Thursday, August 23, 2012


I wanted to share a bit about Niki de Saint Phalle, the self-taught French sculptor and painter.

Niki was born outside of Paris in 1930 to a wealthy banking family. After being wiped out financially by the Great Depression, she and her family moved from France to New York City.

While in New York, Niki was enrolled at the prestigious Brearley School, but perhaps as a sign of things to come, she was dismissed for painting fig leaves red on the school's statuary.

After graduating from Oldfields School in Maryland, Niki became a fashion model, appearing on the cover of Life Magazine, and a few years later, French Vogue. 

She eloped at 18 with childhood friend and author Harry Mathews, and soon had a daughter with him. 

The young mother was on a modeling assignment in France when she met American painter, Hugh Weiss, who became her friend and mentor. 

Niki moved to Spain, where she gave birth to a son, and began to pursue her career in the field of art. 

After dabbling briefly in naive-style oil painting and collage art, she famously turned to a new medium--the rifle. Inspired by the explosive methods of her stated "go-to thinkers": de Beauvoir, Proust and Goudi- she cocked her gun, aimed and fired at giant paint loaded canvases.

In the mid 1960's, Niki began to work alongside Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, whom she would later marry. Niki moved from her "shooting paintings" to developing the voluptuous female form of the Nana, French slang for “woman" in 1965, which led to the commission of the vast sculpture, She: a Cathedral for the Modern Museet in Stockholm. As she worked on brightly painted sculptures of animals and human figures, Niki conceived the idea for her Tarot Garden, a sculpture park inspired by Gaudí’s Parc Güell.

After nearly 20 years of work, and a considerable amount of money,  the Tarot Garden, filled with Niki's monumental sculpture and whimsical architecture opened in Tuscany in 1998.

I wanted to share my love of her voluptuous and whimsical, yet important sculpture. 

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