Support: Bright white wove (Somerset Satin)
Sheet: 120.4 x 94.5 cm (47 3/8 x 37 3/16 in.); Platemark: 98.7 x 78.3 cm (38 7/8 x 30 13/16 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1997.36
© The Easton Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
Catalogue raisonné: Wye 110.2
Edition: 50 plus 10 numbered I/X-X/X reserved for artist, printer, and publisher
Louise Bourgeois, best known for her sculptures (she represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1993), is also an avid printmaker. According to the artist, her work can be seen as "a drama of the self." She believes that making art is the process of giving tangible form to, and thus exorcizing, the gripping, subconscious states that fill her with anxiety, although her work can also express pleasure, warmth, and humor. In Sainte Sebastienne the traditional image of the third-century male Saint Sebastian, pierced by arrows by order of the Roman Emperor Diocletian for his Christian faith, is transformed into a voluptuous, beheaded female. Alternately titled The Arrows of Stress, the arrows represent antagonistic words that result in feelings of defensiveness and masochism: "The arrows make her lose her head. . . . You say, she has a good head on her shoulders. Well, I'm not sure of that! She has lost her head. . . . This is the drama of the loss . . . but don't make a fuss . . . things don't have to be desperate." Sainte Sebastienne's beheading, therefore, is not literal but figurative, a consequence of verbal criticism and her inability to deal with it.
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