Playing by the rules is fine and dandy, but we all have a little rebel in us. Women are often though of as dainty, well-behaved members of society while men are allowed to act out without getting hit with a side eye. Well, some gals choose to walk the line with a mischievous smirk smeared on their faces. Niki de Saint Phalle ( 1930 – 2002) was born into a high-class French family. Paris was her playground and being prim and proper was mandatory. For Niki, conforming to the stuffy bourgeois lifestyle wasn’t an option. She chose to do what she wanted and take life by the ankles. The payoff she was looking for wasn’t monetary. She had money. It was freedom she was in search of.
Niki’s first flash of bad-ass came when she was enrolled at the Brearley School, a prestigious all-girls private school in NYC. She was ‘dismissed’ when she defaced school property by painting the fig leaves on the school statuary red. She was then sent to boarding school at Oldfields School in Maryland where she graduated in 1947. From there, Niki didn’t attend college or go back home and mooch of her parents. She modeled. At 16 she appeared on the cover of Life Magazine (September 26, 1949) and in 1952 she was the leading lady of the November issue of French Vogue. Not bad for a minor, huh?
Eventually, the life Niki fought so hard to rage against came back to haunt her. The silver spoon that fed her as a child had become to platinum fork she fed herself with as an adult. She didn’t want to be a domestic housewife, yet she found herself married and a mother of two at a young age. Accepting the fact that she had become what she despised was too much for Niki and she suffered a nervous breakdown. Painting and other forms of art became her therapy.
The ‘Nana’ series, for example, is a collection of colorful paintings, drawings, mosaics, and sculptures of a voluptuous female silhouette. Each Nana has exaggerated hips and breasts. Niki took the parts men drool over and flipped the sex into art. NANAS were created to boost the morale of women and encourage them to embrace their bodies. Curves included. Ladies, enjoy your T&A as you blot the saliva of your admirers.
‘At any rate they were a statement of the glory of women. And also there were lots of pregnant women that I did at that point, showing the greatness of motherhood.’
Niki de Saint Phalle is a gorgeous French artists who was well aware of social expectations and the caste that exists in society. Instead of living a life inside a cash padded bubble, she chose to go out and experience the world. She didn’t play by the unspoken rules outlined by her parents and society. She made her own. Her work reflects just that. None of the pieces are traditional, but they each have a story to tell. A message to relay. I respect Niki de Saint Phalle as both an artist and a non-conformist.
Image Layout: Phaymiss
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