The Artist Heals His Heart: Keith Smith At Home

Keith Smith At Home

American born 1935

from an exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum, 2018


Book No. 296, December 2015:  a self-portrait of the artist



Keith Smith is a somewhat reclusive artist who has made more than 300 art books and authored a number of influential books on alternative methods of bookbinding.  Using photography,  print-making and  textiles, the artist has created a large body of images on paper and on textile.  




TBD, Philadelphia Art Museum



The artist’s work is a mirror of his own life more than a window on the world outside. He depicts his domestic life, his friends and lovers. 




The Night Creature, 1972, photoetching inked and printed à la poupée



Oblique statements in this exhibition make mention of the difficulty the artist had coming to comfort in his own skin.  And coming to comfort in a home of his own after peripatetic domestic arrangements.




A poem the artist wrote and illustrated (Book Number 100, Bobby, 1985) speaks of his alter ego:  a being he created in childhood, Bobby, and which he has used throughout his life to project love, kinship, desire and loss. 


While no statements were made about the way the artist was socialized as a child and adolescent, that the artist, at two, created an alter ego, Bobby, speaks loudly. 




Untitled, August 1984; collage of gelatin silver prints and brown paper with graphite and machine stitching




Ph050818 231Book Number 290, October 2013-February 2014, inkjet print





Change of Address, 1975, photoetching


The artist notes that, if his life has been retiring, his work has not. His work is centered on what it has been to live as a gay man.  His art has, bit by bit, reconciled him to himself and him to the world.



Ph050818 238

Untitled, January 23, 1973, electrostatic print with collage of cut printed papers and machine stitching (postcard)




Untitled for Book Number 22, 1971, collage of gelatin silver prints




Alan Undressing, March 23, 1982; photoetching with graphite and watercolour 




Untitled, August 1984, film positive transparency over gelatin silver print with machine stitching


In this exhibition is a series of portraits of one of the men this artist has loved: Brian Miller. 

The artist used these prints for many years to teach print-making techniques to his students.  Eventually he used 75 of them to create a book. 




The artist’s love for Brian Miller was unrequited.

The process of  composing, printing and teaching, composing, printing and teaching was the process for the artist’s eventual healing of his own heart.


















Book Number 46, Silkscreened Monoprints, 1974; photoscreen prints with various drawing media and collage elements


The artist was born in 1935.

This little show from the artist’s large oeuvre is a salutary lesson about the pursuit of happiness despite and because the world is, as always, a waste land.