Two members of the Visual Arts faculty at Columbia University School of the Arts—Kara Walker and Kiki Smith—have been named 2012 Fellows by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Smith and Walker are among the 220 artists, scholars, scientists and writers elected to the 2012 Class by the prestigious honor society.
Kara Walker, who was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters earlier this spring, is perhaps best known for her large-scale silhouette scenes, which draw on cultural influences from cartoons to slave narratives. Her unflinching exploration of highly charged themes such as power, repression, history, race, violence and sexuality earned her a MacArthur grant at the age of 27. Since her appointment to the Visual Arts faculty in 2001, she has provided guidance to many students through Graduate Studio Visits and Critiques.
Kiki Smith, a member of the adjunct Visual Arts faculty, was the first artist to showcase a project at the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies. This work, Tidal (1999), featured photographs of the moon taken at Columbia University’s astronomical observatory. Since then she has shown two additional projects for the Neiman Center, Moon Three and Companion. She currently teaches Advanced Printmaking with Sarah Sze, the U.S. Representative to the 2013 Venice Biennale.
“Kara Walker and Kiki Smith and are two of the most important artists of our time,” said Carol Becker, Dean of Faculty of the School. “Kara Walker is fearless in confronting complex issues in provocative and innovative ways. Kiki Smith has revitalized and reinvented the sculptural and printmaking landscape. This is a much deserved recognition for both.”
The Academy of American Arts and Sciences, which was founded during the Revolutionary War by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other leaders of the new nation, aims “to provide a forum for scholars, professionals, and government and business leaders to work together on behalf of the democratic interests of the republic.” Its members include more than 250 Nobel laureates and 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.
This year, the Academy continues its 230-plus year history of recognizing some of the world’s most accomplished leaders. Other 2012 Fellows include Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, actor and director Clint Eastwood and pianist, conductor and composer André Previn.
The new class of Fellows will be inducted at a ceremony on October 6, at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
More on the Artists
Kiki Smith is a prolific sculptor and printmaker. She was first recognized for her powerful portrayal of the visceral experiences of the human body. Although much of her earlier work employed the more traditional media of sculpture, such as bronze, she went onto use delicate materials like paper and wax, which are suggestive of the fragility and ephemerality of the body. Smith has received numerous awards, including the Skowhegan School of Art's Medal for Sculpture, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Athena Award for Excellence in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design. She has exhibited her work extensively throughout the United States and Europe. A major retrospective of Smith's work was organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and later traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2007. The Museum of Modern Art organized a notable retrospective of her prints and multiples in 2003. Smith's work is included in numerous collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Smith is represented by PaceWildenstein Gallery and lives and works in New York.
Kara Walker was born in Stockton, California and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. Walker has participated in numerous national and international exhibitions. Her recent solo museum shows include “Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love,” which opened at the Walker Art Center in 2007 and traveled to ARC/Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; and “Kara Walker at the Met: After the Deluge,” which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2006. She participated in the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2007, was the recipient of the Deutsche Bank Prize and was the American representative to the São Paulo Biennial. Her work is included in numerous museums and public collections, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Gallery in London, the Centro Nazionale per le Arti Contemporanee in Rome and Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt. Earlier this year she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letter. She lives and works in New York City.