, Wearing the Skin,” and “Rapture,” Smith takes as her inspiration the life of St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris. Portrayed communing with a wolf, taking shelter with its pelt, and being born from its womb, Smith’s character of Genevieve embodies the complex, symbolic relationships between humans and animals. Smith received the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture in 2000, the Athena Award for Excellence in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2005, the fiftieth Edward MacDowell Medal from the MacDowell Colony in 2009, and has participated in the Whitney Biennial three times in the past decade. In 2005, Smith was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Smith’s work is in numerous prominent museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Smith lives and works in New York City.
About this video
“Basically, I think art is just a way to think,” remarks Kiki Smith, “it’s like standing in the wind and letting it pull you in whatever direction it wants to go.” Adept in bronze, wax, textiles, and printmaking, the segment follows Smith on a journey through a diversity of narrative subjects including witches, saints, death, animals, family members, domestic objects, and dolls. Smith explains her relationship to meaning in her work: “I’d rather make something that’s very open-ended that can have a meaning to me, but then it also can have a meaning to somebody else who can fill it up with their meaning.”