Tuesday, June 01, 2010

In Memorium: Louise Bourgeois and her Salon

When artist Jo Darbyshire was here from Australia, she visited Louise Bourgeois' Sunday salon with Melissa Levin of Toronto, who photographed the event.

Like so much else Louise Bourgeois initiated, her Sunday afternoon salons will resonate for a long while to come.

I first went in 2002--can't even remember the year actually. Trembling, I called on a Monday. Allo? a tiny, but sharp voice answered and asked if I was an artist. What kind of work did I make? What imagery? Come at 3, she said, and hung up. I'd been advised to bring good whiskey or excellent chocolate; these offerings accumulated on a large wooden spool/table and were passed around the room.

Lugging a 48 inch tondo of a Raggedy Ann Madonna holding a baby doll, not cognizant that she reviewed art on a 2 x 2 table, I ascended a rickety stairway to the room pictured above. It was packed with artists, curators, poets and singers holding sketchbooks, architectural plans and photographs. Louise Bourgeois sat behind the table and received every one, assisted by an art world friend who served as a facilitator. The process lasted seven hours. People began to drink whiskey and eat chocolate to keep going. When details caught Bourgeois' eye she'd ask pointed questions very directly. She interrogated a man who'd attached a rock to the middle of his painting, dismissing the desire to provoke without a broader intention (how I remember her viewing the work). That night, as people filtered out, she drew a perfect circle with a blue ballpoint pen on a sheet of sketch paper. You could feel her moving into the experience of making, fueled by the conversation and looking at work.

Two years later, the immediacy of her presence remained intact, though by this time procedures were more organized. The film camera rolled, the facilitator kept things moving. The room itself served as a lively protagonist, with curled and peeling articles and invitations from decades past festooning the walls. Its enclosure provided a space for artists to experience themselves in the greater sense as a tribe, a vital component in civilized life that was and would continue to be passed along through generations. No doubt this is attributable to Bourgeois' unflagging devotion to intuition, memory and experience as crucial to making art. The sense of lineage that crystallizes when artists share their work attests to art's power and constitutes the legacy of her salon.

Thank you, Louise Bourgeois.

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