From the Creek, an exhibition by artist Kiki Smith, brings the experience of the flora and fauna of the Hudson River Valley to the Albuquerque Museum.
Kiki Smith: From the Creek
October 8, 2022–February 12, 2023
Kiki Smith’s From the Creek is folded into two other exhibitions from the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in New York, and a third devoted to exploring diverse relationships with New Mexico’s landscapes. Taken as a whole, the four exhibitions at the Albuquerque Museum, Historic and Contemporary Landscapes, take the viewer wandering the forests of the Hudson Valley all the way to stretches of the Chihuahuan Desert.
Passing between these worlds, when visitors step into the room that belongs to Smith’s work, there’s the just-barely-audible sound of birdsong. The walls are the color of a sunflower petal, and a bronze owl perches above, guiding the passage to the realm of the creek.
Smith is a multidisciplinary artist, herself a wanderer of disparate media. From etchings and metalworks to textiles and simple ink drawings on paper, much of her range is represented here in more than thirty works made between 2012 and 2022.
Dominating the space on the eastern wall are seven large jacquard tapestries. For their detail—from the fine lines of spider webs and rabbit whiskers to the texture of tree roots and delicate patterns of frost on the ground—it’s hard not to get lost in them. Eagles smash clam shells on the water’s edge, and a man—one of just two human figures represented in the exhibition—twists amid ants in an underground warren. While these tapestries are the most striking works in From the Creek, quieter but just as evocative are Smith’s metalworks.
Mostly working in bronze, Smith conjures something not of the human world, and captures it in a vitrine. Here is a tender scene of deer mating, all warmth, no embarrassment. Or, as in the small metalwork Rise (2018), a raptor soaring. There is a feel of ephemerality even in the sturdiness of the bronze, a sense of lift and motion as fleeting as sunlight on a hawk’s feathers—gone before you’re certain you’ve seen it. Resting appropriately at foot height, there’s even a cat, Minou (2021), slivers of silver for whiskers reflecting the overhead lights.
It’s a rare thing to translate wonder and bring it into the confines of a gallery. But Smith does just that—the sorcery of the seasons, the sensation of finding yourself in an animal’s gaze, and the astonishment of realizing—in case you forgot—that you are a part of the web, tangled with the roots, grass, bugs, and water. Smith brings the experience of the lowlands of the Catskills to Albuquerque, every step through the museum a passage through the maples and birch to the water’s edge.