God invented art as a regulating device

Louise Bourgeois, New York 1996
Photo © Oliver Mark / CC BY-SA 4.0

Born in Paris in 1911, French-American artist Louise Bourgeois’ most famous work is, on the surface, the stuff of nightmares: a 30-ft high spider made of bronze, marble, and stainless steel that towers above the landscapes of art institutions around the world. Yet, this gargantuan figure, christened Maman, stands as an endearing tribute to Bourgeois’ mother, who worked as a weaver during Bourgeois’s childhood. It was during that period, from the age of twelve, that Bourgeois began to keep a diary in which to record her “private reflections,” a therapeutic habit she continued for decades. By the time of her death in 2010, these insightful notebooks filled numerous cupboards at her New York townhouse.

The Diary Entry

27 August 1984

I love all artists and I understand them (flock of deaf mutes in subway). They are my family and their existence keeps me from being lonely.

To be an artist is a guarantee to your fellow humans that the wear and tear of living will not let you become a murderer. God invented art (including all forms) as a regulating device, as a survival device. Audience is bullshit, unnecessary. Communication is rare; art is a language, like the Chinese language. Who gets it? The deaf mutes in the subway.

Reconciliation is the sweetest feeling.

Further Reading

Diary entry excerpted from Louise Bourgeois: Destruction of the Father/Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews 1923-1997, by Marie-Laure Bernadac. Reprinted with permission.


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