I was introduced to Lilith by Kiki Smith on a tour of modern sculpture at the Met. What first struck me about this piece was its location: it's literally hanging upside down in the middle of the wall as you walk up the stairs in the Modern and Contemporary Art galleries from the first floor to the second.
The entire statue is made of a rugged bronze material, but when I came closer and examined the front, I was greeted with the figure's penetrating, steely blue-grey eyes. They're glass, which gives them an intelligent and lifelike quality. The juxtaposition between the unrefined, stark body and the hyperrealistic, knowing eyes was unexpected and unnerving.
My first thought upon seeing this figure and gazing into her eyes was, "Who is this powerful and supernatural woman?" I half-expected her to blink back at me and continue her scurry down the wall. After absorbing the piece, I looked at the label for an explanation; it was titled Lilith, which answered some of my questions. In Jewish mythology, Lilith was the first wife of Adam. She was made from the same earth as Adam, whereas Eve was made from Adam's rib. Because of this, Lilith saw herself as equal to Adam and, refusing to be subservient to him, fled Eden.
The figure's position on the wall shields her female anatomy, and her pose is aggressive and guarded. This contrasts with how women are typically depicted in art, especially in the West. Most female sculptures feature beautiful nudes meant to be admired in open, graceful, and revealing poses: the female body put on display for all to marvel at. Almost all of these works are made by men depicting their ideal of women. In contrast, Smith shows the female figure in a radically atypical but empowering way, a product of defiance and refusal to submit—unexpected, intelligent, and just the right amount of creepy.