American, born France, 1911–2010
Nature Study (Pink Eyes), 1984
Marble, steel, and wood
20 x 45 1/2 x 31 1/2 inches (50.8 x 115.6 x 80 cm)
George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, 1984
Louise Bourgeois created a variety of works in the series called “Nature Studies,” which range from strange hermaphroditic animals to disembodied body parts. The repeated use of eyes in her work underscores Bourgeois’s belief in the validity and importance of the theme. As she said, “It has to do . . . with the power of communication established by the eyes, very specially in the case of flirtatious eyes. You might say that there is an eye language that has nothing to do with body language . . . it has to do with a language of sympathy. . . . It is completely mysterious and completely reliable. . . . It’s terribly important since most communication is completely untrue.”
Eye language is entirely separate from body language or verbal expression because it is so honest and difficult to control. In this piece, the white marble “eyeballs” are not connected to the pink slab. If the work were lifted, they would roll away. For the artist, this refers to the potential of losing control of one’s emotions when communicating through eye contact. A loss of control could lead a person to become trapped, just as the white eyeballs are trapped in the pink marble “face.”
Bourgeois chose pink marble for this example not only because it recalls a flesh tone, but also because it is a color that she finds seductive and feminine. She worked the surface to create multiple indentations that represent, for her, life’s difficulties and their resolutions.
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