The Nest is one of the earliest and most complex of the spider sculptures that Bourgeois created between 1994 and 1997. It blends sculpture with drawing through its ingenious use of legs as both sculptural objects and lines in space. Bourgeois repeatedly explored the spider, her self-selected totem figure, because of its power to intermingle two- and three-dimensional relationships. “What is a drawing?” asks Bourgeois. “It is a secretion, like a thread in a spider’s web . . . . It is a knitting, a spiral, a spider web, a significant organization of space.”
The spider first appeared in Bourgeois’ drawings of the 1930s and 1940s, but it wasn’t until sixty years later that she adopted it as the subject of her sculpture. She has mused, “Spider: the mother cuts the spider’s web . . . . The friend (spider; why spider?). Because my best friend was my mother, and she was . . . (as) clever, patient and neat as a spider; she could also defend herself.” The mother figure in this sculpture nurtures and protects her brood while exuding a threatening presence. The spider may also be a self-portrait of the artist in her intertwined roles as mother and daughter, and as creator of works that are both seductive and menacing.
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