A Giant Spider is Unexpected Art at Crystal Bridges


The Giant Spider that Lives at Crystal Bridges

My husband and I are having an ongoing discussion unexpected art.  He maintains that art in a museum can’t be unexpected art because people expect to see art in art museums.  I think that unexpected art can be found anywhere, including in art museums. I see unexpected art as something that surprises, delights and enlightens the viewer. Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas, has several examples that reinforce my ideas.

The sculpture in the entry courtyard at Crystal Bridges surprises because of its size and subject matter.  A towering black spider dominates the space, that alone is unexpected.   The title of the piece delights because it is so unique. Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), the artist, called it “Maman”, French for mommy.  The idea of a spider as a mother  figure is unusual, since many people have negative perceptions of spiders.  “Mommy/Mother” are words that mean comfort, nurturing and caring.  A huge black bronze, stainless steel and marble  sculpture of a spider doesn’t bring feelings of maternal love to my mind.  Bourgeois has a different idea since spiders are her favorite insects.  In her own words:

“The spider is an ode to my mother.  She was my best friend. Like spiders, my mother was very clever…Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread disease and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.”

Her explanation enlightens since she see spiders in a way that most of of us don’t.  That’ s what makes “Maman”  unexpected art.IMG_1396

“Maman” 1999. Bronze, stainless and marble.


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Filed under: Sculpture, Unexpected Art

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