Saturday, April 24, 2010

Feel It to Heal It

Over the years, the work of French artist Louise Bourgeois (now age 98) has changed my life.
          If you've ever experienced a snag in your emotional, intellectual or physical life due to "mother issues," gazing on one of Bourgeois's spider sculptures will trigger you into a tidy little total meltdown. For which I'm always grateful because, as the saying goes, you've got to feel it to heal it. Take a look at her monster-sized sculpture below, entitled Maman. Still able to deny those unpleasant feelings about your mama?

I'm sorry, but I think this sculpture makes Spielberg's War of the Worlds--which I consider the most visceral portrayal of post-9/11 American angst in the arts--look like a Hello Kitty cartoon. I dare you to see the piece in real life--there's a bronze cast near me at the Kemper in Kansas City, but I haven't ventured near it. I think I'd pass out.

On the topic of women artists who make me glad to be alive (meltdowns are incredibly life-affirming when you wake up on the other side of them), here are a few images I treasure:

Kathe Kollwitz, Self Portrait, 1898

Berthe Morisot, Julie Daydreaming, 1894

Morisot, Young Woman Leaning on Her Elbows, 1894

Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun, Self Portrait, 1791. I love how she's not afraid to illuminate herself. You don't become a court painter for Queen Antoinette by second-guessing your worth.

Louise Bourgeoise, Arch of Hysteria, 1993. I like to call this one See How Far Thinking Alone Has Got You? The neglected body hangs frozen in space, but still shines like a . . . well, work of art.

Mary Veronica Sweeney, Plein Air Study, Vermont, 2007. By my friend and constant inspiration.  

Sweeney, The Way to Marin County, 2008. I never tire of this living sky.