According to Bourgeois’s assistant Jerry Gorovoy, topiary work interested Bourgeois because the cutting and healing of the plant makes the tree stronger. He also points out the portfolio's connection to Bourgeois’s sister, Henriette, who had a condition that caused stiffness in her leg. Bourgeois referred to this as, "in effect, a wooden leg."
The editioned state III of this composition was published as a benefit for the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Written on a loose sheet, c. 1990s: “Topiary The trainer, the teacher, the carver, the butcher To reject (cut off) and be moral about it That is the fun To nurture and train to full potential (valuable, useful) I am going to cut (reject) everything in sight because I did not get what I wanted What To be loved by 1, 2, 3, 4 c’est la peur […]” (The Easton Foundation: LB-0050)
The compositions for plates 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the “Topiary” portfolio are related and appear to have shared some of the same source drawings and photocopy studies. Known studies are illustrated below in the Evolving Composition Diagram, and as Related Works in the Catalogue, for each plate.
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