Art Plus – Maman – A sculpture by Louise Bourgeois

© Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999

Maman Sits Weaving

Childhood memories
Maman sits weaving her love
Shadows carve their scars

About the sculpture

Maman (1999) is a bronze, stainless steel, and marble sculpture. The sculpture, which depicts a spider, is among the world’s largest, measuring over 30 ft high and over 33 ft wide (927 x 891 x 1024 cm). It includes a sac containing 32 marble eggs and its abdomen and thorax are made of ribbed bronze.

The title is the familiar French word for Mother. The sculpture was created in 1999 by Bourgeois as a part of her inaugural commission of The Unilever Series (2000), in the Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern. This original was created in steel, with an edition of six subsequent castings in bronze.

Like a creature escaped from a dream, or a larger-than-life embodiment of a secret childhood fear, the giant spider Maman casts a powerful physical and psychological shadow.

Bourgeois work plunges one into the depths of human emotion further and more passionately than perhaps any other artist of her time. In its evocation of the psyche, her work is both universal and deeply personal, with frequent, explicit reference to painful childhood memories of an unfaithful father and a loving but complicit mother.

Maman is associated with the artist’s own mother. The spider, who protects her precious eggs in a steel cage-like body, provokes awe and fear, but her massive height, improbably balanced on slender legs, conveys an almost poignant vulnerability.

In Bourgeois own words,

“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.”

Sculpture Attribution © Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999

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About the Sculpture Reference Attribution & &

Photo Attribution (Photographer Unstated), Maman, (Date Unstated)

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Poem Attribution © Goff James, Maman Sits Weaving

Copyright (c) 2021 Goff James – All Rights Reserved

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Open Box – Art quotation of the day

Louise Joséphine Bourgeois (1911 -2010) was a French-American artist.

Although she is best known for her large-scale sculpture and installation art, Bourgeois was also a prolific painter and printmaker.

She explored a variety of themes over the course of her long career including domesticity and the family, sexuality and the body, as well as death and the unconscious.

These themes connect to events from her childhood which she considered to be a therapeutic process.

Although Bourgeois exhibited with the Abstract Expressionists and her work has much in common with Surrealism and Feminist art, she was not formally affiliated with any particular artistic movement.

Early on, Bourgeois focused on painting and printmaking, turning to sculpture only in the later 1940s.

However, by the 1950s and early 1960s, there are gaps in her production as she became immersed in psychoanalysis.

In 1964, for an exhibition after a long hiatus, Bourgeois presented strange, organically shaped plaster sculptures that contrasted dramatically with the totemic wood pieces she had exhibited earlier.

Alternating between forms, materials, and scale, and veering between figuration and abstraction such ideas became a basic part of Bourgeois’s vision, even while she continually probed the same themes: loneliness, jealousy, anger, and fear.

Bourgeois’s idiosyncratic approach found few champions in the years when formal issues dominated art world thinking.

By the 1970s and 1980s, the focus in art had shifted to the examination of various kinds of imagery and content.

In 1982, at 70 years old, Bourgeois finally took centre stage with a retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art.

After the retrospective, she was filled with new confidence and forged ahead, creating monumental spiders, eerie room-sized “Cells,” evocative figures often hanging from wires, and a range of fabric works fashioned from her old clothes.

All the while she constantly made drawings on paper, day and night, and also returned to printmaking.

Art was her tool for coping; it was an exorcism. As Bourgeois put it,

“Art is a guarantee of sanity.”

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Photo Attribution © Christopher Felver, Louise Bourgeois, (Date Unstated)

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