Niki de Saint Phalle
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Tarot Garden
Influenced by Gaudí´s Parc Güell in Barcelona, and the garden in Bomarzo, de Saint Phalle decided that she wanted to make something similar; a monumental sculpture park created by a woman. In 1979, she acquired some land in Garavicchio, Tuscany, about 100 km north-west of Rome along the coast. The garden, called Giardino dei Tarocchi in Italian, contains sculptures of the symbols found on Tarot cards. The garden took many years, and a considerable sum of money, to complete. It opened in 1998, after more than 20 years of work.
In 1961, she became known around the world for her Shooting paintings. A shooting painting consisted of a wooden base board on which containers of paint were laid, then covered with plaster. The painting was then raised and de Saint Phalle would shoot at it with a .22 caliber rifle. The bullets penetrated paint containers which spilled their contents over the painting. This "painting style" was completely new, and she travelled around the world performing shooting sessions in Paris, Sweden, Malibu, California, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
Pierre Restany, founder of the Nouveau Réalisme movement, attended one of de Saint Phalle's exhibitions and subsequently invited her to join. As a result, she soon became involved in the ideas, festivals, and activities of this group which included such art personalities as Arman, César Baldaccini, Christo, Gérard Deschamps, Francois Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Yves Klein, Martial Raysse, Mimmo Rotella, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely, and Jacques Villeglé.
Her first solo exhibition in Paris occurred at Galarie J with assemblages, tirs, and a public shooting area. Soon de Saint Phalle appeared in group shows throughout Europe and the United States. During the 1960s, she became friends with American artists staying in Paris including Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers and his wife Clarice; de Saint Phalle went on to participate in various projects with them over the years.
After the "Shooting paintings" came a period when she explored the various roles of woman. She made life size dolls of women, such as brides and mothers giving birth. They were usually dressed in white. They were primarily made of polyester with a wire framework. They were generally created from papier mâché.
Inspired by the pregnancy of her friend Clarice Rivers, the wife of American artist Larry Rivers, she began to use her artwork to consider archetypal female figures in relation to her thinking on the position of women in society. Her artistic expression of the proverbial everywoman were named 'Nanas'. The first of these freely posed forms, made of papier-mâché, yarn, and cloth were exhibited at the Alexander Iolas Gallery in Paris in September of 1965. For this show, Iolas published her first artist book that includes her handwritten words in combination with her drawings of 'Nanas'. Encouraged by Iolas, she started a highly productive output of graphic work that accompanied exhibitions that included posters, books and writings.
In 1966, she collaborated with fellow artist Jean Tinguely and Per Olof Ultvedt on a large scale sculpture installation, "hon-en katedral". for Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden. The outer form of "hon" is a giant, reclining 'Nana', whose internal environment is entered from between her legs. The piece elicited immense public reaction in magazines and newspapers throughout the world. The artwork was also used in the Italian exploitationish film Femina ridens. The interactive quality of the "hon" combined with a continued fascination with fantastic types of architecture intensifies her resolve to see her own architectural dreams realized. During the construction of the "hon-en katedral," she met Swiss artist Rico Weber, who became an important assistant and collaborator for both de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely. During the 1960s, she also designed decors and costumes for two theatrical productions: a ballet by Roland Petit, and an adaptation of the Aristophanes play "Lysistrata."