Sm{art}: RIP Spiderwoman

Sculptor Louise Bourgeois created an array of surreal images in her career, many of which address psychological phenomena in physically mutated or twisted figurative forms. But perhaps Bourgeois, nicknamed “Spiderwoman”,; will be remembered by much of the public who encountered her work for placing dozens of giant bronze spiders worldwide. She died last week, aged 98.

Louise Bourgeois

The French-American artist and sculptor has been cited as one of the key founders of “Confessional Art” and as a major inspiration on many of today's modern artists including Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, and Tracy Emin.

“I orbited Bourgeois,” conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, known for her provocative use of words as art in projections and electronic displays, wrote after learning of Bourgeois' death.

She was acknowledged as the first female to be honored with a retrospective at the Museum of Modern art, in 1982.

Maman, Bilbao

Above: “Maman” outside the entrance to the Museo Guggenheim Bilbao (Photo: EPA)

Female sexuality, power and motherhood had been represented by her in the work of spider imagery. “The Spider is an ode to my mother,” Louise Bourgeois once said. “She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver… Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences… spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.” It has also been interpreted as a commemoration of arachnids' vital predator character in keeping the Earth's insect population in check.

The BBC's art expert Alan Yentob interviews Tracy Emin and various artists about the ongoing influence and impact of Bourgeois' work. Made while she was still alive, it is easy to see how her strong opinions, feminist ideas and self-explorations impacted a wealth of modern work. Everything, according to Bourgeois herself, was inspired by the earliest years of her life.

In an e-mail exchange in early 2008, The Associated Press asked Bourgeois what advice she would give young artists just starting out.

“Tell your own story, and you will be interesting,” she responded. “Don't get the green disease of envy. Don't be fooled by success and money. Don't let anything come between you and your work.”

Read her obituary from the Telegraph here,

And see more of her work.

by Kristin Rogers Brown
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Kristin Rogers Brown is a creative director, designer, and problem-solver. She was Bitch Media’s Art Director (2010-2018). When not designing, you can find her teaching illustration and design at PNCA or hoping to pet your dog. Follow her on twitter or instagram.

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1 Comment Has Been Posted

Thank you!

I saw "Maman" in the Tuileries in June 2008, and both my mother and I were struck by it—part of the great French tradition of what they like to call <i>épater les bourgeois</i> (to shock the middle class, which takes on a rather ironic punning meaning with Louise's last name) but adding not only a woman's perspective but also feminist politics to the male-dominated world of Duchamp and Magritte. As someone who loves using metaphors for all sorts of social conditions, hearing the connection between the spider and "Mom" was fascinating. Thank you for providing more information on her, and paix à votre âme, Mme Bourgeois!

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