Art@Site Niki de Saint Phalle L'arbre Serpen

Niki de Saint Phalle


L'arbre Serpen

Tokyo Benesse Co. Ltd.
Saint Phalle’s sculptures often explore archetypical representations of femininity repeated throughout myth and history. In Saint Phalle’s own words, “I use tales and myths as a springboard to create fantastic creatures of my imagination.” References to ancient myth and history are often noticeable in her work: her voluptuous “Nanas” flaunt exaggerated female figures, calling to mind the many corpulent fertility goddesses venerated by ancient civilizations. In a more subtle fashion, Saint Phalle quotes universal female symbols with her frequent depiction of sinuous snakes. Although most famously associated with the Abrahamaic tradition of Eve in Genesis, depictions of serpents have often been used to personify feminine power, both good and evil, in a variety of cultures. Serpent Tree, 1999, one of the four sculptures selected for the New York Avenue Sculpture Project, portrays a marvelous creature with many coiling serpent heads, each poised to strike, projecting from a single base.
At first glance, Serpent Tree might remind viewers of the legend of the Greek hero Herakles who, for the second of his Twelve Labors, was tasked with killing the dreaded Hydra of Lerna: a loathsome, swamp-dwelling beast (often referred to in the feminine) with nine venomous serpent heads. Using his club to bash the Hydra’s heads one by one, Herakles was horrified to find that, after destroying one hissing head, two more grew in its place. Aided by his loyal nephew Iolaus, he eventually defeated the Hydra by quickly holding a torch to the place where one of the Hydra’s heads had been bashed in, thus preventing the growth of a new one.

Excite to happiness, love and hope
We see an orange beak, colored feathers, hair in the form of water jets, a green elephant, a floating mouth, a skull on a kind of bicycle, a mermaid with breasts like melons, a turning hose, three in one folded hearts and more than we can apprehend.
Children like to play with water and adults love to see them doing so. This makes us happy, loving and hopeful. All these sculptures spray with water and we associate these images and our associations with happiness, love and hope.
These artworks are about our whole life: to give birth to a child, to make music, to care for an animal, to die. Tinguely and De Saint Phalle make us coloring and moving all these experiences and images.
Seeing these sculptures can make us associate with and replace ourselves in a snake, a bird, a skull, a woman. Maybe some of these images invoke us a happy, painful or fearful experience. Maybe an image will be associated with an experience. Some of the images of Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle can be carried with us permanently with our memory.
Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle can make us more loving, happy and hopeful with sculptures that excite our imagination.
Niki de Saint Phalle (born Catherine-Marie-Agnès Fal de Saint Phalle, 29 October 1930 – 21 May 2002) was a French-American sculptor, painter, and filmmaker. She was one of the few women artists widely known for monumental sculpture, but also for her commitments.
She had a difficult and traumatic childhood and education, which she wrote about decades later. After an early marriage and two children, she began creating art in a naïve, experimental style. She first received worldwide attention for angry, violent assemblages which had been shot by firearms. These evolved into Nanas, light-hearted, whimsical, colorful, large-scale sculptures of animals, monsters, and female figures. Her most comprehensive work was the Tarot Garden, a large sculpture garden containing numerous works ranging up to house-sized creations. Her idiosyncratic style has been called "outsider art"; she had no formal training in art, but associated freely with many other contemporary artists, writers, and composers.
Throughout her creative career, she collaborated with other well-known artists such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, composer John Cage, and architect Mario Botta, as well as dozens of less-known artists and craftspersons. For several decades, she worked especially closely with Swiss kinetic artist Jean Tinguely, who also became her second husband. In her later years, she suffered from multiple chronic health problems attributed to repeated exposure to glass fibers and petrochemical fumes from the experimental materials she had used in her pioneering artworks, but she continued to create prolifically until the end of her life.
A critic has observed that Saint Phalle's "insistence on exuberance, emotion and sensuality, her pursuit of the figurative and her bold use of color have not endeared her to everyone in a minimalist age". She was well known in Europe, but her work was little-seen in the US, until her final years in San Diego. Another critic said: "The French-born, American-raised artist is one of the most significant female and feminist artists of the 20th century, and one of the few to receive recognition in the male-dominated art world during her lifetime".