This work is the largest in a series of screenprints that Smith based on an image of a fetus she found in a Japanese anatomy book and photocopied in different sizes. Although All Souls has a mechanical feel, which results from Smith's use of repeated found imagery and its faded, off-register printing (Andy Warhol's screenprints were undoubtedly an influence here), the subject is emotionally poignant. Adding to this expressive character is the work’s monumental size and handcrafted, sculptural quality, a product of the thirty-six sheets of handmade Thai paper Smith attached together to form this tactile, almost blanketlike, fifteen-foot work.
An artist for whom printmaking and sculpture are equally important, Smith produced this work in the late 1980s, when a resurgence of interest in figurative art was often manifested in provocative ways. Experimenting with images of organs, body parts, and, ultimately, whole bodies (including her own), Smith's work is deeply connected to physical experience. All Souls, in particular, suggests birth and regeneration. It is also informed by issues central to Smith's beliefs, including her awe at the vastness of the human population and her feminist ideals. The title reflects Smith's deep Catholic roots, referring to the day set aside to pray for the souls of the dead.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 81.