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Art Project

Supersized Symbolic Spiders

Inspired by Louise Bourgeois’s The Nest

Artwork image, Louise Bourgeois The Nest

Louise Bourgeois, The Nest, 1994; collection SFMOMA, purchase through the Agnes E. Meyer and Elise S. Haas Fund and the gifts of Doris and Donald Fisher, Helen and Charles Schwab, and Vicki and Kent Logan; © Louise Bourgeois / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Key Concepts

  • Materials and process
  • Symbols
  • Choices artists make

Materials

  • Tinfoil
  • Scissors

Introduction

  • Describe the lines and shapes that you see in this work. For example, “I see a thin, curving line.”
  • What words would you use to describe this work? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • How would you describe the mood of this work? What in this work makes you think of that mood?
  • Bourgeois’s spider sculptures can be very large — The Nest is over 8 feet tall. What effect does the scale of this artwork have on you?

Instructions

  1. Cut or tear a piece of tinfoil. The larger your foil, the larger your spider will be.
  2. Cut five long strips that are about half an inch wide. Keep the extra foil for later steps.
  3. Gently fold each strip “hot dog style” until they become narrow and spindly. These strips will be the legs and pedipalps of your spider.
  4. Cut a large strip from your excess tinfoil and roll it into a ball. This ball will be the spider’s body.
  5. Use another large foil strip to wrap around the tinfoil ball you just made. Leave a long stem or tail so that the piece of foil now looks like a drumstick or a tadpole.
  6. Take your five tinfoil strips (the legs and the pedipalps) and place them on the stem. Get them as close to each other as possible.
  7. Now, fold the stem over to keep your strips in place. Try to get as close to the ball (body) as possible. The folded piece of tinfoil becomes the head of the spider. If you need to, secure the fold by wrapping a thin piece of tinfoil around the space between the body and the head of the spider.
  8. Flip the spider over so the fold is on the bottom and pull a strip from either side of the spider forward. Trim these to become the pedipalps of the spider.  Now, arrange your spider’s legs. Leave them long like a daddy longlegs spider, or trim them short, like a jumping spider. It’s up to you!

Relevant Information

The Nest, made when Louise Bourgeois was 82, was one of her first spider sculptures. She went on to make many more, from small ones for indoors to outdoor pieces that are three stories tall. To Bourgeois, the spider is a symbol of a motherly protector, and she chose it to represent her.

Discussion

  • Did you decide to make a large spider or a small one? Why did you choose that size of spider?
  • Is your spider friendly? Scary? Protective? How did you choose to convey those characteristics in your sculpture?
  • Bourgeois selected the spider as a symbol to represent herself. What symbol would you choose to represent you? What does that symbol say about who you are?