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Louise Bourgeois’s spindly spiders are among the artist’s most widely celebrated motifs—so much so that the artist has earned the nickname “Spiderwoman” in the art world. In the 1940s, Bourgeois began drawing slender, elegant spiders, launching her fascination with creepy crawlers. By the end of her career, Bourgeois had turned these willowy arachnids into outright behemoths—monumental bronze, steel, and marble sculptures reaching 30 feet tall, which have graced iconic locations like the Jardins des Tuileries in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Though Bourgeois’s eight-legged creatures may stir arachnophobia in some, the artist’s intent was the opposite. Her web-weaving subjects are odes to her mother’s maternal affection. “My best friend was my mother, and she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as useful as a spider,” Bourgeois explained. As a testament, one of Bourgeois’s monumental sculptures, Maman (1999), …

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