Owls, bees, and stars convene in Kiki Smith’s latest tapestry edition, Parliament (2017), a composition whose mysterious sense of space shifts dreamily between abstraction and mimesis. The gestural, angular, and highly textured limbs upon which Parliament’s pair of owls perch might be tree branches, but they also imply growth or movement, as if recording the flight path of airborne bodies in motion. Given the tapestry’s handful of tiny black trees set against a palette of frosty whites, pale blues and silvery grays, one imagines its convention of winged agents taking place in the crisp winter air: flying creatures hovering high above a snow-covered landscape in a rarefied realm inaccessible to the earthbound.
Consistent with Smith’s other tapestries with Magnolia Editions, Parliament’s composition is separated into three series of horizontal bands, as if to suggest that within each of the various natural (or supernatural) ‘realms’ depicted there exists the same strata of sky, land, and underground — a visual link that connects all of the tapestries as a series. However, compared to the layered pageantry of Smith’s previous woven works, Parliament’s spare composition and use of negative space are particularly reminiscent of her works on paper. The artist’s signature line is unmistakable in Parliament’s bottom third, where patterns — spirals suggesting the age rings inside a tree trunk, a loosely sketched honeycomb — evince the burred delicacy of Smith’s drawings and etchings, translated here into warp and weft threads.