Louise Bourgeois was born in France 1911 to parents who ran a tapestry restoration business. Her father’s extended infidelity, and notably his affair with her nanny/English teacher left a particular mark on Louise, an alert young child who recorded everything in her diaries… She studied mathematics, but after her mother’s early death, switched to art. She studied painting and print-making and was later told by a teacher she was not a painter, but rather a sculptor. The gaps in her artistic timeline during the 1950s and 60s are due to her immersion in psychoanalysis, leading to her debut of strange, organic plaster sculptures in 1964, a step away from her earlier, totem-like creations. When Bourgeois turned 70, her career exploded onto the art world with her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, fuelling a new confidence that led to the creation of her iconic spider sculptures and eerie hang man cells. Art for Bourgeois, continually probed questions of loneliness, jealousy, anger and fear. Art was a form of exorcism, “a guarantee of sanity”…
An now, an imagined interview with real quotes by Louise Bourgeois…
Who are you?
I am not what I am, I am what I do with my hands…
I am a searcher… I always was… and I still am… searching for the missing piece. Louise Bourgeois
Where did you come from?
I came from a family of repairers. The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it.
I have drawn my whole life. My parents were in the tapestry restoration business, and as a young girl, I would draw in the missing parts of the tapestry that needed to be re-woven. My ability to draw made me indispensable to my parents.
“My mother was a restorer, she repaired broken things. I don’t do that. I destroy things. I cannot go the straight line. I must destroy, rebuild, destroy again. My rhythm is not the same. My mother moved in a straight line: I go from one extreme to the other.” –Louise Bourgeois
When my mother died, I fell apart. My father wanted to control me. As a consequence, I ran away to America.
I was a ‘runaway girl’ from France who married an American and moved to New York City. I’m not sure I would have continued as an artist had I remained in Paris because of the family setup. Louise Bourgeois
What is an artist?
An artist can show things that other people are terrified of expressing. – Louise Bourgeois
“To be an artist, you need to exist in a world of silence.” – Louise Bourgeois
What is art?
Art is manipulation without intervention.
Art is a guaranty of sanity. That is the most important thing I have said. – Louise Bourgeois
Why do you make art?
I have kept a diary as long as I can remember, and drawings are really another kind of diary.
My art is a form of restoration in terms of my feelings to myself and to others.
In my sculpture, it’s not an image I am seeking, it’s not an idea. My goal is to re-live a past emotion. My art is an exorcism, and beauty is something I never talk about. Louise Bourgeois
Every day you have to abandon your past or accept it and then, if you cannot accept it, you become a sculptor.
Look at it this way – a totem pole is just a decorated tree. My work is a confessional.
Are you a feminist?
The feminists took me as a role model, as a mother. It bothers me. I am not interested in being a mother. I am still a girl trying to understand myself. – Louise Bourgeois
What inspires you?
To express your emotions, you have to be very loose and receptive. The unconscious will come to you if you have that gift that artists have. I only know if I’m inspired by the results.
When I was growing up, all the women in my house were using needles. I’ve always had a fascination with the needle, the magic power of the needle. The needle is used to repair damage. It’s a claim to forgiveness. It is never aggressive, it’s not a pin. – Louise Bourgeois
Tell us about your ‘art’
A work of art does not need an explanation. The work has to speak for itself. The work may be subject to many interpretations, but only one was in the mind of the artist. Some artists say to make the work readable for the public is an artist’s responsibility, but I don’t agree with that. The only responsibility to be absolutely truthful to the self. My work disturbs people and nobody wants to be disturbed They are not fully aware of the effect my work has on them, but they know it is disturbing. – Louise Bourgeois
Then tell us about the spider…
The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. . . 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.
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
Art is restoration: the idea is to repair the damages that are inflicted in life, to make something that is fragmented – which is what fear and anxiety do to a person – into something whole. Louise Lourgeois
One must accept the fact that others don’t see what you do.
I have been to Hell and back and let me tell you it was wonderful.
Tell your own story, and you will be interesting.
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. – Louise Bourgeois