Look closely and you might see not only clothing and clocks and full-sized representations of household goods, but meticulously measured and knotted threads among other domestic materials. The process, she says, “symbolized my existence, both visually and conceptually, which had become machinelike and repetitive.”
Born in 1942, Smith grew up in Milton, Massachusetts, earned her BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art, and received her MFA from Rutgers University in 1966. While her early works, despite being displayed, were largely ignored, many now repose in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, the Spencer Museum in Lawrence, Kansas and the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge. Her iconic clothing sculptures and installations have been recognized as having quietly created a revolution by using what was all around her in ways both intimate and prescient. Her pairing of surprising materials, from as far back as the 1960s, can still jolt the viewer.
Even when charming or humorous, her pieces can be dark and angry. See, for instance, an early work, Girdle, which she has called “an uncomfortable torture. It doesn’t let a woman breathe. It sticks to her like an octopus. It doesn’t let air in or out.” Or look at her bras, red and black, both titled Protector Against Illness, that are decorated with Tamoxifen pills. Truly, just as New York Times art critic Roberta Smith said of her knotted thread and tape measure installations, “they sparkle with light and wit and all the charm of children’s drawings, but in some ways they are quite mad.”
[Hint: We have tried out some zoom functions to highlight the details. Play around with the different magnifying tools and see what you get.]
Girdle: (made from rubber bath mats)
“One of the most frightening items of clothing that I can imagine…
an uncomfortable torture. It doesn’t let a woman breathe.
It sticks to her like an octopus. It doesn’t let air in or out.”
(hangs on padded, luxury hangars)
Red Tamoxifen Bra
Black Tamoxifen Bra
Breast cancer pills are delicately placed in the embroidered patterns.
Camouflage Maternity Dress
Don’t Turn Back