niki de saint phalle

︎Artist, Sculpture, Illustration, Article  
︎ Ventral Is Golden

"The world is round, the world is a breast."

Born near Paris, raised in New York and having worked predominantly in Switzerland, Italy and California, Niki De Saint Phalle (1930 - 2002) became an impassioned creator, transforming the raw materials of her traumatic childhood into provokingly tender works, bulging with animism and feminine energy.
Having experienced that the assigned ‘world of the woman’ was too restrictive, Saint Phalle’s later work became associated with the Nouveau Realists. She produced an eclectic array of works ranging from drawing, collage, graphic design, film, Tirs (’shooting’ paintings) and sculpture. In addition, her Tirs were considered one of the earliest exmaples of Performance Art. Alongside her Shooting Paintings, “Happenings, Fluxus, and performance (of the 1960’s) sought a discursive, interactive relationship between artist and spectator; new conceptual frameworks emerged, informed by gender awareness. Women artists began to intervene directly in male-defined social and political spheres, articulating frustration at the injustices of domination.

Saint Phalle’s tarot card designs, along with Gaudi’s Parc Guell in Barcelona, and the Watts Towers by Simon Rodia in LA, served as the basis for her baroque influenced Tarot Garden in South Tuscany, which showcased De Phalle’s drawings as larger-than-life, immersive and volumptuous phantasmagoric structures .
Additionally, having worked with assistants for fifteen years to create the garden, she was able to utilise the traditional mosaic aesthetics of regional Italian artisans.  

Her most iconic sculptures, known as the Nanas (loosely related to the derogatory french term ‘broad’) swept across domains of the absurd, the playful and the provocative, growing symbolically to represent the neglected aspects of matriarchy within a wider political and social context from the 1960’s onwards. 

“(The Nanas) reflect the new vision of womanhood that appeared in the 1960s: strong images of femininity and of a triumphant maternity. In 1974, the Nanas became a feature of public space for the first time with the commissioning of three giant Nanas by the city of Hanover. Furthermore, La Grande tempérance and L'Ange protecteur [Guardian Angel] have been watching over the inhabitants of the city of Luxembourg and travellers at Zurich's main station respectively since the mid-90s.