Smith grew up in South Orange, New Jersey. She enrolled at Harford Art School in Connecticut in 1974, but never graduated. In 1976, she moved to New York, and two years later joined Colab, an artists’ collective that was devoted to making art accessible through exhibitions. Her works typically evoke the human body. Smith’s first artistic works were screen-printed dresses, scarves, and shirts often with images of body parts. Always pushing the boundaries, Smith’s work is admired for its intimacy and provocations.