Cell (The Last Climb), 2008
French, American, 1911
steel, wood, blown glass, rubber, and spools of thread
384.8 x 400.1 x 299.7 cm installed
National Gallery of Canada (no. 43031)
© The Easton Foundation / SODRAC, Montreal / VAGA, New York (2013)
Actively producing art until her death on 31 May 2010 at age 98, Louise Bourgeois had a remarkable eight-decade career. "Cell (The Last Climb)" is the last of the more than 20 large-scale Cell sculptures she created over three decades. The structures, cluttered with mementos from her personal life, often evoke a sense of entrapment, mortality or decay - fears she herself had carried from her childhood. Here Bourgeois appears to have made peace with these anxieties. The spiral staircase, rescued from her long-time Brooklyn studio, rises out of the structure, as translucent spheres "float" towards the same opening. The elongated blue teardrop hovering halfway up the stairs represents the artist herself; the two wooden spheres below symbolize her parents.
Open and ethereal, the sculpture is less obsessed with suffering than with spiritual discovery as it reflects on the inevitability of time and its relationship to events of the past.