Smith, Kiki

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Etching

Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra
  • Date of entry: Jul-12-2000
  • Last revised: Oct-05-2003


The face of a young girl is pictured with a grossly oversized blood-red tear dropping from one eye. She supports the tear with both her hands. The girl stares directly at the viewer and appears to be as angry or numb as she is sad.


Kiki Smith captures what it feels like to be a child and to experience adult-sized pain. Her work, beginning in the late seventies, has focused on issues where words are difficult and emotion is raw. This image, one of 12 the artist presented as part of a show entitled, "Of Her Nature," tells the story of a girl who has seen too much grief and has apparently retreated into the safety of her own inner world.

Unable to absorb her pain, the teardrop, in its exaggerated form, takes over the girl's face and literally becomes the girl's identity. Smith has drawn the girl so that she appears half-alive, fractured, even disembodied. In contrast, the teardrop is forceful in its presence and belies the girl's faint-hearted silence.

See also Munch's The Scream and Puberty--two other images that invite engagement, reflection, stir the imagination, and prompt the viewer to create a context, which, as Lois Nixon's commentary on “Early Sunday Morning” reminds us, is a function of all art and literature. Contrast the disembodied head with Gauguin's Self-Portrait with Halo. (See this database for annotations and art links).

Primary Source

PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York City