German, American, 1954
99.1 x 256.5 x 61 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 42085)
© Kiki Smith, Courtesy PaceWildenstein, New York
This fantastical sculpture presents us with a surprising and unnatural circumstance: a small doe has just given birth to a full-grown woman. The internationally renowned artist Kiki Smith works with the body in her sculptures, prints, and drawings, often referring to mythological female figures. Two legends in particular are linked to "Born". One is the Germanic tale of Saint Genovefa, a queen falsely accused of infidelity and sentenced to death. She escaped, taking refuge in the forest where she and her child were sustained by a doe that nursed them both. A second figure evoked by "Born" is Saint Geneviève, a shepherd’s daughter who became the patron saint of Paris. Smith has made a number of works based on Geneviève, one of which depicts her stepping from the belly of a wolf. The artist reinterprets these stories to portray animals that not only sustain, but also give life to humans.