The child attacks the bread

As a small child, Louise Bourgeois used to mold white bread into a figure of her father, then slowly and deliberately cut off the arms and legs with a knife. She has called this her “first sculptural solution.”  . . .  “Art is an exorcism,” she says. “a tool for survival.”

 . . . 

Her father Louis Bourgeois did much to provoke his children’s fierce ambivalence. He installed his mistress, Sadie, In the house as little Louise’s English tutor and she lived there for ten years. He also would disappear in the family Chrysler for days or weeks at a time, going as far as Spain, Italy, and Switzerland, without a word to his family or to anyone else as to where he would be or when he would return. “Once, his mother died while he was roaming around Spain,” Bourgeois recollects, “and we had no way of getting in touch with him.”

Louise Bourgeois’s mother, strong and hardworking, was in charge of repairing the antique tapestries her husband bought on his travels and then sold to American tycoons. She bore his absences and infidelities with equanimity. “She did not fear being abandoned at all,” Bourgeois says. “She was not threatened, but it affected me. Ever since, I have been subject to the fear, the trauma of abandonment.”

Yesterday,” she confides . . . Jerry [Gorovoy, her assistant] went away, my son went back to New Mexico, and I felt abandoned-just as I had as a child. It’s a traumatic thing that stays with you your whole life. But when I feel that way I am not objectionable. I do not scream and yell. So how do I defend myself against this horrible emotion? I spent the whole evening representing visually what I was feeling, namely that someone had hit me over the head and left me unconscious. I represented the club that hits you.”

Carol Diehl (from here) 

“Memory and Meaning: Louise Bourgeois Reflects on Yesterday and Today,”

Art & Antiques, February, 1995, p. 39.

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