French born-American artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois (born 1911) has been a well-respected name in the art world for over seven decades. She is often counted among the greatest female artists of all times. One of Louise’s most powerful creations is the massive sculpture “Maman,” which since the last dozen years is amongst the world’s largest and most impressive sculpture. Bourgeois created “Maman” as a part of her inaugural commission of The Unilever Series in 1999 for Tate Modern Museum’s vast Turbine Hall. Acquiring this magnificent sculpture is considered as one of the Tate Museum’s historical moments. “Maman” was first displayed outside the Tate Museum of London in 2000. It was received with the mixed reactions of amazement and amusement.
The sculpture “Maman” is a 9 meter (30 feet) tall female spider made of stainless steel. It is black in color and has a sac under its belly in which she carries 26 pure white marble eggs. Long thin legs support the small body of the spider. The sculpture radiates elegance in entirety. While building the sculpture, Bourgeois paid careful attention to details, such as the placement and the finishing of the legs of the spider, in order to achieve a well-balanced structure.
A work of ‘Symbolism’ centered on the complications of relationships, the giant arachnid though looks threatening; the eggs she holds in her belly however, give her a sense of vulnerability. The way she seems to cling to her eggs demonstrates her protective maternal instincts. The overbearing size of the spider is intimidating, yet intriguing. Bourgeois gave “Maman” a playful and mystical character. It exudes an emotional power over the sub-conscious. To some it may appear like a magical creature, who accidentally stepped out of some fairy tale, while others find its presence haunting like an old abandoned memory of pain or fear.
Louise created “Maman” in the memory of her mother. Bourgeois’ mother was a weaver and ran a business of tapestry restoration. Bourgeois felt the egg-carrying spider was an apt metaphorical symbol for her mother as it displayed a character of strength and nurture. She believed like her mother that the spiders are friendly creatures and are protective, as they eat disease-causing insects. Several bronze casts of the fantastical “Maman” grace various museums, such as Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao, Spain), Samsung Museum of art (Seoul, Korea), Mori art Center (Tokyo, Japan), Jardin des Tuileries (Paris, France), and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, Canada). The next bronze cast of the “Maman” will be placed in Des Moines, Iowa in August 2009.