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Portrait Cells

Gallery 202

In the classic sense, a portrait features the likeness of a particular individual. However, the deeper meaning of such a portrayal does not lie solely in depicting someone’s outward appearance: the person’s character and emotion should also be expressed. The hand-sewn patchwork heads in Bourgeois’s custom-built Portrait Cells function as symbolic forms representing elemental human feelings. In this sense, they are portraits of emotional states. Many of the heads were made from clothes and blankets from Bourgeois’s personal collection. Working with textiles is characteristic of Bourgeois’s late oeuvre and recalls her early childhood, when she observed her mother sewing and restoring tapestries.

Cell XXVI, 2003 (detail)
Steel, fabric, aluminum, stainless steel and wood
252.7 x 434.3 x 304.8 cm
Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Netherlands
Photo: Christopher Burke
© The Easton Foundation / VEGAP, Madrid

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