Why do we fall in love with one book and not another? It’s not all because “it’s well written”, or has “stunning illustrations”, or is “a brilliant new idea”. Sometimes it has to do with where we are in our lives. Like a song that expresses the perfect mood that you’re feeling, a book can resonate on that note as well.
And this is why I’ve selected CLOTH LULLABY, The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois, to post about today. With words by Amy Novesky and pictures by Isabelle Arsenault it is the breathtakingly illustrated biography of textile artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010). This book wove in an extra layer that has great resonance for me. I recently lost my mother who was an artist, as was her mother, my grandmother. In going through my mother’s studio, I was overwhelmed by the connection of that creativity. I felt an amazing sense of heredity that this gift of art was passed down from my MomMom, to my mother, to me, and now to my daughter. It has felt like a very tangible, healing, and spiritual thread for me. CLOTH LULLABY builds on that same artistic relationship. Louise’s mother is a tapestry artist and “She taught her (Louise) about the warp and the weft and how to weave.” The author makes many references to ‘webs’ and ‘spiders’ throughout the book and Louise’s mother is compared to a spider—
“a repairer of broken things.”
When Louise’s mother dies, she begins to explore textiles in a new and different way. Building upon the skills that her mother taught her, Louise begins to experiment with fabric and color and creates sculptures and books. She begins to use her talent as an outlet of creative expression and as a way to deal with her grief. She often used the theme of web weaving spiders and became famous for sculpting extremely large spiders which she named, “Mamam”.
Amy Novesky chose to write this story from the perspective of tying together the real influences of what inspired the artwork of an artist. Louise Bourgeois combined her passion for nature, her love of her mother, and her skill as a tapestry repairer to inspire her creativity. This all touched on a current thought process of mine which is what makes us an artist? Why do we feel the absolute “need” to create? By presenting Louise’s life in the way that Amy Novesky has thoughtfully chosen, she has taken this book beyond a simple biography. And good heavens, Isabelle Arsenault’s artwork is beyond gorgeous! She completes that same unique perspective of the author by drawing unexpected images and laying them seamlessly together with symbolic design elements.
And then there is just the tactile wonderfulness of this book. Beautiful, heavy, matte paper along with a somewhat limited color palette create an old fashioned feel.
And the spine? ClOTH LULLABY has a beautiful dark blue cloth binding— utterly brilliant.