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  ©