I researched Louise Bourgeois for an assignment a while back, but I didn’t particularly like her work. But when I recently saw her work in the flesh at Heide Museum of Modern Art, I was impressed and moved.

Her large sculpture Spider (1997) – a huge metal spider enclosing a cage containing a chair, pieces of tapestry, an old fashioned perfume bottle, darning needles and hatpins, small bones, and a cameo, which seemed like personal objects from her past – lurked in the gloom, resonating with psychological unease. The more I looked at it, the more details I noticed. It’s like a strange museum exhibit of Bourgeois’s traumatic childhood.
Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1997

Every day you have to abandon your past or accept it, and then, if you cannot accept it, you become a sculptor. L. Bourgeois

The headless and partially limbless torsos, made of bandages, fabric and wood, one with a knife instead of a head, and the headless, deformed couple apparently having sex, were a disturbing embodiment of dysfunction, desire, fear and sexuality. I also found the black female figure hanging upside down like a carcass quite confronting.
L_Bourgeois_Knife_figure
L_Bourgeois_Couple-IV

Blue Days (1996) – a collection of Bourgeois’ dresses and shirts, on stuffed headless torsos like dressmakers forms, hanging on hooks on metal rods – felt merely nostalgic and ‘lighter’ than some of the other work. A welcome respite from the psychological darkness.
L_Bourgeois_Blue_Days

Cinq is five stuffed fabric heads hanging from the same hook. It was suggested that they might represent Bourgeois’s family. I liked the simplicity and tenderness of this work.
L_Bourgeois_Cinq

There was also a collection of lithographs of drawings and text. I liked the phrase ‘To unravel a torment you must begin somewhere’. The word unravel continues the sewing metaphor which pervades the work.

When I was growing up all the women in my house were using needles. I’ve always had a fascination with…the magic power of the needle. The needle is used to repair the damage.
L. Bourgeois, 1992

In a way I suppose Bourgeois was repairing the damage of her early trauma, using her needle, for most of her life.
L_Bourgeois_I am afraid