A story of unrequited love: NY Pt3


Day 5

Woke up feeling like my brain was going to explode.
SO much I still want to do. The list doesn’t get smaller as every time I cross something off, I find something else to add!
However, I feel now I have found some clarity about what I ultimately want from this trip. To immerse myself solely in Louise Bourgeois’ life and work. Maybe I had got a little distracted by the bright lights of Manhattan and the vast number of galleries and exhibitions.
That’s not to say I won’t visit anything else, but I’m never happier than when I’m with her work.

I went back to MoMA today, after brunch with colleagues who are playing in a Broadway show. I introduced one of them to Louise’s work.

One of the main reasons for being here is to really study.
Due to my college days not going quite to plan (my teacher seemed only interested in his sex life, thankfully I was not on the hit list, but this appeared to make me pretty much invisible, not a feast for one’s self-esteem), I never felt I really studied anything.
I am thankful I left being able to play the violin, but it wasn’t due to the establishment.

So to be here actually learning, retaining (or attempting to), absorbing, listening, looking, thinking and understanding, is so big, it’s hard to get my head around it.

The more time I spend with LB’s work, the more I read about her life and the history behind the works, the more I feel I can interpret what would otherwise have been pretty much a mystery to me.

Introducing the work and explaining the reasoning and history behind the work to someone else, was pretty special to me.


I was taking in the exhibition for the second time (now with the audio guide).

I was particularly drawn to this set of pictures called The Sky’s the Limit (1989-2003).

The original prints were made in 1989.
Initially black and white, on returning to them in 2003 she added hand editions in watercolour, gouache, and pencil. LB said the colours represented different moods, consequently, each edition represented just one moment in time, and even when they were finished they said ‘different things at different times’.
The tall tower in these works depicts ‘soaring ambition’, the small house beside is reality. She was plagued by the demon of ambition for all the years she was ignored as an artist.
I don’t, for a second, think that I am the only one who can relate to this.

Untitled (The Wedges) was made back in 1950.

Untitled 1950 (The Wedges)
Untitled (The Wedges) 1950

The similarity with The Sky’s the Limit is plain, making this a great example of a technique Louise often used – reusing and redeveloping old ideas. She had pretty much a lifetime’s work (by most people’s standards) by the time she came to public attention, so her assistant Jerry Gorovoy (a very prominent figure in her life, who I hope I will come back to at some stage) would show her work he’d found in the back of a cupboard, and she would run with a new idea, inspired by the old work.


Another piece I’d love to share with you is the puritan.

I feel an affinity with Louise Bourgeois in her intentional omission of capital letters, something I used to do (long before I knew she did it).
Back in 2014, when I was struggling with life, I would purposefully only use lower case letters when writing or texting. An expression of not being ‘worthy’ of upper case, a small means of expressing what was going on inside my head.

Bourgeois wrote the text for the puritan (she was also a prolific writer) in 1947, after developing a serious crush on Alfred Barr, the Director of MoMA.
It is a story of unrequited love.
He was a father figure (interesting in view of her adoration of her own father from whom she suffered a lifetime of torment and abuse), and he showed interest and belief in her work, purchasing Sleeping Figure in 1950 for MoMA’s permanent collection (after calling in on the final day of her exhibition, on the recommendation of Matisse and Duchamp).

the puritan, a book, was completed in 1990 and is most notable for its use of strict geometry. For Louise, while the text was emotional, expressing things that no doubt caused her anguish, she says “Geometry was a tool to understanding […] it was a pleasure […] there was order”. By using a very strict and inflexible means of illustration, she was able to express her feelings without being overwhelmed by them. She says that geometry is a “symbol of stability and predictability, which my father didn’t give me”.

This is the only photo I have of it, but please do follow this link and have a look/read.

the puritan


Manhattan has many small, hidden, expensive art galleries, and the Centre for Italian Modern Art is no exception. They include the work of another artist in each of their main exhibitions, and on this occasion, their exhibition of works by Alberto Savinio (1891-1952) is accompanied by works by Louise Bourgeois, with whom he shares the profound influence of family on their creative output.


The day ended with a visit to a very lovely hair salon to get my undercut trimmed (complete with a really fascinating chat with the young guy who did it) and tea at Vanessa’s Dumpling House – totally not on my diet, but when they are only $1.50 for four delicious morsels, and I was just around the corner, it would be rude not to!


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