this issue contains
>> Interview: Louise Bourgeois
>> Career Women and Material Girls
>> The Legend's Burden: Eva Hesse
>> Close Up: Katharina Sieverding

>> archive


CK: What are your feelings now about feminism? In 1988 you told art critic Donald Kuspit that "Feminism is important to me." Later, you had mixed feelings, associating feminism with victimization. In speaking with Robert Storr you said: "There is no feminist aesthetic (…) The women got together not because they had things in common, but because they lacked things." But you’ve also written: "My feminism expresses itself in an intense interest in what women do."

LB: I don't believe there is a feminist aesthetic. A lot of the emotions that I am expressing in my work are pre-gender. I am lucky to have been brought up by my mother who was a feminist, and fortunate enough to have married a husband who was a feminist, and I have raised sons who are feminists.

CK: Lucas Cranach, a favorite artist of yours, painted Lucretia as she’s about to commit suicide, having been raped. Like most of Cranach’s females, Lucretia is strangely demure, yet extremely violent. I’m reminded of the piece you did in Artforum in December 1982 called Child Abuse that focuses on your father’s relationship with Sadie.

Louise Bourgeois, The Reticent Child (detail), 2003
Courtesy Louise Bourgeois and Cheim & Read, New York
Photo: Christopher Burke

LB: The piece entitled Child Abuse in Artforum was done to coincide with the opening of my first large exhibition in New York. This work was my attempt to explain the person behind these objects.

CK: The Destruction of the Father, done in 1974 is an incredibly visceral piece, cast from lamb and chicken bones. The sculpture is overrun with tumorous protrusions. It’s scary, yet strangely natural. Destruction is about getting rid of someone but also keeping them around. The sculpture’s support resembles a field hospital stretcher. In what way were your childhood visits to see your wounded father in army hospitals during WWI part of this piece?

LB: I accompanied my mother during the War when she went from camp to camp to stay close to my father. I felt my mother's hysteria. The images of the soldiers on the trains and in the hospital have stayed in my mind. The fear of abandonment is very strong within me and relates to that time.

CK: As a registered Democrat, what do you think of the recent re-election of George Bush especially concerning women’s rights? I’m thinking of his potential to appoint ultra-conservative judges on the Supreme Court.

Louise Bourgeois; The Destruction of the Father, 1974
Courtesy Louise Bourgeois and Cheim & Read, New York
Photo: Rafael Lobato

LB: Bush's re-election is unfortunate not only for America but for the entire world. Life is being reduced to economics. Values and the quality of life are at risk. As the disparity between the rich and poor grows, religious fanaticism grows. I believe in the separation of church and state. I'm particularly concerned with the environment; mankind is destroying the planet and seems to be oblivious.

CK: Can you talk about your series of nine engravings He Disappeared into Complete Silence done in 1947?

LB: He Disappeared Into Complete Silence was completed in 1947, and uses architecture as a metaphor for human relationships. These structures are related to the Personages that I was carving at the same time.

Louise Bourgeois, Filette (Sweeter Version), 1968-1999
Courtesy Louise Bourgeois and Cheim & Read, New York
Photo: Christopher Burke

CK: The suspended figures, from the Spiral Woman , 1984 through Janus Fleuri, 1968 and Filette (Sweeter Version) , 1968-99 as well as the Arched Figure, 2004 in your current exhibition at Cheim & Read dangle between a moment of danger and beauty. The Arched Figure hangs on by a thread, bobbing up and down. In referring to your suspended figures, you said: "[So] this little figure is supposed to hang (…) She turns around and she doesn’t know her left from her right. Who do you think it represents? It represents Louise. (…) It just means that she is herself, hanging, waiting for nobody knows what." How do you feel about the dangling now?

LB: To hang from a single point is to exist in a state of fragility. It is still how I feel today.

Copyright for the answers of Louise Bourgeois: (c) Copyright,
Louise Bourgeois, 2004. All rights reserved.

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