Object Name: Sculpture
Artist/Maker/Manufacturer/Founder: Louise Bourgeois
Material/Medium/Support: Bronze, Stainless Steel, Marble
Earliest Production Date and Latest Production Date: 1999, cast 2003
Dimension: 927 x 891 x 1024 cm
Institution Name: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Copyright: Louise Bourgeois
Maman is the title of this nine-metre high bronze spider by the artist Louise Bourgeois. Standing beneath Maman, I have mixed feelings… terror at such a big spider, but also comfort in her maternal embrace. Notice how the 20 marble eggs are protected in the cage-like sac above. The artist’s own mother was a weaver and a tapestry restorer. Bourgeois gave her sculpture long pointed legs and a spiralling body to evoke the needles and spun fibres used in her mother’s work. Since its installation on the plaza of the National Gallery of Canada in 2004, the sculpture has become a part of Ottawa’s urban landscape. Look at how the spider’s high arching legs echo the domes of the neighbouring architecture – like the Library of Parliament and the Gallery’s Great Hall. Bourgeois created six sculptures like this one. They are in collections all over the world, each fitting into the fabric of its architectural landscape.
The extraordinary career of Louise Bourgeois has spanned close to eight decades and been associated with many major movements of the twentieth century, including Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and Feminism. Bourgeois’ singular, and often autobiographical artistic vision transcends the personal to portray archetypal themes relating to the human condition. Inspired by the artist’s own mother, a tapestry restorer, “Maman”, the giant egg-carrying spider, is a nurturing and protective symbol of fertility and motherhood, shelter and the home. With its monumental and terrifying scale, however, “Maman” also betrays this maternal trust to incite a mixture of fear and curiosity.
SCULPTURE AS ARCHITECTURE: LOUISE BOURGEOIS’ MAMAN
M.A. Art History, Concordia University.
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