Awkward Moments with the Ex: Kiki Smith’s “Lilith”

March 10, 2015 — I think my favorite museum in Boston is the Museum of Fine Arts. From its giant stone baby heads to its mood-lit Egyptian wing, the place is pretty awesome.

It also has Lilith.

She’s in the museum’s Contemporary Art wing. Now, to me, I find plenty of the bland and indecipherable within contemporary art galleries in general, but frequently enough, there’ll be something fascinating and bizarre.

Like Lilith.

Lilith was created in 1994 by New York-based, German-American artist Kiki Smith. She’s made of bronze, silicon, and glass. Lilith, I mean. I don’t know much about the artist. Lilith is my introduction to her work. However, a quick internet search reveals that dark female bronze forms are a recurring motif for her.

Although few seem to come out as terrifying as Lilith does.

From her feral crouch, to her lack of clothing, to her positioning on the wall above the head of the audience, to the color and texture of her skin that makes it look like she just crept out of a bog, she seems wild, animalistic, unpredictable…except for those eyes. Those damned eyes. And, actually, I mean damned literally.

Smith’s piece is inspired by a character from Jewish mythology. Lilith was Adam’s first wife. But things didn’t work out. Relationships are hard, even in a perfect world, apparently. The singles scene wasn’t great there at the beginning of the world, so Lilith hooked up with the Prince of Darkness or some other head honcho of Hell and basically became a demoness herself. Adam, meanwhile, hooked up with Eve, dooming the world as a result. Relationships are hard.

Later, she would reincarnate as Frasier Crane’s wife in Cheers, in one of the most brilliant roles on television thanks to Bebe Neuwirth.

As I mentioned, the best part of Smith’s Lilith are her eyes. The bright glass orbs are realistic and icy and Hell-hath-no-fire-ish against the dark, muddy bronze of her face, even though the irises are light brown. But because her head’s turned and she’s elevated Spider-Woman-like against the wall, you have to stand in just the right spot to get caged in her gaze. You can tell which of those pictures I took from that spot because it came out blurry. That’s the creeps getting into my camera hand.

And although I love her, I can kinda see why Adam dumped her.