“We ask artists”

By Rita Van Allen

We ask artists to give us answers. We look to thinkers and creative minds in search of some sort of respite from the worries and conundrums of our daily lives. Clarification. Understanding. Truth. I asked the same of Kiki Smith as I walked through her retrospective exhibit at the Walker Art Center last Saturday in Uptown.

“A Gathering,” a traveling exhibit arranged by the Walker, has brought together over 100 of Smith’s pieces from the last 30 years. Entering the galleries, however, I was not confronted with an abundance of art pieces and artifacts, but rather a crowd, a meeting, an assembly of personifications and characters. Friends, acquaintances gathered together.

Smith’s work is described as feminist, scientific, narrative, imaginative. It is exact and realistic, eerie and surreal. Her subject matter is figurative. Much of it, no doubt, concerns women’s bodies and experiences. And although I could relate to the “feminist” subject matter, Smith was not giving me answers. She was providing her version of her questions that conversed with my questions. And I found myself a part of an overall intimacy between the works, not necessarily having been previously shown together. We filled the spaces and mingled among one another through the rooms, presenting our questions—listening.

Outside the trailings off of the anti-war rally. Loring Park, Minneapolis, MN. Inside this silver and brick building, a gathering of conversation, traveled from San Francisco, CA, New York, NY, assembled from disparate locations. I walked out of the museum. Ushered into cold spring air. Woven among colored signs and bold statements. My heart pattering, in an uncertainty of no answers.