feathery pillows (for Louise Bourgeois)

femme maison . louise bourgeois . 1947

In french, femme maison means woman house, the story of which starts with a woman who is neither just a house nor just a woman. She is just an everything: a builder of forts from the couch cushions, a maker of chicken with a side of potatoes, a seamstress of dresses, a cleaner of windows, and a kisser of goodnight.

All this everything binds her to the house.


Each day, more and more wooden shingles itch up her torso, forming a boxy shape. Arms push through open windows. Drywall and plaster cake around the eyes. She is not alarmed by this metamorphosis.

She is cocooned.

It is expected.

Her posture relaxes as the last chimney brick is laid.

She carries the femme maison with her everywhere: to the farmer’s market, to the doctor’s office, to the park or the restaurant where a drink is poured.

She never really leaves, even when she leaves.

There are rooms only she is privy to— no one sees where she goes.

In these rooms, there is power: what is hidden, where she hides.

Domesticity is not always about confinement, captivity, or dissatisfaction, she has decided. At times, on the brightest day, it is a meditation on interiors— who or what we let in.

We always dream on feathery pillows of isolation.


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