Kenyon College

The Destruction of Birds


Artist: Kiki Smith
Title of Work: The Destruction of Birds
Year: 1998
Page Dimensions: 18″ x 24″
Sheet Dimensions: 32 1/4″ x 48″
 Set of ten etchings
Photo Line: Courtesy of the artist and Pace Editions, New York 
Collection Credit: Pace Editions, New York

According to the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament, the birds and fish were created by God on the fifth day.  Smith inverts this story by showing dead birds in this large scale fold out book.  Here, the pages have been taken out of their binding to be displayed individually in their own frames.  To create these drawings, Smith borrowed bird specimens from the Museum of Natural History.  She sketched the animals and created a large 10 page book.   This book folds out into a long line of drawings, forming a 20 foot austere monument to birds.  The artist uses birds as subjects in many of her works.  Smith stated that “in Catholicism, the predominant bird represents the holy ghost, which is the dove.”  Growing up in a Catholic household Catholicism was a large part of her life.  By including religious symbolism in her art, Smith comes to terms with her relationship with her faith and the objects that represent her spirituality.

–Alea Abrams ’12, Gund Gallery Associate

[Quote taken from MOMA website]