In 1992, The Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia, an organization devoted to experimental fabric design and printing by artists, commissioned Bourgeois and other artists to make scarves. For her design, Bourgeois chose a four-sentence parable that she found in her daybook for 1947. (She kept daybooks for each year up until the very last years of her life, using them for appointments and also annotating them with short texts and drawings.) The text for “She Lost It” was written at about the same time as the parables she wrote for her well-known illustrated book, “He Disappeared into Complete Silence.”
Ultimately, the text “She Lost It” was used not only for these modestly-scaled silk scarves, available in four colors, but also for an immense 178-foot banner/bandage version (Cat. No. 54), printed in an edition of 3 (one on cotton cheesecloth and two on cotton voile.)
The cotton cheesecloth example was used in a performance directed by the artist and held on December 5, 1992, at The Fabric Workshop on the occasion of its Fifteenth Anniversary Benefit. The Benefit event honored the artist and Anne d’Harnoncourt, then director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Performers in this event were dressed in white costumes adorned with phrases written by Bourgeois and embroidered in red. One performer, Robert Storr (the curator, critic, artist, and authority on Bourgeois's work), was completely wrapped in the immense 178-foot banner/bandage, his identity hidden. He was slowly unwrapped by other performers who used the unwrapped portion to slowly wrap an embracing man and woman. During this unwrapping and wrapping, the printed text of “She Lost It” was visible to the audience as an unfolding narrative.
The performance, which incorporated music, began with a magician’s act, followed by a slide screening of the engraved plates of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence,” and a reading of their accompanying parables. The performance was also seen in conjunction with a separate installation of a cotton voile example of the banner/bandage on a specially-built spiraling wall that formed a tunnel; viewers walked through while reading the printed text.
Referring to the parable, Bourgeois said: "The story of the pea is a story of abandonment...she is a passive person...she is dying." (Quote cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 222.)
A man and a woman lived together. On one evening he did not come back from work, and she waited. She kept on waiting and she grew littler and littler. Later, a neighbor stopped by out of friendship and there he found her, in the armchair, the size of a pea.
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