Niki de Saint Phalle
June 12, 2015 1:46 PM   Subscribe

‘I shot against Daddy, all men, small men, tall men, big men, fat men, men, my brother, society, the church, the convent, school, my family, my mother, all men, daddy, myself, men. I shot because it was fun and made me feel great. I shot because I was fascinated watching the painting bleed and die…’— Niki de Saint Phalle.

French-American sculptor, painter and film-maker Catherine Marie-Agnès (‘Niki’) Fal de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) is probably best remembered for her colourful, exuberant nanas (larger-than-life sculptures of stylized female figures), but she’d previously made a mark with her ‘shooting pictures’ of the early ’60s, works consisting of canvases or assemblages behind or within which were concealed bags filled with paint which the artist or her assistant would shoot at with a rifle, the rounds exploding the bags, causing the paint to splatter out on, and run down the surface of the work.

In later years, de Saint Phalle’s main artistic project was the Giardino dei Tarocchi (‘Tarot Garden’), a monumental sculpture-garden in southwestern Tuscany (The Tarot Garden previously at MeFi). To help fund its construction she launched her own perfume in 1982…

De Saint Phalle on YouTube: a film in French (with some English dialogue) about de Saint Phalle and her second husband Jean Tinguely: Les Bonnie & Clyde de l’Art; and a clip about the installation Hon—en katedral she made in Stockholm in 1966 with Tinguely and Per Olof Ultvedt. Also, her 1973 movie Daddy (made in collaboration with Peter Whitehead), in which she confronts the sexual abuse she suffered from the age of 11 at the hands of her father. Please note that Daddy is NSFW, and will be disturbing or upsetting for some.

I’m obliged to biddeford for her recent post about the Italian illustrator Walter Molino, and to rongorongo for his comment on it listing further examples of Molino’s work, including an illustration of de Saint Phalle making one of her ‘shooting’ pictures, which got me interested in making this post.
posted by misteraitch (10 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
This may be discussed in one of the links, but were her "shooting pictures" the inspiration for Guillaume the painter in Les demoiselles de Rochefort by Jacques Demy? Shooting the balloon full of paint was played for laughs and absurdity in the musical, so maybe "inspiration" is too positive of a word.
posted by Falconetti at 2:06 PM on June 12, 2015

I'm not moved by a lot of her work but the shooting paintings are really something.
posted by chavenet at 2:26 PM on June 12, 2015

I was a teenager when that perfume came out, and I spent a goodly chunk of my minimum wage salaries to keep myself in that stuff. (I still have at least a couple of empties around here somewhere, because I could never throw away the bottles.)

I don't remember which direction I came at it from, even. Whether I discovered her artwork because I loved the perfume or vice versa. Either way, I came to pretty much embrace everything she did.

Some of her brightly colored works come across maybe as dated now--they're pretty 80s looking--but like a lot of artists, I think it's easier to appreciate those in the context of her entire body of work. They make more sense when you see where they're coming from. I assume she was somewhat instrumental in establishing the aesthetic that those pieces seem derivative of now.

Thank you for putting this together. It's really making my day.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:54 PM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just in case anybody missed the Walter Molino thread, 6th picture down here is an artist's impression of the making of the shooting pictures. Which is well groovy.
posted by glasseyes at 3:23 PM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh poo, just saw the small note - pls delete as appropriate, mods.
posted by glasseyes at 3:27 PM on June 12, 2015

I went to UC San Diego as my undergrad, and one of the key art installations was Sun God, a de Saint Phalle piece that was the centerpiece of the one festival a year my socially dead engineering rich school fixated upon.

I'll always think of her sculptures as a indicative of that weird, awesome time I spent there. :)
posted by kurosawa's pal at 4:14 PM on June 12, 2015

How is her name pronounced? I want to talk about her IRL.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:57 PM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just love this artist, and like ernielundquist, my first exposure was through her beautiful perfume bottles. For those that are in Southern California, there is a fantastic sculpture garden of hers in Escondio at Kit Carson park. It is only open one or two Saturday's a month tho, need to check city website before planning a visit, but the scope and execution were amazing. Also there is an interesting sculpture of hers on display at the Brea mall (!). I was able to find a couple of art books of hers aimed at kids, and in that way introduced her to my kids before taking them to see the sculpture garden. Joseph Gurl, her name is pronounced like de ( same vowel sound as oo in look) saint - vowel like a in ant- the T in saint is not pronounced, and phalle is an F sound and vowel like a in pal. The double L is the L sound like pal, or like double L in English.
posted by Rapunzel1111 at 9:36 PM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:21 PM on June 12, 2015

Falconetti—I hadn’t seen anything mentioning it while preparing the post, but it seems some have made that connection, for example: 1, 2, 3 (all in French) 4 (in German).

Joseph Gurl—If you watch through to the end of the animation that plays when clicking on the first link above, you’ll hear the artist introducing herself: Moi, je m’appelle Niki de Saint Phalle (or, what Rapunzel1111 said).
posted by misteraitch at 12:10 AM on June 13, 2015

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