The eminently provocative and intriguing work of Louise Bourgeois spanned two centuries. Her work; largely sculptural, often spoke to her love of the fabric/textile world. French born; she came from a family of individuals that made art and tapestries their business. The very essence of her being was tied to the creative activity of restoring and the selling of antique tapestries. It is no accident that she also connected to nature’s most prolific weaver; the spider. Her affinity for the spider was expressed over and over within her body of works. This abundantly evident throughout her life as she tireless worked through the decades. She would even acquire the nick-name “Spider-Woman.”
The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.
Louise Bourgeois’ father too affected her throughout her life emotionally and creatively in that he was harsh, overly critical and had multiple affairs with women. Bourgeois’ nanny was included in the number of his continuing infidelities. Louise was greatly affected and really never forgave her father. She would go on in life and replaced any misgivings with education, work and a desire for self-exanimation and curiosity. These models would encouragement and inform her for her life’s entirety.
Once I was beset by anxiety but I pushed the fear away by studying the sky, determining when the moon would come out and where the sun would appear in the morning.
After marrying and moving to New York City she would continue as both teacher and student at the university level and even in public schools, Bourgeois was a force. Her salons at her home in Chelsea (Manhattan) would take on the name “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” because of her scathing and brutally honest critics that often expressed her dry, biting wit. Friend and associate to many of her famous peers including Dekooning, Pollack and Ferdinand Léger (who informed her early on that she was a sculptor; not a painter.) She would be late acquiring wide success possibly due to gender. Her work could be construed as feminist and even surreal but she rejected all labels as she worked to express her emotions, memories and muses.
“My work deals with problems that are pre-gender...for example, jealousy is not male or female."
It was MoMA that would be the first museum to give Louise Bourgeois a retrospective in 1982. Other retrospectives would follow world-wide including Saint Petersburg’s Hermitage and London’s Tate Modern. Washington DC’s foremost museum of modern art The Hirshhorn would exhibit a Bourgeois retrospective in 2009. I was able to attend it several times and enjoyed passing her huge “Crouching Spider” at the museum’s entrance. The Hirshhorn retrospective was extremely inclusive boasting 120 pieces and showcased her every style and medium; plaster, bronze, marble, wood, resin, latex and found objects. Bourgeois was talented, intelligent, caring, thoughtful and beautiful in every aspect of her being. Her art is her testament to life.
It is not so much where my motivation comes from but rather how it manages to survive.