louise bourgeois on the difficulty of expression

How are you going to turn this around and make the stone say what you want when it is there to say “no” to everything? It forbids you. You want a hole, it refuses to make a hole. You want it smooth, it breaks under the hammer. It is the stone that is aggressive. It is a constant source of refusal. You have to win the shape…

Gaston Bachelard would explain this by saying that the thing that had to be said was so difficult and so painful that you have to hack it out of yourself and so you hack it out of the material, a very, very hard material.

I read Bachelard when I was over seventy-five. If I had read Bachelard before, I would have been a different person, I would not have been divided inside since I would have taken the materials, with their different characters, and I would have been more friendly towards them. In the past, every time somebody asked me about materials, I used to answer, “What interests me is what I want to say and I will battle with any material to express accurately what I want to say.” But the medium is always a matter of makeshift solutions. That is, you try everything, you use every material around, and usually they repulse you. Finally, you get one that will work for you. And it is usually the softer ones–lead, plaster, malleable things. That is to say that you start with the harder thing and life teaches you that you had better buckle down, be contented with softer things, softer ways.
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Excerpted from Louise Bourgeois’ Destruction of the Father / Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews 1923-1997.

Louise Bourgeois with soft head sculpture, 2009.

Louise Bourgeois with soft head sculpture, 2009.

More about Louise Bourgeois’ soft sculpture faces and the restorative act of joining things together HERE.

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