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Kiki Smith, the light of the world, 2017, cyanotype on Losin Prague paper, 16-1/4" × 22-1/2" (41.3 cm × 57.2 cm) © Kiki Smith

Curator's Choice

Kiki Smith

the light of the world

By Andria Hickey

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Kiki Smith, the light of the world (perspective), 2017, cyanotype on Losin Prague paper, 16-1/4" × 22-1/2" (41.3 cm × 57.2 cm) © Kiki Smith

Kiki Smith’s the light of the world captures rays of light on water in fine white lines against the vastness of a blue, sea-like cyanotype. Inviting us to think about our place in the world, Smith’s exploration of nature reveals the deep and spiritual interconnectivity of people, animals, and the earth itself. 

The light of the world is exemplary of the artist’s decades-long exploration of printmaking. In recent years, Smith has introduced cyanotypes—also referred to as blueprints for their unique Prussian blue color—into her practice. This work reflects a hybrid process of etching and cyanotype. As the artist described: “I etched into Plexiglas plates with a needle and used the plates as contact prints, exposing the image in a photographic process onto the chemically coated Losin paper, thereby making a marriage between two forms. the light of the world was created by making multiple plates and layering them on top of one another in various orders. Moments of clarity and moments of the image being soft or out of focus occur, depending on how far the image was from the paper during its exposure.”

Smith’s use of the blue and white of the cyanotype dramatizes the power and enigmatic nature of reflection and light. Depicting the variant fracture and geometry of sunrays with texture and tones created from lines scratched into the negative, the refracted light suggest a sense of movement, as if the light were dancing on the water.

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Kiki Smith, the light of the world (detail), 2017, cyanotype on Losin Prague paper, 16-1/4" × 22-1/2" (41.3 cm × 57.2 cm) © Kiki Smith

"the light of the world was created by making multiple plates and layering them on top of one another in various orders. Moments of clarity and moments of the image being soft or out of focus occur, depending on how far the image was from the paper during its exposure.”

Kiki Smith

Essays — Curator's Choice: Kiki Smith, Mar 30, 2020