Are Bourgeois’s spiders monsters or protectors?
Curator Alison Gass.
Louise Bourgeois said that the act of drawing is about weaving a line or weaving a web in space. And if you think of what a spider web looks like, in fact, it really is kind of a two-dimensional drawing that exists in space.
French-born artist Louise Bourgeois’s career spans more than seven decades. Her sculpture takes many forms but is unified by powerful psychological investigation and a surrealist sensibility.
The spider, in particular, is an image that has been part of her practice since the 1940s, and it entered primarily through drawing. And in fact, this large sculpture begins to feel, as well, like a drawing in space. It’s this familiar object, a spider, but it’s blown up way beyond the scale of anything that we can recognize or feel comfortable with. And it’s a really amazing image of maternal being, if you think about it, this unsettling, strange giant spider is not at all what we think of as the traditional icons of maternity in the art world, traditional icons of something that’s gentle and supporting and safe. While this form may appear really menacing to us from the outside, from the perspective of the baby spider at the bottom of this nest, it feels like this very safe space, this very safe experience of being protected from their outside world.
This is The Nest made by Louise Bourgeois in 1994. This large steel structure, nearly eight and a half feet tall, depicts a family of five skinny spiders resembling daddy long legs, one smaller than the next. Each spider tucks under the next larger one like nesting dolls. The steel looks rusty in places and rough to the touch. The overall form of the spiders is realistic, but up close they are not realistically detailed.
Each one has a cylindrical central hub with ropes of steel around it without eyes or other features. Eight gnarled legs jut out from the central hub like rays. At a thick joint, they been sharply downward to reach the floor. The lower legs are smooth rods. No two of the spiders are exactly alike, and the spindly legs of each one angles to a slightly different degree. Where they meet the floor, the cluster of so many diagonal rods resembles a protective cage around the smallest spiders.
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