RIP Louise Bourgeois, artist and sculptor

Lousie Bourgeois died at the age of 98 on May 31, 2010.

From the NYTimes:

Louise Bourgeois, the French-born American artist who gained fame only

Louise Bourgeois - "The Accident"

late in a long career, when her psychologically charged abstract sculptures, drawings and prints had a galvanizing effect on younger artists, particularly women … Ms. Bourgeois’s sculptures in wood, steel, stone and cast rubber, often organic in form and sexually explicit, emotionally aggressive yet witty, covered many stylistic bases. But from first to last they shared a set of repeated themes, centered on the human body and its need for nurture and protection in a frightening world.

Among her most familiar sculptures was the much exhibited “Nature Study” (1984), a headless sphinx with powerful claws and multiple breasts. Perhaps the most provocative was “Fillette” (1968), a large detached latex phallus. Ms. Bourgeois can be seen carrying this object, nonchalantly tucked under one arm, in a portrait by the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe taken for the catalog of her 1982 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (In the catalog, the Mapplethorpe picture is cropped to show only the artist’s smiling face.)

The Times has a short slide show of her work here.

From the Guardian:

It was not until the Museum of Modern Art gave Bourgeois a retrospective in 1982, when she was already 70, that she at last took her place as queen of New York, one of the most inventive and disturbing sculptors of the century, and later of course the first artist to to tackle a commission for a temporary work to command the vast spaces of the new Tate Modern’s turbine hall.

Combating stereotypes: A Quinean moment

Though the following is an anecdote, it is analyzed more seriously in a professional science-education journal.  It illustrates the Quinean point that there is more than one way to adjust one’s beliefs in light of a recalcitrant experience:

In many ways, it was typical of the kinds of things that NSF-funded researchers do to fulfil [sic] their broader-impacts requirement. [Diandra Leslie-Pelecky] took three female graduate students on weekly visits to local classrooms, where they spent 45-minutes leading nine- and ten-year-old children in practical activities designed to teach them about electricity and circuits. The visitors also talked about their lab work and careers. In addition, Leslie-Pelecky did something less typical of broader-impacts efforts: she brought along education researchers to study the effect of this interaction on the children’s perception of scientists.

Those assessments were startling, she says. After three months, most of the students said that they still weren’t sure who these young ‘teachers’ were – except that they couldn’t possibly be scientists. In their minds, scientists were unfriendly, grey-haired old men in white lab coats.

In addition to the Quinean moment, we can see that cultural stereotypes can trump personal experience.  This may be part of what is behind student incivility toward women profs.

the anecdote appears in a fuller discussion of NSF funding requirements in NatureNews.

h/t to female science professor.