Louise Bourgeois, Maman

Louise Bourgeois, Maman, NGC
Louise Bourgeois, Maman, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1999 (cast 2003)
Bronze, stainless steel, and marble
927 x 891 x 1024 cm
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been thinking about Louise Bourgeois these days, about the ways in which she suggests mental and emotional strength in Maman (1999).

She came up with the idea of giant spiders in the late nineties. She did Maman in 1999. Maman is a weaver, organic, and female (holding her eggs under her belly), and yet she is large and menacing, and her legs crush the earth like the mechanical, inorganic limbs of a robot. It is the ultimate portrayal of fear and vulnerability and mixing of categories: male-female, organic-inorganic, doing-destroying-mending. Bourgeois talked of how spiders restore their webs if they are damaged and how she, the artist, felt “caught in a web of fear.” She was, in fact, both a creature caught in a spider’s web of fear, and the spider which vanquishes this fear by mending its vulnerable cobweb.