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You Must Know What You Want to Get What You Need
Why do we do this? Why does it feel so wrong to say "I want" (or even worse, "I need")? If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it has something to do with not wanting to seem incapable. Then I happened upon the "I want" list of the sculpture artist Louise Bourgeois. Part poem, part therapy, part life list, this document feels extraordinary (and not just because of the purple ink, although let's face it, that helps).
"I want to feel," reads the list. "I want to be good. I want to be better. I want to do it." It's striking, reading through this list, how empowering the idea of wanting becomes. It's not about being selfish; it's not about requesting goods and services. It's about connecting with that primal part of yourself, that inner kid who is all want and love and fury. It's about wanting to grow, to change, to connect -- it's a kind of wanting that's about reaching out, not reaching in.
The list is part of a new exhibit focusing on the influence of the subconscious and psychotherapy on Bourgeois' work, at the Freud Museum. According to The Guardian, the list "was inspired by the discovery of a cache of the artist's writing, which revealed that she had undergone psychoanalysis, a fact she had previously kept secret." The show's curator, Philip Larratt-Smith, told the Guardian that Bourgeois went from "making these tall, monolithic statues in the early 50s, then re-emerged with a totally new body of work in the 60s. It was always a mystery how she got from A to B. These writings fill in the story."
Looking inward, it seems, reinvigorated this artist's work. And perhaps pinpointing what she wanted was a part of this process. When you really get to the bottom of things, when you really acknowledge your desires, pushing past the politeness and the inbred "no, no, no!"s -- what is it you really, really want? Above all, the lists suggests, Bourgeois wanted to accomplish mastery. Ambitious. Inspiring. But not needy, or greedy, or incompetent in the least. Even in want, it seems, there is room for graciousness.
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