From the exhibition “Louise Bourgeois: Moi, Eugénie Grandet”, at the Maison de Balzac, Paris. More info: press dossier & images here and here.
This show was instigated by Bourgeois herself, who suggested to the Maison de Balzac that she create an exhibition of works based on Balzac’s novel Eugénie Grandet, whose main character she had always identified with as the “prototype of a woman unable to fulfill herself… the prisoner of her father, who needed a maid.”
In the basement, a group of simple needlework pieces adorned with dried flowers, tacks, hooks and eyes, buttons, etc. – many of which form clock faces – testify to monotony of such a woman’s life. Other pieces offer chilling quotations from Eugénie Grandet in embroidery, among them “My mother was right: suffer and die.”
The Grandet series, properly speaking, consists of 16 small items of embroidery. The choice of technique is a clear reference to women confined to needlework, as a way of spending or idling away their time. But the word “embroidery” is inadequate to describe something that is both a reliquary of sorts and an exercise in recycling. Bourgeois has attached artificial flowers, pins and buttons to rectangular pieces of grey or white fabric, evoking pressed flowers, a withered bouquet on a grave or perhaps some distant memory. Another piece suggests a clock, the silk thread sketching out its hands.
“Ode à Eugénie Grandet,” by Louise Bourgeois (fragment):
The telephone may be out of order The door bell may be broken Has the mail man come? I have spent my life making openwork pulling threads for the bed sheets and table clothes I have spent my life making a trousseau I who has never been trussed up I give humour not pity I am not stupid I am only unhappy fearful foolish a washer woman I have spent my life washing socks and handkerchiefs.