Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait

Louise Bourgeois. Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998

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Plate 4 of 9 from the portfolio Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature, 1998. Drypoint and etching, with pencil additions. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist. © 2017 The Easton Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, NY. 416.1999.4

Deborah Wye: This is an untitled plate from a portfolio called Topiary from 1998. Here, Bourgeois deals with themes of nature in an imaginative and surrealist way. She sees her two trees turning into a man and a woman, and you can tell that by the leg on the right being more slim and curving and you see the shoe belongs to a woman, and on the left there's a thicker tree and thicker branches and a male shoe on the bottom of that tree trunk.

Just as Bourgeois saw architectural forms, buildings, as if they were figures, she also saw elements of nature in that way, too. When she saw a storm, she related it to having a fit of anger. Or she worried about flooding and being inundated and overpowered by her emotions. She saw germination and growth in nature also in human terms. So, it's not surprising that she would depict these trees as turning into actual figures.

I did want to point out just a tiny detail here. After she made the print, she noticed that she hadn't put any shoelaces in the woman's shoe. So, when she signed the prints, she added the shoe laces in pencil. And we don't know if it's on every print in the edition, but it's here. 

Plate 4 of 9 from the portfolio Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature, 1998. Drypoint and etching, with pencil additions. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist. © 2017 The Easton Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, NY. 416.1999.4
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