Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois, Fears, 1992. Wood and iron. Diameter: 30 inches. Photo credit: Will Brown.

In 1991, FWM invited Louise Bourgeois to participate in an exhibition of artist-designed scarves. Inspired by the vastness of the 75-foot long print tables in FWM’s studio, Bourgeois decided to make a “scarf” of enormous proportion that would eventually wrap the walls of a spiral exhibition space in much the same way a scarf wraps around a neck.

Bourgeois selected a story that she had written in 1947 to print in red pigment on white cotton voile:

A man and a woman lived together. On one evening he did not come back from work. And she waited. She kept on waiting and she grew littler and littler. Later, a neighbor stopped by out of friendship and there he found her, in the armchair, the size of a pea.

For the installation of She Lost It, Bourgeois placed a sculpture—a wooden ball with metal shackle, inscribed with the word “Fears”—midway through the spiral exhibition space. Circling through the gallery, one reaches the end of the story and the end of the spiral at the same time, which adds to the psychological poignancy of the installation’s themes of love, loss, abandonment, and fear.

Printed on cotton gauze, another version of She Lost It was used for a one-time performance held at FWM in 1992. Choreographed by the artist, the production began with models (staff members and friends of the artist) parading across the stage to Contemporary dance music wearing slips and undergarments embroidered with text written by Bourgeois. A figure enshrouded in the gauze “scarf” came onto the stage, and with the assistance of the models, his shroud was slowly unwrapped so that it could be read by the audience before being rewound around an embracing couple. At the performance’s end, the couple stood wrapped in the narrative, and the original figure was revealed as a man holding a pea in his hand.

10 years after her She Lost It performance, Bourgeois returned to The Fabric Workshop and Museum to create a sculpture entitled Pregnant Woman. This work was made specifically for FWM’s 25th Anniversary Benefit. The piece—made of fabric, glass and aluminum—displays the neck to the hips of a pregnant body. The body, a blush-tone pink with a shaggy, carpet-like texture, is charged with the interplay of power and fragility inherent in female sexuality. This theme can be seen across her works, as evidenced by a collection of prints and paintings created by Bourgeois under the same title only a couple of years later.


Artist Bio

French-American, 1911–2010. 

Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris and grew up working in her family’s tapestry restoration shop. She studied art at many schools in Paris before emigrating to the United States in 1938, continuing her studies at the Art Students League of New York. Over the next 50 years, Bourgeois established herself as one of the 20th century’s most accomplished and acclaimed sculptors, one of the few women of her generation to gain international attention. In her work, she consistently experimented with a range of media (rubber, stone, bronze, wood, fabric) to symbolically explore themes of a personal nature—desire, loss, cruelty, memory, sexuality, and love. Bourgeois had her first solo exhibition in New York in 1945 (Bertha Schaefer Gallery), and since that time has had hundreds of solo exhibitions. In 1982, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, organized a retrospective exhibition of the artist’s work that traveled on to venues throughout the United States, and in 1993, she represented the U.S. at the Venice Biennale. Bourgeois has been recognized with eight honorary doctoral awards, and in 1999 she received the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale.