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How to make wire sculptures inspired by Louise Bourgeois’ spiders

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Renowned French-American artist Louise Bourgeois is best known for her colossal spider sculptures, odes to her mother Joséphine Fauriaux Bourgeois, a restorer of tapestries by trade. “Like spiders, my mother was very clever,” Bourgeois once shared. “Spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.”

This National Gallery of Art video demonstrates how to create wire sculptures inspired by Louise Bourgeois’ Spider, an art activity inspired by her 1997-cast spider in the Washington DC gallery’s northwest sculpture garden.

Spider at the National Gallery of Art
Materials needed for the project include sculpture wire, black tissue paper, Modge Podge, a foam brush, rubber bands, and newspaper.

The Guggenheim Bilbao, which displays Bourgeois’ 9-meter (30-foot) tall giant spider Maman outdoors on its plaza, expands on the symbolism of her work, which also draws from sad childhood memories:

“Bourgeois’s spiders are highly contradictory as emblems of maternity: they suggest both protector and predator—the silk of a spider is used both to construct cocoons and to bind prey—and embody both strength and fragility.”

rolling tissue paper along the wire spider legs
More about Bourgeois’ materials from Public Delivery:

“Her spider sculpture was created using steel and marble. Supported on eight thin legs, the spider’s body was suspended above the ground, which allowed audiences to walk freely underneath. Each ribbed leg was created out of two pieces of steel. Underneath the spider was also a wire-meshed sac that contained 17 white and marble eggs.”

the spider body with legs

“Bourgeoise’s spider sculptures were always large, but they got more massive between 1995 and 1999. Her largest spider installation was approximately 21 feet tall and showed a body and round head of a spider supported on eight stick-like legs. Over the years, Bourgeoise made spiders in a range of media and ranging in size. The smallest spider she ever created was a 4-inch brooch, but her largest by far was the Maman sculpture close to 30 feet tall and could only be installed outside. Today, spiders have become synonymous with Louise Bourgeoise’s work.”


The National Gallery of Art’s YouTube channel features more DIY art projects.

Find more videos featuring art activities, women in art, and spiders on TKSST, including:
• LAIKA Archives: Deb Cook Revisits the Costumes of Coraline’s Other Mother
How to make a Hollow Mask Illusion
How to make a 3D cardboard model of a human eyeball
• Ernesto Neto’s GaiaMotherTree
• How did Etel Adnan decide to become an artist?

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