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Maman
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jtucker's picture

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Arachnophobics beware! This Louise Bourgeois artwork looks way more menacing and foreboding than eight-legged creature you lurking in the crooks of your house.

Strangely enough, this spidery sculpture is an homage to her dearest momma. While her womanizer father was constantly out scavenging the town for a new piece of booty in which to indulge, her loyal and loving mother was always by Louise’s side. Her mom was her rock, so when she passed away when Louise was only 21, her world began to disintegrate around her. Bourgeois became so distraught that she threw herself in a river in an attempt to end it all. While suicide is always a solemn act, we are especially thankful that she didn’t croak that day because this experience is what drove Bourgeois to give up on her dream of becoming a mathematician and become an artist! Gotta love those silver linings. 

While the choice of a spider to represent her mother may seem like an odd one, it begins to make a lot more sense when we learn that Bourgeois spent her career indulging in symbolism. Her mother was clever, nurturing, and protective- and she spent her professional life as a weaver! The female spider is both a gentle protector and gumptious predator, using their silky webs to lure in their prey.

Childhood trauma and hidden emotions are common themes that Bourgeois explores in her work. I think spiders are one of the most misunderstood creatures around. They just quietly sit in the corner, eating all the other bugs in the house, minding their own business until the shoe comes down and brings them to their tragic termination. It is usually a disastrous existence for a spider, and maybe the troubled artist could relate.

This arachnid towers above us at over 30 feet tall. In its abdomen are 26 marble eggs. If they ever hatch, we're all in trouble. Plus, this is just one of the many Maman sculptures that exists around the world so if you are deathly afraid of spiders and want to avoid this giant beast…you’re SOL! These suckers are all over the place!, including museum collections in South Korea, Japan, the United States, England, Qatar, and Russia.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Maman (sculpture)

Not to be confused with Louise Bourgeois' similar sculptures: Spider or Crouching Spider

Maman (1999) is a bronze, stainless steel, and marble sculpture by the artist Louise Bourgeois. The sculpture, which depicts a spider, is among the world's largest, measuring over 30 ft high and over 33 ft wide (927 x 891 x 1024 cm). It includes a sac containing 32 marble eggs and its abdomen and thorax are made of ribbed bronze.

The title is the familiar French word for Mother (akin to Mummy). The sculpture was created in 1999 by Bourgeois as a part of her inaugural commission of The Unilever Series (2000), in the Turbine Hall at London's Tate Modern. This original was created in steel, with an edition of six subsequent castings in bronze.

Bourgeois chose the Modern Art Foundry to cast the sculpture because of its reputation and work.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Maman (sculpture).