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The Death of an Icon: Louise Bourgeois

June 1st, 2010 · 5 Comments

Louise Bourgeois was a bullshit-dispelling, feminist visionary who died yesterday at the age of 98. Bourgeois’s brilliance lay in her way of leading people to simple truths derived from complex ideas and questions. “A work of art doesn’t have to be explained. If you say, What does this mean? Well, if you do not have any feeling about this I can not explain it to you. If it does not touch you I have failed.” Louise Bourgeois, Art 21

(Source: New York Times)

I quickly became enamored with Bourgeois after seeing her multi-media sculpture, Cell (Hands and Mirror) at Boston’s ICA. The piece really grabbed me, particularly the way the hands are clasped in anxiety, desperation or perhaps hope and then projected through the makeup mirror.

My love for Bourgeois was sealed with her appearance in this episode of PBS’s Art 21 (starts at 40:20). She is, without a doubt, the stereotypical French grandmother (we even meet her grandson in the segment!): stern, fiery, intimidating but loving at heart. Not to be underestimated, this very old, diminutive French woman is miles ahead of us, discussing her revolutionary and brilliant observations on humanity and interrelationships without pretense and with utter humility.

Other awesome quotes from her appearance on Art 21:

(On her Welcoming Hands) “They are my hands (cast from plaster)… This is a real document… It shows how much I care about the whole thing. It shows that I match the emotion that is expressed. It’s true. It is an emotion that has been lived and is real.” Bourgeois, Art 21

Bourgeois is often quoted as saying “My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.” On the notion that artists always remain children she says “It might be true that the artist, there is something in them that either refuses or is unable to grow up. This is possible.” Bourgeois, Art 21