Brides and monsters

Giving Birth: the virile woman. She bears the child like a male sex organ. My births turn women into a goddess. They become at once father and mother.

Niki de Saint Phalle La Mariee a cheval 1963–7

Niki de Saint Phalle
La Mariée à cheval 1963–7
2350 x 3000 x 1200 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany

After giving up shooting in 1963 Saint Phalle began to explore more closely the idea of femininity and the representation of women. She examined and created work in response to various female roles including ‘whores’, brides and women giving birth.

Produced just before the first Nanas, the ‘Bride’sculptures and reliefs were often more vulgar in their representation of femininity and many were made using found objects, much like her earlier work. Bride 1965, on show here, for example, is made of plastic toys and other objects embedded into a wire frame and covered with papier mâché. Depicted in white the brides are endowed with a sense of purity and innocence, despite the crudeness of their construction. Unlike the Nanas that exude a feeling of triumphant femininity, the ‘brides’ are sad, despairing depictions of women.

Saint Phalle spoke of the experience of giving birth as simultaneously being like a mother and a father. In a further allusion to the writings of Sigmund Freud, her sculptures of women giving birth are open-legged and appended with dolls and other hanging objects to replace the male phallus. Autel de Femmes (Altar of Women) 1964 combines many of Saint Phalle’s concerns at this time. The faceted work again portrays brides and women giving birth, alongside monsters and military jets, yet also has religious connotations through its imagery and triptych composition.

In addition to her sculptural innovations, Saint Phalle experimented with film. Daddy 1973 is a psychological investigation of the relationship between father and daughter. The film includes the shooting of La Mort du Patriarch 1962/72, a shooting performance used in this context as a direct reference to her shooting ‘Daddy’.

Other works in this room

Autel des femmes 1964
Paint, wire, mesh and various objects on wood (3 Parts)
2500 x 3050 x 370 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Bride 1965–92
1900 x 1940 x 750 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Daddy: Crucifix (film decor) 1972
Various objects on wire mesh
900 x 800 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

La Mort du Patriarche 1962
2510 x 1600 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Daddy 1973
Directed by Peter Whitehead