Art and the Feminine/Masculine – Louise Bourgeois


"Seven in a Bed" Louise Bourgeois 2001

Sculptor,painter,printmaker and installation artist, Lousie Bourgeois through her work ignites emotion. Often disturbing and provocative Louise explores her inner emotional canvas through these varied mediums. What stood out to me most in the bit of research I did is her ongoing dialog about womanhood and suppression. Themes of confinement, relationship, and sexuality seemed to be a unifying thread throughout her work. Bourgeois(1911 -2010) grew up in a wealthy family however experienced life with a domineering father who made no secret of his affair with her childhood tutor. Later, Louise worked in the family business of repairing tapestries before heading off to school to study mathematics, philosophy at the Sorbonne. In 1934 she began focusing on art at Ecole de Beaux-Arts.

"Femme Maison" Woman House 1945-47 Oil and ink on linen

In some earlier work like the series "Femme Maison" or Woman House (above)1945-47 the artist is said to be speaking to a "negated identity that isolates her from the outside world." (After the Revolution Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art - Heartney,Posner,Princenthal,Scott) I think, the viewer gets the sense of confinement with the house covering the woman's head on the naked body. I like the primitive quality to this piece. It's interesting to me, that the woman's figure almost looks like a representation of wood sculpture, which is a medium the artist also worked in. For me the idea of wood in the human form connects becoming impenetrable so that it could hold/tolerate everything else. Some of Bourgeois' later sculptures combine the feminine and masculine in subtle yet explicit sexual forms. "Cumul I" a marble 1969 is an example. As I look at this I feel the beauty and craftsmanship as well as discomfort with the form. Perhaps there's some sense of over-riding vulnerability in my humanness that this connects with. There are elements I suspect of Bourgeois' unspoken message from childhood that on some level we probably all can identity with.

"Cumul I" 1969 Marble

To learn more you can visit The Moma or click HERE. I also recommend the book referenced above After the Revolution - Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art)

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