these texts are an archive of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area from march 2007 - march 2015. it stands as a record of close to a decade of my life, charting the struggles i faced as an artist, daughter, and lover. messy and chaotic at times, eloquent and poetic at others, these texts are an index i am proud of. it was here in this electric box that i learned how to be honest about my experiences and the person i needed to become. it was here that i first learned the truism that words make the world and how to trust such a beautiful, rife, hard fact.

thank you for meeting me here in such tall grass.

my artist website is here.

Jun 11, 2010


kiki smith is the artist i go to most when i need a hug, comfort to continue. she is a mother for me, and has been since the very first time i saw her work. the loud astonishment that flooded in while i sat in a quiet, dusty aisle at the library- amazement. and the quick "permission" that came to speak about your own life, your own perceptions of what it is to be female, to be conflicted about the world, your own needs and desires.

yesterday, i carried a book of her work around with me- the catalogue for HER MEMORY. and all this morning too. back and forth between coffee and the spider and then flipping through her images: tattooed women with heart shapes and birds and lightning bolts, paper mache light bulbs, wreaths made from hand carved rubber stamps of child-like leaves, coffins, and chairs with wobbly legs. huge collaged prints, all in black and white, attacthed sheets of paper so that the image occupies an irregular ground. the crinkliness of the work, the scratchy lines, dried flowers, flowers leaning toward death.

there are images in her work that feel so familiar to me. flowers and windows, especially. two images i used to repeat myself with all the time but that i haven't really worked with in years now until recently. a few months ago they started popping back up in the work. roses again. all in black and white and silver. and i keep my book of redoute's prints near. and i remember how, when i was little, i'd flip through books in our humble bookcase looking for pictures and i'd come across pressed flowers- the passage of my mother. actions of preserving some small joy. some small beauty.

i've been thinking about my childhood a lot for the passed several months. little memories of books and drawings and picking flowers, bringing home stray cats, hiding in bushes so no one would hear me sing, making sure to be outside when the first star appeared so i could get my wish...

and my love for paper, for laying down marks with ink or graphite has roots in these things. the common nature of it. humble. adorable. easy. within reach. the substrate for secrets- diaries and hidden poems, snippets of songs, notes passed in class, letters that were never sent, letters that were never meant to be sent. paper is a signifier of The Personal- private thoughts and actions. and lately, i've been thinking of the drawings (all the work, really) as a form of writing. the diary aspect of these images. the collection/excavation of memory. hope, fear, need, desire, love, hate, recuperation, reckoning.

and at the back of the book, gone unnoticed until last night, there are two poems she wrote. and this knowledge - kiki smith cares about poetry enough to write it - overwhelmed me with such a sense of gladness and confidence:


when the bird flew in and without
apprehension she could say yes
dreams in corners out of range sitting at
the kitchen table when you came in and
spoke there had been a chance and she saw
for a moment

all pressed and close and then it dissipated

you could just sit there and the bird could
come in and you could succumb maybe she
hesitated when called

how do you feel when the bird touched
some birds touch anyone some girls are

holy holy night she had her back turned
stomach to bed the rays came in first
she didn't have a first inclination that the
bird had been there but the song lingered

she waited the flutter passed but still she
had been touched

old habits are slow ones and she is not a
quitter not sitting waiting for the bird's
breath scratching pecking she goes
excavating into the shadows touching dark.

-Kiki Smith

i experience this poem as such a huge hug. and also a call to action. or maybe, more specifically, a call to confidence...

i am okay with the fact that i need to roll around in the shadows for awhile. i need to reach in to the dark stuff and leave my hand in long enough to know its shape by feel alone. collect the little glittering bits of childhood, of those unsent letters, and make wreaths of my own. press them like mama's flowers. hide them in books. let them scratch and scratch and give them a window of their own.

(this is a weird, but good, artist statement maybe?)


Radish King said...

I was thinking about your word excavation again last night how perfect it is. A good artist statement is always going to be weird. I've never known talent to go hand in hand with normal :)


Roz said...

angela, i've been away from the blogosphere far too long (work, work, too much work!), but it refreshes my soul always to come back here and find your latest postings... and now this on kiki smith! her work is so moving, and i've only seen a fraction of what you've seen. she's done collaborations with poets. one book collab i know of with the poet mei-mei berssenbrugge who is married to richard tuttle. in fact, i saw the three of them speak at a gallery once about the process of this collaboration, how mei-mei gave kiki the poems she was working on and kiki took them home and read them and just cried and cried for several days, and then she created drawings in response to them. and i was so struck by the porous immediacy (almost childlike) and depth of kiki's emotions in relation to art, and i thought this is true, this is right, this is exactly the right and appropriate response to art & the world that this art is speaking to, and ever since then i think of kiki's weeping whenever i start a new project or am stuck in a current project, and i have incorporated this kind of weeping as an integral part of my life & aesthetic process.

hope you are well angela! this is indeed a weird, and very very good, artist statement.

The Storialist said...

Mmm...shadows are tasty :).

I am with you on this. Staying with the discomfort, or even the ambiguity...allowing everything to be unresolved.

I love recommendations of artists and books from other artists and writers! I found Kiki Smith's work through you, and it is capital-G Great. I love seeing the connections between your art and hers (or making those connections in my mind).

angela simione said...

rebecca! ha!!!! yes! yes! yes! my mom and i were talking the other day and both ended up agrreeing that i make a really BIG mistake when i compare my brain and heart and interests to people who aren't artists. normal is just as relative as beauty is, i guess. ha! i'm glad you like it!

that word has been stuck in my mind too. and i think about archeology and how slow and careful and curious it is. how they dig in such small increments... largely with a paint brush of all things. :) it makes me happy and slows me down. it reminds me that the layers are just as exciting as The Find.

angela simione said...

roz!!!! there you are! i've missed you! YAY!

i love this story! i'm going to have to try and get my greedy hands on a copy of this book. i have the issue of Vanitas that she illustrated and it is wonderful. i love how you describe her emotions here: weeping. and that you embrace it within your own practice. there's such honesty in that! simply beautiful. i've always loved her work so much because there are never any lies in it. no slick approach. no short-cuts.

and thanks! i guess artist statements are allowed to be weird! :)

angela simione said...

hannah! oh, i'm SO happy you like her work! ecstatic!!!! and the comparison you draw between her and i is such a blushing honor. thank you for that! she is one of my biggest heros and best teachers, for sure.

shadows ARE tasty! i like that! and i think there is a definite bravery in allowing things to remained unresolved, as you say. it takes a lot of guts and a lot of compassion to not force explanations or solutions. and poems and drawings are such a perfect place for those kinds of things.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Howard Carter and King Tut's tomb found their way into a weekly writing job I have, a retailer's newsletter. Excavation chants at me...words to "My Darlin' Clementine," for how many places do you find excavating in a lyric...ghost towns, burial chambers, forgotten civilizations. Kiki Smith is new to me...taking notes today in blogland. Not a peak brain day here. Ah, well. I will return.

angela simione said...

hi marylinn,

taking notes in blogland is a great way to spend a saturday. :) there are so many smart people behind them these days. such gems. unexpected and wonderful.

kiki smith's work is absolutely priceless. and thinking of excavation- her work is a prime example. encompassing the gore and beauty of fairy tales, religious history and lore,biology, feminism, and the psychology of childhood.

i haven't thought of My Darling, Clemintine in years! thank you for the reminder. it is fitting and beautiful.