An imposing mother

Ottawa -- Meet "Maman" (Mother), a great egg-carrying spider that stands outside the National Gallery of Canada.

This is not a typical scene of Ottawa. I was surprised when I came across this enormous black structure outside the main entrance to the Gallery. It was created by the French-born artist Louise Bourgeois in 1999 and was cast in 2003. The Gallery purchased it in 2005 at a cost of over $3 million.

The spider is enormous and strange. When I saw it, it was covered in snow and its long legs were digging deep into the snowbank outside the Gallery. It stands over 9 metres tall.

The sculpture arouses a mixture of fear and curiosity. Maman appears menacing. At the same time, she is what the artist wanted her to be: a symbol of motherhood and fertility. The cage-like metal sac contains eggs of marble. They are supposed to emphasize the spider's maternal and nurturing role.

However, a pamphlet from the museum also highlights the mechanical aspects of the sculpture: "Traces of welding that appear like scars along the gnarled leg joints of her bronze shell (inside is an armament of reinforced steel), combined with a slightly off-centre body, suggest a creature that is both animal and machine, possibly from an industrial period in some alternate dimension. Despite her size, Maman's quirky Mad Max quality is so compelling that most viewers readily enter both her physical and psychic space."

Not me. I don't get along with spiders very well.

Anyway, I drew this before going in to the Gallery. The view is looking south, with the Parliament buildings to the right and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier to the left.

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