Kiki Smith is an American artist classified as a feminist artist, a movement with beginnings in the twentieth century. Her Body Art is imbued with political significance, undermining the traditional erotic representations of women by male artists, and often exposes the inner biological systems of females as a metaphor for hidden social issues. Her work also often includes the theme of birth and regeneration, sustenance, and frequently has Catholic allusions. Smith has also been active in debate over controversies such as AIDS, gender, race, and battered women. Smith began sculpting in the late 1970s. She is best known for her sculptures; however, she creates pieces in a variety of media. Her print collection is particularly extensive and began in the 1980s. On prints, Smith has stated that "Prints mimic what we are as humans: we are all the same and yet everyone is different. I also think there's a spiritual power in repetition, a devotional quality, like saying rosaries." Smith's first works were screenprints on dresses, scarves and shirts, often with images of body parts.
Smith printed an array of posters in the early 1980s containing political statements or announcing upcoming events. A sampling of her other works include: All Souls (1988), a screenprint on 36 attached sheets of handmade Thai paper with repetitive images of a fetus, in black and white. Smith created similar prints including Untitled (Baby's Heads), 1990 and Untitled (Negative Legs), 1991. How I Know I'm Here (1985) is a 16-foot, horizontal, four part linocut depicting internal organs including a heart, lungs, and male and female reproductive organs, intermingled with etched lines representing her own feet, face, and hands. Possession Is Nine-Tenths of the Law (1985) is a nine part print portfolio that individualizes and calls attention to the body's internal organs. Smith used the image of a human ovum, surrounded on one side by protective cells, in Black Flag (1989), and 'Cause I'm On My Time (inserts for Fawbush Gallery Invitations ) (1990).Mary Magdelene (1994), a sculpture made of silicon bronze and forged steel, features a woman's nude body in an untraditional way: her whole body is covered with a system of etched lines, reminiscent of Mary Magdalene's post-Crucifixion hair. However, her face, breasts and area surrounding her navel remain smooth. She wears a chain around her ankle and her face is relatively undetailed and is turned upwards. Smith's sculpture Standing (1998), featuring a female figure standing atop the trunk of a dead Eucalyptus tree, is a part of the Stuart Collection of public art on the campus of the Diego. Smith has also created an extensive collection of self-portraits, nature-themed works, and many pieces that depict scenes from fairy-tales, often in unconventional ways. She has created unique books including: Fountainhead (1991); The Vitreous Body (2001); and Untitled (Book of Hours) (1986). Smith collaborated with poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge to produce Endocrinology (1997), and with author Lynne Tillman to create Madame Realism (1984).