Reference: Louise Bourgeois, Topiary

Louise Bourgeois, Topiary bronze

Louise Bourgeois, Topiary, 2015, bronze with silver nitrate patina

Louise Bourgeois is one of the most heavily referenced icons in feminist art, yet in her exceptionally long career (Bourgeois worked up until the last week of her life before passing away at the age of 98) one still finds new treasures with each journey through the archives. For Bourgeois, as for so many artists, the process of creation works to heal the wounds that define us — and in the long and all-too-often forgotten history of artwork made by women, this process has often been inextricably linked with the beauty, power, comfort, and terror of the natural world. In proximity to nature, complicated realities feel less complicated; perceived imperfections soften and become irrelevant. A reconnection with one’s earthly origins takes root.

Topiary, a kneeling figure created both in pink marble and in patinated bronze whose head has transformed into a coniferous organ, has been housed in contexts both natural (a watery cave tucked away in a Tuscan winery) and unnatural (MoMA). The word 'topiary' refers to a plant that has been gradually trained and groomed to resemble a shape that is not its own... a process that rings all too true for many women. The sculpture’s plaintive pose, surrealist vegetal head, and intricately textured surface suggest some iconic prayer — perhaps for beauty, perhaps for freedom, perhaps for a return to the nature from which she is so coolly removed. Perhaps the three are linked more closely than they appear.