The Devouring Mothers, what Niki had to say

by Yule Heibel on September 30, 2004

I have a book, handbound with string through two holes in its cardboard covers. It’s small — maybe 20cm x 16cm? — and was “published” in November 1972 by Gimpel Fils, probably in conjunction with an exhibition. It’s called The Devouring Mothers and consists of twenty-six pages of lithographs by the ever-wonderful Niki de Saint Phalle.

My little Aulelia Milldeau character (from yesterday) had a very scary devouring mother too, and I’m convinced that Niki de Saint Phalle’s book helped me remember her. Aulelia’s Daddy was a slight and skinny bantam rooster. Unlike Niki’s imaginary devouring mother, Aulelia’s Mummy had a couple of sons she groomed as Daddy substitutes. “Daddy” became a phantom object, the pivot for both sexual resistance and desire. Saint Phalle delivers a wonderful visual summing up of Mummy’s Daddy, as perceived by the artist-daughter — isn’t it fantastic?

And although the daughter tries to make Daddy seem powerful by giving him multiple penises…,

she knows that in the end Mummy eats Daddy:

Mummy gets to put Daddy to rest.

Mummy might even serve him up for dinner, but daughter can’t eat him.

Next year I want to visit Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden to see the sculptures…


Anonymous October 6, 2005 at 6:54 pm

thank you so much for this, it’s one of the most fantastic things i have seen in my entire life.

Yule Heibel October 6, 2005 at 8:34 pm

Glad you like The Devouring Mothers… There are quite a number of additional pages, but it would have stretched copyright propriety too far to cite them all, alas…

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