Collection 1880s–1940s

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*Torso, Self-Portrait*

Louise Bourgeois. Torso, Self-Portrait. 1963–64 573

Plaster, 24 3/4 x 16 x 7 1/8" (62.3 x 40.5 x 18.8cm). Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Slifka Fund. © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, New York

Artist, Bernadette Daroux:   My name is Bernadette Daroux. I'm an artist. This is a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois called Torso, Self-Portrait.

This work looks like the strange exoskeleton that a bug abandoned on a wall. In the very center, what you would think of as the spine, almost looks like a handle. It has these strange petal shapes that I imagine as ribs. I found myself touching my own ribs trying to understand what she was doing here.

This piece uses plaster in many different ways. There is a skeleton underneath made of chicken wire and plaster was added on top of it as a finishing coat. And then it uses plaster as a glue. I'm guessing she made the little rib petal shapes separately and then attached them with more plaster to the body that they're sitting on.

Plaster is often not thought of as the finished product. It’s often inside something. It’s the structure that’s holding up something. But in this piece, you can see that she’s using plaster as the finished material.

Plaster is a much cheaper and more accessible version of clay. You don’t need a kiln, you don’t need to fire it, it’s just gonna set. So it’s a great way to just play and experiment.