Louise Bourgeois and the Venus of Lespugue

While sewing the other afternoon on my “My Name is Venus” huipil, I listened to a Marija Giambutas video to keep me in the Mother Goddess mood. Giambutas mentioned that the Venus of Lespugue, c. 25,000 year old steatopygian figurine from France, was one of her favorite Venus statues. I stopped stitching to closely look at the figurine because it reminded me so much of Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures.

 Born in France in 1911, Louise came from a family of tapestry restorers. She, too, worked with the family and learned The Aesthetics of Mending. She also learned how to sew. But her childhood was scarred by her father’s infidelities and the illness, both physical and psychological, it caused for her mother.

Our childhood follows us wherever we go and, during the last 50 years of her life, Louise externalized this childhood more and more. Because it was here she found magic, mystery, and drama.

As a young girl, she would draw the missing parts of damaged tapestry that needed to be rewoven. Louise said that spiders, too, repair.  If you try to destroy a spider’s web, the spider will weave and repair it. So even her metal spider sculptures reflected her childhood and the art of mending.

louise bourgeois spider

Standing outside of the Tate Modern at one point, Louise Bourgeois’ extraordinary sculpture, Maman (Mother), is a 30-foot-tall spider crafted of bronze, marble, and stainless steel.

 

“When I was growing up, all the women in my house were using needles. I’ve always had a fascination with the needle, the magic power of the needle. The needle is used to repair damage. It’s a claim to forgiveness. It is never aggressive, it’s not a pin.” Louise Bourgeois

When in her 80s, Louise decluttered her closet and used old clothes to make her fabric book “Ode à la bièvre”. She said “You can retell your life and remember your life by the shape, weight, colour and smell of those clothes in your close.”  In other words, clothes are part of our identity.

Foto of Louise by Duane Michaels, 2007 and foto of , Diane of Ephesus

 

Louise also used her old clothes for her “Cell” series as well as for her breast  outfits  obviously inspired by Diana of Ephesus figurines.  These outfits in turn inspired fashion designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Hussein Chalayan, and Simone Rocha.

louise and rei

Louise Bourgeois and Rei Kawakubo duet

Louise called her  1960s and 1970s sculptures “bodyscapes” because : “The sculptures were a second skin that I wanted to model. Clothes are as much about what  you want  to hide of the body as what you want to expose. This is a form of communication. Body language is very important to me and it is true that there is beauty in distortion.”

 

The Venus of Lespugue and Louise Bourgeois’ Nature Study (2004)

The more I look at Louise’s fabric sculptures, the more I’m convinced that she was in some way inspired by Venus figurines. Such as that of Lespugue which has found a home at the Musee di l’Homme in Paris, dates the Gravettian period and was carved from mammouth ivory. It was discovered in the Rideaux cave of Lespugue (Pyrenees) in 1922, just 11 years after Louise was born.  As with Louise’s sculptures, the female sexual characteristics such as hips and breast are exaggerated.

I had a space on my My Name is Venus huipil  (99 Art Project) and knew it was meant for the Lespugue figurine.

Venus of Lespugue sketch in sketchbook and on huipil

Venus of Lespugue work in progress front and back

 

Mal Oo

Cynthia Korzekwa  ©

Work in Progress

My Name is Venus” huipil for the 99 Arts Project work-in-progress!

Before and After

This is the back panel of the huipil first with just the drawing then with appliquéd fabric scraps (which I have plenty of) added for the background. This helps me use materials I already have, use less embroidery thread which is expensive and not that easy to find here, as well as makes blocking in the huipil much easier.

Looking at some of the scraps makes me smile—there’s fabric from my man’s old boxers as well as from a shirt his kids came him for his birthday years ago.  There’s also fabric from a dress Kerry gave me as well as from a dress Gayle gave me.  The black is from the lining of a skirt Marina gave me.  It is already a kind of Memory Huipil.

I wish I had saved some of the clothes my son and daughter wore as little kids so that I could cut them up and piece them into a huipil. Or that I had my mother’s favorite red and white  polka dress she used to wear so much. Or even my old doll clothes.  All of these fabrics would have been fantastic for a Memory Huipil where you wear fabric souvenirs of someone important in your life.

My Name is Venus

And this represent a figurine from Naqada.

Here is a before & after of the figurine from Mesopotamia.

Again, the figurine from Mesopotamia.  The first foto is that of the backside. And the second foto shows the yellow threads that unite the white fabric pieced together to act as a canvas for the threads.

My Name is Venus

Mesopotamian Figurine

Unfortunately, sewing becomes addictive and today I must find the discipline to break away from my huipil for household chores!

Mal Oo

Cynthia Korzekwa  ©

 

 

Sewing Bee Beyond Borders

For centuries women have used  stitching as a means of expressing themselves. For example, deciding what colors, what fabrics, and what patterns to use is in itself a form of self expression. Stitching also has been used subversively such as with the Underground Railroad Quilts used to help slaves escape or Madame Defarge, a character in Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities, who transmitted secret codes in her knitting.

99 Art Project

Sometimes stitching can be used as a form of protest as with Bordamos Feminicidios a group of Mexican women who use embroidered handkerchiefs to protest against female homicides. And many artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Maria Lai, and Tracy Emin, have used stitching not only as an art form but also as a means of externalizing some of the anguish within.

Louise Bourgeois Made Fabric Books

Sewing also provides a means of storytelling as seen in arpilleras, Hmong story cloth, molas, and embroidered huipiles.

¿Dónde estás?

But sewing can offer women something else—companionship. American quilting bees, for example, were social gatherings that permitted women to get together to work on quilts thus combining necessity with pleasure. The sewing circle concept eventually became démodé but made a revival several years ago when Stitch ‘n Bitch knitting groups started surfacing worldwide. Women rediscovered the pleasure of working with their hands while sharing stories with other women.

Everyone has a story to tell and, eager to create an anthology of such stories, Lavinia Lindsay and Cisca Mikx have teamed up to create a sewing bee beyond borders they’ve called 99 Art Project. Women from around the world have been invited to explore the possibilities of using needle and thread to share personal experiences.

White Shirts

The ladies participating begin with finding a white shirt that will act as home base for the journey their stitching will take them on.  Because hands make the world tangible. They help us interact with our surroundings. But they also provide a means of  interacting with our own being. Working with our hands helps prevent self-alienation.

making and thinking

And working with our hands collectively creates a bonding in the same way that stitching unites one material with another. As the women of  99 Art Project begin exploring themselves, they will share their discoveries  with other members of the group. Like a patchwork blanket, they will put their pieces together to make a whole.

they sewed together

I, too, will be participating as well and documenting my journey here on this blog. Because female Synergy and Solidarity will save the world!

Mal Oo

Cynthia Korzekwa  ©

Related: Storytelling Through Textiles + Craftivism: Activism Using Craft + IN PRAISE OF HANDS: Knit yourself well.

Δώρο/gift Huipil dress

In Greek, “Δώρο” means “gift” and what better gift can nature give us than that of spring? And to celebrate spring, I made this huipil dress using a tulip filled  secondhand t-shirt for the bodice. The body of the dress is made from a piece of white cotton covered with drawings of a woman holding a flower.  She is just waiting for someone she can give it to.

Δώρο huipil dress

Δώρο huipil dress

Δώρο huipil dress

Δώρο huipil dress

Mal Oo

Stigmas & Stamens Hupil

Stamens and Stigmas Huipil

“Stigmas & Stamens” Muy Marcottage hupil made from secondhand clothing that’s been embroidered and painted

 

#huipil #hupiles #embroidery #handpaintedfabric #flowers #ecofashion #bohochic #handmade #womensfashion #bohocouture #sustainablechic #ethicalfashion #greenfashion #ecochic #bohemianstyle #muymarcottage #secondhandclothing #sustainablestyle #emboideryart #paintedflowers

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