Cut in Two:
A Conversation Between Louise Bourgeois
and Cheryl Kaplan
Louise Bourgeois with her work
Winged Figure (1948),
Courtesy Louise Bourgeois Studio.
©Copyright Louise Bourgeois, 2004. All rights reserved.
Jenny Holzer said: "When I review the testimony about what is wrong
with women, Louise Bourgeois’ work is the perfect rebuttal." At nearly 93,
Bourgeois, who hasn’t left her house in ten years, is hard at work making
sculptures and installations from stitched fabric, wood, steel, latex and
marble as well as drawings and prints. She still holds her famous "Sunday
Salons" where artists are invited to bring work at their own risk.
Sometimes she sends them packing.
Louise Bourgeois and her father Louis, 1948
Courtesy Louise Bourgeois
Bourgeois, 2004. Allrights reserved.
analog version of
Louise Bourgeois’ history starts in 1904, when her father, Louis,
began a business restoring 18th and 19th-century
Gobelins tapestries which he showed in his Paris gallery, although her
mother and grandmother had already been in this business. As Louise
recalls, her mother "had shelves where she kept the tapestries folded up,
arranged like books. (...) Sometimes two halves of a tapestry would find
their way together."
Louise Bourgeois, Ode à L' Oubli (page 30),
Edition: 25 copies with 7
Produced by: Solo Impression,
NY and Dye-Namix, Inc., NY
Published by: Peter Blum Edition, New York
Courtesy Peter Blum Edition, New York, Louise Bourgeois and Cheim & Read, New
Photo: Christopher Burke
Harmony, however, ends here. While Louise’s mother was a follower of the
militant feminist anarchist
Louise Michel in the late 1800s, Josephine Bourgeois allowed her husband’s
mistress to live with the family as the children’s tutor for ten years,
starting in 1922 when Louise was ten. In a pivotal work that first
appeared in Artforum in 1982
called Child Abuse, Louise Bourgeois accused her father and her
English tutor, Sadie Gordon Richmond, of a "double betrayal." The news of
the betrayal arrived through the tapestry workshop gossip as the girls
openly dangled "rumors" in front of the young Louise. Bourgeois recalls:
"When the tapestries were brought to the (Bievre) river (to be cleaned),
the workers had a special wooden box to kneel in, placed on the rocks,
each with a pile of straw or a cushion to protect their knees… You
couldn’t see their lower bodies; they looked as if they were cut in two.
That gave me a fantastic pleasure because I myself wanted to cut them in
two. I wanted to move from the passive to the active, since I experienced
myself as cut in two."
Louise Bourgeois, Janus Fleuri, 1968
Courtesy Louise Bourgeois and Cheim & Read, New York
Photo: Christopher Burke