Kiki Smith is one of the most celebrated artists of the last several decades. While she was born in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1954, she has been living in New York since 1976. In 1992 Saint Peter’s Church commissioned her to execute a new processional crucifix. The result is a work of art that is used at Saint Peter’s Church and is frequently requested for exhibits elsewhere.
The crucifix — both the cross and the corpus — is crafted entirely of aluminum. An anguished Christ is depicted with defined rib cage, clear abdominals, and limp limbs. His eyes are turned downward in a markedly somber gaze. His skin is rutted. The sense of pain is powerful.
Whereas in a crucifix a corpus typical hangs in front of the cross, this corpus is suspended, “floated” according to Ms. Smith, within. The hallowed out framework of the cross, allows a great deal of light to be cast within the cross and onto the corpus itself. The cross appears to be lighter in both the illumined and weighted sense of the word.
While the corpus is dead, the body is in a state of lift — Almost as though it is being removed from the cross itself, the hands last to release. In this way, the corpus is literally and figuratively detached from cross altogether.
The crucifix can be seen as two sculptures in one, with the one being a profound juxtaposition of the inseparable two — however impossible that singular sculptural tableau might be. Ms. Smith captures death and life in this masterpiece.