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Frieze Los Angeles 2019

In The Studio: Barbara T. Smith

Studio City: Pasadena has been Barbara T. Smith life-long home

in Frieze Los Angeles , Frieze Week Magazine | 17 JAN 19

Barbara T. Smith in her studio. Photo: Ryan Lowry. 

Barbara T. Smith 


Barbara T. Smith has lived in the Los Angeles area all life. Studying painting at Pomoma College in the 1950s, she married a classmate and devoted herself to raising three children: but, after an encounter with The Feminine Mystique (1963), returned to art in the late 1960s, producing some of the most significant performance art to come out of California. For 1973’s Feed Me, Smith spent the hours between sunrise and sunset in the women’s bathroom of San Francisco’s Museum of Conceptual Art, nude and surrounded by offerings and a soundtrack of her voice; ‘I forced the visitor to recognize that I am not an object but a person’, she wrote of the piece. 

Barbara T. Smith’s studio. Photo: Ryan Lowry

Smith has often turned challenges into triumphs. After failed attempts to join the lithography workshop at Gemini G.E.L. in 1965, Smith decided instead to lease a Xerox machine, producing several landmark series from it exploring gender. When she contracted cancer in the 1990s, Smith took her changing body as a new subject, documenting it in piercing life-size photographs. Before the shoot, Smith emailed, wondering what to wear. Of course, she was already wearing the most essential thing: her unshakable air of fearless resilience, experiment and enquiry.