Donald Kuspit: Art is a Guarantee of Sanity


Thursday, June 3, 2021
6:30 – 7:15 pm
YouTube video premiere

James L. Weinberg Distinguished Lecture

The psychoanalyst R. D. Laing included Louise Bourgeois among the prominent avant-garde artists—along with Rimbaud, Van Gogh, Nietzsche, and Antonin Artaud—whose art constituted an attempt to alleviate the suffering caused by their own serious mental disturbance. Bourgeois famously called art her “guarantee of sanity,” and she managed her aggression throughout her life by giving it physical form as art objects. Yet psychoanalysis also played a critical role in sustaining her. Without the support of Henry Lowenfeld, the brilliant analyst she often saw several days each week, she would perhaps have lost her ability to access art as a lifeline. Donald Kuspit argues that Bourgeois was, in psychoanalytic terms, a psychotic—she had "a personality pattern typified by aggressiveness and interpersonal hostility," to quote the psychologist Hans Eysenck—and that her art-making was a compulsion that allowed her to carry on, if not to heal. For Louise Bourgeois, making art was literally a matter of life and death.

The James L. Weinberg Distinguished Lecture is made possible by the Marshall M. Weinberg Fund, with additional support from Marshall M. Weinberg.

About the Speaker:

Donald Kuspit is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Art History and Philosophy at Stony Brook University and former A. D. White Professor at Large at Cornell University. In 1983 he was awarded the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism by the CAA, and in 1997 he received a Citation for Distinguished Service to the Visual Arts from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. He has honorary doctorates in the fine arts from Davidson College, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the New York Academy of Art, and an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has written 20 books and more than 1500 articles, reviews, and catalogue essays, and received numerous fellowships.

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Louise Bourgeois, The Destruction of the Father, 1974 Latex, plaster, wood, fabric, and red light