1 ) Egyptian Sculpture
To the untrained eye, this may seem a simple piece of little relevance, just another Pharaoh, one statue to join many others of a similar nature – however, upon closer inspection, there are many non-conventional attributes to this sculpture. Firstly, this is Female Pharaoh Hatshepsut, depicted in traditional feminine robes, but she wears the nemes –headcloth, a royal attire usually reserved for the reigning king. Secondly, In the columns of text inscribed beside her legs on the front of the throne, she has the masculine throne name, but her titles and personal names are still feminine, making her “Lady of the Two Lands”. Third, On the back of the throne, part of the preserved scene is inclusive of a goddess with the body of a pregnant hippopotamus with feline legs and a crocodile tail, resembling both Taweret , the goddess who protects women and children and Ipi , a royal protector. Finally, her personal name, Hatshepsut, which means “foremost of noblewomen,” or a feminine grammatical form that indicates her gender, additionally, her figure has very obviously been carved into a feminine shape. All of this portrays a strong female leader, unafraid to step up to the predominantly masculine role, yet her facial expression is peaceful and kind, holds a maternal hint; at the same time she sits with the unwavering regal formality of a ruler, straight back, head held high, hands straight on her lap. It’s easy to imagine her as a dutiful and well respected and liked leader.
2) Picasso’s Woman in the Garden
This is indeed a very curious representation of a piece. It is said to depict a woman sitting in a garden with flowers, though I fail to see it. It was the last in a series of pieces the artist submitted to a memorial committee in search of a graveside marker for the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who died in 1918 and was a friend and supporter of Picasso’s. Picasso had no training in metalwork. So, he began collaborating with artist Julio González, a skilled welder who helped him make this sculpture; the lack of experience did not thwart the artist’s ambition as Woman in the Garden is Picasso’s largest sculpture.
Two versions of this model were made, a welded iron version, whitewashed, that was originally rejected, and Picasso adopted the sculpture for a short while. This rejection may have led to Picasso commissioning González to build a second model, cast in bronze, an entirely personal commission, which was later placed in his garden, so, it is safe to assume Picasso had a particular fondness for this piece. I would like to address the subject of the two models, I think the decision to paint the original was a wise one, the reason being it makes the model appear more unified, it looks more like a statue and less like machinery, it softens the hard edge given by the metallic colour, but given that Picasso’s private version is unpainted, does that suggest he preferred it that way?
It is easy to draw our individual conclusions of the appearance if this abstracted memorial, yet it pays to bear in mind that the work of both sculptors forms part of the origins of the modern tradition of iron sculpture, even at the time of creation, it was challenging the boundaries between drawing and volume.
3) Louise Bourgeois: ‘Cell: Eyes and Mirrors’
In her later life, Bourgeois made two series of boxed installation works she described as Cells. Some are small containers holding various objects for the viewer to assess. Others are small rooms into which the viewer is invited to enter. In the cells, Bourgeois uses earlier sculptural forms, found objects as well as personal items that carried strong personal emotional value for the artist. I find this particularly interesting, as Bourgeois created a lot of works with a deep emotional meaning, it seems as if trapping and encasing her previous objects in a new layout, was almost the conclusion of her work, of her life, like she had been showing you the jigsaw pieces of her life and now she was finally grouping them into chunks for us to piece together. Or maybe I’m overanalysing because psychoanalytical criticism is hard to give and can often be interpreted wrongly.
Bourgeois stated that the Cells represent “different types of pain; physical, emotional and psychological, mental and intellectual … Each Cell deals with a fear. Fear is pain … Each Cell deals with the pleasure of the viewer, the thrill of looking and being looked at”. Henceforth, the cells enclose psychological and intellectual states, primarily feelings of fear and pain. I particularly think this quote by the artist is interesting:
‘reality changes with each new angle. Mirrors can be seen as a vanity, but that is not all their meaning. The act of looking into a mirror is really about having the courage it takes to look at yourself and really face yourself.’
This begs the question of whether this piece is a physical manifestation of the artists’ emotions or a physical reflection of the viewers’ emotions. I believe it to be both. I think the fear this box represents is the dread of being alone with yourself, trapped in your mind and having to face what you are, as many people are ashamed or disappointed or angry or nervous about what they have become.
Many consider it vain to look in a mirror, but some of the vainest people use their reflection, as they cannot bear to look at their true selves, and this, I suspect, is what the eyes represent, all-seeing judgments that look directly into your soul rather than at your face, that can see you for who you are despite what the mirror may show. This piece is a lot more interactive than it would seem at a first glance and seems to have an interpersonal relationship with each viewer, I fancy everyone that looks at it sees a version of themselves encased inside, therefore the experience is different for every one of us.