"I think I chose the body as a subject, not consciously, but because it is the one form that we all share; it's something that everybody has their own authentic experience with" -- Kiki Smith
Smith began exhibiting in the 1980's, when Neo Expressionism was bursting on the contemporary art scene, which helped create a climate that was conducive to an artist working in a figurative vein. However, in contrast to her more bombastic peers, such as Julian Schnabel, and David Salle (as well as their Italian and German counterparts), Smith's work has always been much more introspective. In its pathos and use of installation, it actually shares more in common with artists such as Mike Kelley and Janine Antoni.
Smith had made a name for herself as the creator of tough, at times harrowing works while she was showing at the Fawbush Gallery in Soho. In 1994, she left Fawbush for PaceWildsenstein Gallery, and for her first exhibition, she created a "subversive" group of works that included decorative and seemingly feminine elements. Untitled (Butterfly Stomach) is related to, and contemporaneous, with that body of work. As in most of her sculpture, it includes an unflinching body cast of a female figure. In a surprising turn, the figure provides a perch for enormous butterflies, which surround the sculpture in a swirling, but seemingly benevolent manner. Untitled (Butterfly Stomach) shows an artist stretching her own boundaries, creating a work of both strength and sweetness, which is part of her 25 year-plus investigation into the emotive possibilities of the human figure.