My affinity for Louise Bourgeois began fifteen or sixteen years ago when I saw some pieces at a museum. I can’t remember which museum or which pieces but I they inspired me to write a poem that appears in For The Girls, I called “Femme Maison.” Actually, now that I think of it, that was probably the name of the exhibit or the piece. Here’s the poem:
–-For Louise Bourgeios
Also, a quote from this poem appears on my homepage. I guess it’s one of those poems by me that I enjoy. If you also enjoy this poem, you can buy the chapbook from dancing girl press. Support your independent presses, y’all.
I haven’t been to the Jewish Museum since seeing the exhibit that was partially about The Twilight Zone. I went on a Saturday and used the sabbath elevator. I can’t remember artists, but I remember elevators. They had a Bourgeois exhibit called Freud’s Daughter. I didn’t know about the connection, which sounded interesting, but more importantly, I wanted to go to a museum and see a artist I knew I’d enjoy. When BMc asked about museum going, I was like, the only museum I’m going to right now is the Jewish Museum if you want to come with, so he came with.
And by come with, I mean, he got to the museum by driving and parking nearby and I got there by train and subway. I rode the subway by myself for the first time since 2019, and I didn’t get murdered, so my subway days are back! I also walked up a very large hill, and it felt good to walk up that large hill. I even used my mnemonic device to figure out which way to go—1, 2, 3 Little Piggies Make 5.
Sidenote: During the days of Shecky’s, Rooftops, and other drunken endeavors, D taught us this mantra so we could remember 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Lexington, Park, Madison, 5th. It works when you remember the saying. The first time I tried it out, I couldn’t remember the whole thing, and I simply shouted Pigs! Something about pigs! on the street corner in Manhattan. No one flinched. It was most likely not the strangest thing they’d seen that day.
So I got to the museum to find BMc waiting outside. The rules were pretty clear. Get there on time. If you miss the time slot, you’ve gotta wait for the next time slot if it’s open. Bring your vax proof. Bring your ID. Show your tix. I don’t know why the rules were so strict since when we got there, no one was staggered. Everyone was in a line and in the same place. It was the first time I used my Excelsior Pass, so the download wasn’t a waste. Ironically, there were signs everywhere about keeping your distance. I’m not saying it was unsafe. I didn’t feel like it was crowded at all. I just think that the rigidity of the rules wasn’t as rigid as, let’s say, November 2020 Trader Joe’s six foot apart outdoor in the snow line to go grocery shopping.
The first thing I learned at the exhibit was that Bourgeois wrote a lot. This was a side of her I hadn’t known. Some things she wrote in English, some in French, and some drifted between the two. Some of it was coherent. Some of it was iffy. The next thing I learned was about her mental anguish. Her use of language, and her distrust of language, made more sense considering her afflictions. The writing fascinated me, thrilled me, made me want to write then and there.
The visual pieces ranged between large and small, 2D and 3D, expected and wtf. Room after room, walls and floors filled with sculptures, paintings, drawings, and transcriptions of her words along with actual handwritten pieces. My favorite artwork is her metalwork, kind of because it seems to be an undertaking that requires physical strength, though I’m sure a lot of artwork does.
Then there was the cell. A room had a cage that had alcoves where you could walk into and kind of be in the art. Inside the cages were chairs and mirrors. It was eerie and not okay and also pretty neat.
After getting our brains bent by Bourgeois (by the way, I have not spelled her name correctly on the first try at all yet), we saw the exhibits on the other floors. One floor was Afterlives, an exhibit that showed looted artwork. The story behind some of the pieces dives into heroics in history and how people put their lives on the line to save culture. Of course, it was also really sobering—how many innocent people killed because of their beliefs. That all gave me a shudder.
Then there was the permanent collection. A sculpture that reads OY, but also reads YO. Rooms and rooms of menorahs. Like, a lot of menorahs. Different metals. Different textures. One make of tiny chairs. Another made to hold more candles than you would think to put in a menorah. It made me want to own a menorah, but since I’m not into cultural appropriation for the sake of hijinks, I got over wanting to own a fun menorah. There were also some portraits by Andy Warhol and Alex Katz that were in my wheelhouse of enjoyment. Another wall of portraits by Abshalom Jac Lahav were also pretty neat. Basically, if you haven’t been to the Jewish Museum, these are the kinds of things you’ll see there no matter when you go because they’re part of the collection.
While dining is closed in the basement, that’s where bathrooms are, so, you know, that’s where we headed. And that’s where I found my new wallpaper. I want my entire house covered in it.
After museum-ing, we hit the park across the street. We were right across from the reservoir, so we walked around it while other people ran and others ambled very slowly. We saw ducks. The view from the far side of the reservoir is an interesting take on the skyline since mostly I see the view from the near side because it’s the same way the roof of The Met faces.
I’d like to report that while I did accept a ride back to the island in lieu of the train, I remembered I’d taken the train to get to the city, so I did not have to call my mom to take me to the train station to get my forgotten car. I? Am a grown up now.