Bourgeois struggled deeply with anxiety, and solitude served as an antidote, providing her with a sense of calm and safety. Even in her own home (which she long shared with her husband and three sons) and in her studio (where she employed an assistant), she carved out spaces where she could be alone. “Louise liked to work alone in silence, as if in a trance,” remembered
her longtime studio assistant, Jerry Gorovoy. “The least noise would upset her.”
The act of retreat, which was so essential to Bourgeois’s daily life, emerged in her work, as well. She continually returned to the word “lair,” using it to title numerous sculptures resembling huts, cocoons, and other confined, safe spaces. The rough, spiral form of The Lair (1962), for instance, resembles a protective shell—one that a soft snail might withdraw into at the sight of danger.
Indeed, Bourgeois ascribed to psychoanalyst and art historian Ernst Kris’s belief that “I have to hide, otherwise I will be trapped.” The act of hiding, as Bourgeois explained in a 1988 interview with critic Stuart Morgan, offered safety, freedom, and, in turn, inspiration. As she succinctly put it: “Inspiration comes from retreat.”