This is CR Muse, a series dedicated to the remembrance of important artists and idea-makers from our past who have shaped culture as we know it today. From traditional creators to those of conceptual thought, we celebrate these women known not only for their work but their confident, eccentric style as well.
Striking in both size and form, Maman, the mammoth bronze spider with winding legs, is perhaps one of the 20th century’s most well known public sculptures. The monster of nature appears in our pristine, paved-over world with an eerie serenity. It’s a wildly captivating figure, and it all came from the mind of Louise Bourgeois, who passed away eight years ago this week.
Though Maman has prevailed as Bourgeois’ most famous piece (thanks to replicas on permanent public display in Canada, Japan, the UK, South Korea, Qatar, Spain, and the United States, not to mention the numerous temporary locations around the globe) it is only one part of her impressively prolific body of work, which spans sculpture, drawings, performance, and more.
Born in 1911 to an art-appreciative family (her parents owned a gallery that specialized in tapestry restoration), Bourgeois initially studied mathematics and geometry. But in 1932—two years into her studies—her mother passed away, driving the young girl into the world of art, where she could express herself. Her mother (for whom she associated the image of the spider with) would become one of her main sources of inspiration, as well as her childhood, and, eventually, her children.
Though Bourgeois never took to the “feminist artist” label, it is often considered an element of her reputation: Not only because of her of accomplishments—or her outspoken natur— but because her work so often dealt with issues related to the female experience: birth, motherhood, sexuality, and societal expectation. This is perhaps most clearly expressed in Femme Maison, a series of paintings from the 1940s that feature nude women with houses for heads. The pieces can be read as both a comment on how the home is a woman’s space, but also, perhaps, a woman’s prison.
Though she worked fairly consistently over the decades (according to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, she slowed down in the 1950s and early ‘60s when her focus shifted to psychoanalysis), Bourgeois did not receive widespread notoriety until the 1980s. In 1982, she held her first retrospective at the museum. Though in her 70s and with years of work already behind her, Bourgeois still had decades of creativity in her.
By the ‘90s she had created not only Maman, but another iconic modern sculpture, Arch of Hysteria, a gold, headless figure strung from the ceiling by the pelvis. Though clearly human, it is also so hard and metallic, that one can’t help but be drawn in, almost hypnotically, to how it gleams. What does it say that we’re so eager to ignore the somewhat macabre nature of a sculpture just because it’s shiny?
“It is not an image I am seeking. It’s not an idea. It is an emotion you want to recreate, an emotion of wanting, of giving, and of destroying,” she has said of her more abstract work. But it’s a quote that is applicable to much of her oeuvre. What we feel when we see her pieces—attraction, wonder, horror, anger—is a testament to her talent as an artist, and part of what has continued to keep even her earliest work relevant. Bourgeois’ art doesn’t just challenge to consider its themes; it invites us to connect with them.END
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createdAt:Fri, 25 May 2018 15:11:14 +0000
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