Friday, April 8, 2011

Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle was born in 1930 in France and died in 2002. She began producing her first paintings in 1950. This led to assemblages in plaster and her "shooting paintings". These pictures were plaster with containers of paint beneath the surface which would explode when she shot them with a firearm. More sculptural assemblages followed and in 1965, de Saint Phalle created her first "Nana". These large, voluptuous and brightly painted female figures were made originally in papier mache and later in polyester.

De Saint Phalle has designed stage sets and costumes, created movies, graphic work, chairs and a sculptural playground. One of her large works includes a giant Nana that can be entered by walking through the vagina. In addition, she and her son produced a book for children about AIDS and she has her own perfume.

A part of her most ambitious work is pictured here, the Tarot Garden, a sculpture park in Tuscany. The Wheel of Fortune in the water was created by her husband, Jean Tinguely. The Tarot Garden features mirrors, glass and ceramic mosaics. De Saint Phalle had never used these materials before and they show the influence that the architect Antonio Gaudi had on her work. This park contains Nana-like figures as well as the "skinnies" which proceeded them. You can see a skinny in the water in the photo here, the blue figure with an open wirey structure. Serpents, fountains and sculptures you can walk into are often a part of her work. They appear here on a grand scale. There is a fun, theme park quality to the place with its bright colors and sensual rounded forms covered with elaborate surface designs. A relationship to "outsider " art can be seen in this playful portrayal of the arcana of the Tarot deck.

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