Celebrated sculptor, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) had her first real retrospective, at the Museum of Modern Art at the age of seventy-one. Bourgeois worked well into her nineties, leaving behind a body of work spanning over 70 years of her past and present self.
You might best, be familiar with her colossal bronze and steel Spider sculptures (odes to her mother) that loom high above your head on delicate, spindly legs. Or her Cell enclosures, those emotional retreats situated within various structures, housing collections of objects, tapestries and sculptural forms to evoke safe spaces for one’s anxieties and fears.
Bourgeois used art as a release for her feelings, once stating that “art is the guarantee of sanity.” Her creativity and her life merged evocatively, creatively cataloged within a substantive range of artistic mediums, thus propelling her into a rightful place as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.
Fittingly, a celebration of her life’s work, comes back to New York City, back to MoMA in the new exhibit, Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait.
Here you will see the little-known aspects of Bourgeois’ artistic practices before she turned definitively to sculpture.
Curator Deborah Wye digs deeper into Bourgeois’ earlier years, juxtaposing rarely seen prints and illustrated books with thematic groupings of sculptures, drawings, and paintings, “exploring motifs of architecture, the body, and nature, as well as investigations of abstraction.”
The prize of the show sit’s in the museum’s Marron Atrium – Spider, one of the series of Cells that Bourgeois created over the last two decades of her career, and the only one of Bourgeois’ sixty-two Cells that brings together the spider and cell structure.
Nearly 15ft tall, the steel spider sculpture crouches over a Cell, the door of its caged barrier between the interior world of Bourgeois and viewer, left slightly ajar. A chair adorned with unraveling tapestry sits inside; worn, somewhat less vivid tapestry drapes sections of the cage lending to connotations of restoring, and repairing oneself through art.
Another gallery showcases paintings that unabashedly layout Bourgeois’ affinity for the opposite sex, as her depictions eroticize the body well into a time where youth imagines age does not follow.
You explore Bourgeois’ time as a printmaker, finding the Spider motif beginnings sketched out on paper before becoming featured heavily in her sculpture work. Even her frequent use of the spiral as a symbol for a twisting and strangling of emotion flows in and out of her early repertoire.
In his almost 200-year-old gothic novel, Melmoth the Wanderer, Irish author Charles Robert Maturin tells the story of John Melmoth, a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for 150 extra years of life, and then spends the extra time searching for someone who will take over the pact for him. The story takes place in the “present” (1820); but the backstory is revealed through several “nested” story-within-a-story tales. These plot/narrative devices work back and forth through time (usually by means of information found in old books and manuscripts), until we gradually see the story of Melmoth’s life come together. The book also includes interesting religious and socio-political commentary on early-19th-century England.
John Melmoth, student at Trinity College, Dublin, having journeyed to County Wicklow for attendance at the deathbed of his miserly uncle, finds the old man, even in his last moments, tortured by avarice, and by suspicion of all around him. He whispers to John:
“I want a glass of wine, it would keep me alive for some hours, but there is not one I can trust to get it for me,—they’d steal a bottle, and ruin me.” John was greatly shocked. “Sir, for God’s sake, let ME get a glass of wine for you.” “Do you know where?” said the old man, with an expression in his face John could not understand. “No, Sir; you know I have been rather a stranger here, Sir.” “Take this key,” said old Melmoth, after a violent spasm; “take this key, there is wine in that closet,—Madeira. I always told them there was nothing there, but they did not believe me, or I should not have been robbed as I have been. At one time I said it was whisky, and then I fared worse than ever, for they drank twice as much of it.”
John took the key from his uncle’s hand; the dying man pressed it as he did so, and John, interpreting this as a mark of kindness, returned the pressure. He was undeceived by the whisper that followed,—“John, my lad, don’t drink any of that wine while you are there.” “Good God!” said John, indignantly throwing the key on the bed; then, recollecting that the miserable being before him was no object of resentment, he gave the promise required, and entered the closet, which no foot but that of old Melmoth had entered for nearly sixty years. He had some difficulty in finding out the wine, and indeed stayed long enough to justify his uncle’s suspicions,—but his mind was agitated, and his hand unsteady. He could not but remark his uncle’s extraordinary look, that had the ghastliness of fear superadded to that of death, as he gave him permission to enter his closet. He could not but see the looks of horror which the women exchanged as he approached it. And, finally, when he was in it, his memory was malicious enough to suggest some faint traces of a story, too horrible for imagination, connected with it. He remembered in one moment most distinctly, that no one but his uncle had ever been known to enter it for many years.
Before he quitted it, he held up the dim light, and looked around him with a mixture of terror and curiosity. There was a great deal of decayed and useless lumber, such as might be supposed to be heaped up to rot in a miser’s closet; but John’s eyes were in a moment, and as if by magic, riveted on a portrait that hung on the wall, and appeared, even to his untaught eye, far superior to the tribe of family pictures that are left to molder on the walls of a family mansion. It represented a man of middle age. There was nothing remarkable in the costume, or in the countenance, but THE EYES, John felt, were such as one feels they wish they had never seen, and feels they can never forget. Had he been acquainted with the poetry of Southey, he might have often exclaimed in his after-life,
“Only the eyes had life,
They gleamed with demon light.”
Living in a van. Could you do it? I’ve been following the latest trend now for half a year: Van Life. More to come.
Here’s one of my favorites! Link follows the video for this couple’s jewelry store—everything homemade and singing of a love for the earth. Peace.
Here’s the couple’s jewelry store (Silver Tides Jewelry):
The chill air is coming in through the window this morning fresh from its frolick down the mountain; it’s damp and crisp and carrying the scent of pine on its back, fall grass, and blue spruce. The muted chirping of small birds tells me they are farther away than they seem. I can hear the sound of tires on the Interstate, miles away; it’s a warm thrumming. There’s another sound out there; a tight barking: I’d say prairie dog, but it’s bigger. A raven, too, is playing on the windstream, whorls of wisdom for the Wanderer. I feel…not “other-than”; but, rather, “part-of”, “one-with”; laying here with Nature’s “good morning” rustling the hairs on my chest, knowing the best part of it all is the recognition of belonging.
On the Supernatural in Poetry*
Anne Radcliffe (The Mysteries of Udolpho)
[*First appeared in the New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, Vol. 16, no. 1, 1826 (pp. 145-152)]
One of our travellers began a grave dissertation on the illusions of the imagination. “And not only on frivolous occasions,” said he, “but in the most important pursuits of life, an object often flatters and charms at a distance, which vanishes into nothing as we approach it; and ’tis well if it leave only disappointment in our hearts. Sometimes a severer monitor is left there.”
These truisms, delivered with an air of discovery by Mr. S––, who seldom troubled himself to think upon any subject, except that of a good dinner, were lost upon his companion, who, pursuing the airy conjectures which the present scene, however humbled, had called up, was following Shakspeare into unknown regions. “Where is now the undying spirit,” said he, “that could so exquisitely perceive and feel?–that could inspire itself with the va,rious characters of this world, and create worlds of its own; to which the grand and the beautiful, the gloomy and the sublime of visible Nature, up-called not only corresponding feelings, but passions ; which seemed to perceive a soul in every thing: and thus, in the secret workings of its own characters, and in the combinations of its incidents, kept the elements and local scenery always in unison with them, heightening their effect. So the conspirators at Rome pass under the fiery showers and sheeted lightning of the thunder-storm, to meet, at midnight, in the porch of Pompey’s theatre. The streets being then deserted by the affrighted multitude, that place, open as it was, was convenient for their council; and, as to the storm, they felt it not; it was not more terrible to them than their own passions, nor so terrible to others as the dauntless spirit that makes them, almost unconsciously, brave its fury. These appalling circumstances, with others of supernatural import, attended the fall of the conqueror of the world–a man, whose power Cassius represents to be dreadful as this night, when the sheeted dead were seen in the lightning to glide along the streets of Rome. How much does the sublimity of these attendant circumstances heighten our idea of the power of Caesar, of the terrific grandeur of his character, and prepare and interest us for his fate. The whole soul is roused and fixed, in the full energy of attention, upon the progress of the conspiracy against him; and, had not Shakespeare wisely withdrawn him from our view, there would have been no balance of our passions.”–” Caesar was a tyrant,” said Mr. S––. W–– looked at him for a moment, and smiled, and then silently resumed the course of his own thoughts. No master ever knew how to touch the accordant springs of sympathy by small circumstances like our own Shakspeare. In Cymbeline, for instance, how finely such circumstances are made use of, to awaken, at once, solemn expectation and tenderness, and, by recalling the softened remembrance of a sorrow long past, to prepare the mind to melt at one that was approaching, mingling at the same time, by means of a mysterious occurrence, a slight tremour of awe with our pity. Thus, when Belarius and Arviragus return to the cave where they had left the unhappy and worn-out Imogen to repose, while they are yet standing before it, and Arviragus, speaking of her with tenderest pity, as “the poor sick Fidele,” goes out to enquire for her,–solernn music is heard from the cave, sounded by that harp of which Guiderius says, “Since the death of my dearest mother, it did not speak before. All solemn things should answer solemn accidents.” Immediately Arviragus enters with Fidele senseless in his arms…
“The bird is dead, that we have made so much of.
–How found you him?
Stark, as you see, thus smiling.
–I thought he slept, and put
My clouted brogues from off my feet, whose rudeness
Answered my steps too loud.”–”Why he but sleeps!”
* * * * *
I am only sorry I didn’t read this novella by Michael Wehunt sooner! I bought it then slipped it onto my bookshelf. It’s so thin, I didn’t see it, snuggled up to that big fat hardback by a very popular horror novelist, whose fiction is good, but not as good as the fiction Wehunt is writing here.
I am not only in awe of the sharp, lean prose style and insight into character the story shows. It is also entertaining, enjoyable to read, creepy, haunting, a sneaker-upper on you; and it seems craftily self-aware of the dark nature of its own beauty. You can sense this in the story’s misleadingly mild tone, and in the careful descriptions—and thoughts and behaviors of—characters Lorne and his wife, Gwen, both of whom tell the story along with a peripheral narrator who lurks in the shadows.
There is also a unique prose structure to the tale that I really like and a texture to the sentences I have not seen before, like those of a poet, each word ripe with meaning and depth.
You will leave The Tired Sounds, A Wake aware of the fact that a hitherto unknown dread lurks quietly along the periphery of your awareness. It will feel as though it has always been there, under the other side of the bed, quiet and waiting. And, because Wehunt is such a masterful writer, the effect of this realization will leave behind an ashen mark that will not wash off.
Good fiction is wonderful. But great fiction is rare and not something we genre lovers and horror readers talk about enough. Wehunt is among the great literary weird fiction writers writing today. And on my own personal list, he’s in the top 5. So, go and buy his story collection, Greener Pastures (link below), so we have something worthwhile to talk about on FB, for god’s sake. (Wehunt has other stories out there online. And a novel coming soon.)
Check out his website here:
The Tired Sounds, A Wake was a limited numbered print edition novella and I believe they are already sold out. But hopefully Wehunt will collect the novella in a future story collection.
Until then…Link to purchase Greener Pastures: