Barbara T. Smith installed her iconic Field Piece at Cirrus in 1971—one hundred eighty “blades of grass” molded from translucent fiberglass. Smith is a foundational figure in West Coast performance art. She was born in 1931 in Pasadena, did undergraduate work in painting, art history, and religion at Pomona College and received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine in 1971. Smith was a founding member of F-Space Gallery in Irvine, where her early performances emphasized ceremony and corporeality. Early pieces, including Ritual Meal (1969), Feed Me (1973), and Celebration of the Holy Squash (1971) have become iconic in the history of performance and are legendary examples of the artist’s demanding yet generous work. Her work explores the physicality of the mineralogical, vegetal, and corporal to speak to both the concrete materiality of our existence, and her existential amazement of our shared embodiment in the world.
Smith’s work has been featured in multiple exhibitions, including in iWACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2008–09), The Radicalization of a ’50s Housewife at UCI, and State of Mind at OCMA and the Bronx Museum. Her retrospective The 21st Century Odyssey Part II: The Performances of Barbara T. Smith was held at Pomona College Museum of Art in Claremont and Kennedy Museum of Art, Ohio University.