My Model For Inspiration

I am not what I am; I am what I do with my hands.

I always had the fear of being separated and abandoned. The sewing is my attempt to keep things together and make things whole.

Louise Bourgeois

Temper Tantrum

Louise Bourgeois was the middle child of well-to-do parents who restored intricate tapestries. Her debonair father found the textiles and her mother, along with a staff of women, did the needlework. She worked in the business from the age of twelve, drawing in the sections of the missing parts to be repaired.

Her early artistic work focused on her father’s womanizing and her mother’s over-indulgence. In these installations, she used fiber by incorporating whole garments such as her own dresses.

In the 1960s, Bourgeois began a reincarnation of her memory by cutting into the personal textiles. Each piece grew out of an emotion rather than a concept: to record how she felt, to understand the sources of her anxiety, to repair and alleviate guilt.

In October 1999, Bourgeois put an ad in Women’s Wear Daily for a seamstress and hired Mercedes Katz, a skilled seamstress from Argentina who once worked for Oscar de la Renta. She became Bourgeois’s principal assistant completing the final stitching on the fabric Bourgeios had cut, pinned and basted.

When she had worked her way through the clothing, Bourgeois started mining a lifetime’s worth of linens to produced hanging sculptures, stuffed sculptures, pieced drawings, embroideries and limited edition fabric books. By 2002 (She died in 2010 at the age of 98), Bourgeois added weaving to her repertoire using the scraps of iridescent fabric to create everything from flowers to chromatic abstractions that she called fabric drawing.

Bourgeois had her first major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1982. She was 71 at the time. In her mid-80s, she produced her most ambitious large-scale spider sculptures and dreamlike installations called cells. She had trouble with mobility in her old age, but always enjoyed a clear head.

The Fabric Works of Louise Bourgeois show the deliberate stitches of restoration, reconciliation and of holding things together despite a fear of disintegration. My idol, for sure.

Dawn 2006: 12 page fabric book

One Thought

  1. Phyllis says:

    What a wonderful woman! What a great inspiration!

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