Louise Bourgeois b. 1911, Paris; d. 2010, New York
Bronze, marble, and stainless steel
29 feet 4 3/8 inches x 32 feet 1 7/8 inches x 38 feet 5/8 inches (895 x 980 x 1160 cm)
Edition 2/6 + A.P.
Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa
Louise Bourgeois/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photo: Erika Barahona-Ede
Like a creature escaped from a dream, or a larger-than-life embodiment of a secret childhood fear, the giant spider Maman (1999) casts a powerful physical and psychological shadow. Over 30 feet high, the mammoth sculpture is one of the most ambitious undertakings in the long career of Louse Bourgeois. Over a vast oeuvre spanning more than sixty years, Bourgeois plumbed the depths of human emotion further and more passionately than perhaps any other artist of her time. In its evocation of the psyche, her work is both universal and deeply personal, with frequent, explicit reference to painful childhood memories of an unfaithful father and a loving but complicit mother. Bourgeois first gained notice in the 1940s with her Surrealist-inspired Personnages (1945–55): thin, vertical forms in wood or stone that evoke the human body. Installed in clusters, suggesting a small crowd or perhaps a family, the Personnages were meant to symbolize figures from the artist's past. Maman, in fact, is associated with the artist's own mother. The spider, who protects her precious eggs in a steel cage-like body, provokes awe and fear, but her massive height, improbably balanced on slender legs, conveys an almost poignant vulnerability.