She is wearing a black feathery coat that makes her look like a little bird, and under her arm she is holding one of her artworks. It is, emphatically and unmistakably, a giant phallus.
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There's another version of the work, called Fillette, hanging in the second room of the new Artist Rooms exhibition A Woman Without Secrets devoted to the artist at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. "It's got the suffix 'Sweeter Version'," points out curator Lucy Askew.
"The first one was done in the late 1960s," says Jerry Gorovoy, who spent 30 years working with Bourgeois as her assistant in New York before her death in 2010. "She saw it again and it had got very wrinkled. She said, 'Oh, it looks so old. I want to do a more youthful version."
Unsurprisingly, given that she underwent 30 years of psychoanalysis, there's a rich, loamy Freudian foundation to Louise Bourgeois's work: dad, mum, sex, birth, death, reproduction, dismemberment, spiders, sutures, breasts, phalluses, eyes, protection, confinement, pain, love, separation, mending, memory - her work, often both tender and violent at the same time, encompasses all of these.
As the new exhibition - and the Fruitmarket Gallery's complementary show curated by Francis Morris, I Gave Everything Away - constantly remind us, her work sees the traumas of her life transformed into art; art (whether sculpture or print or installation) that spirals around and around the same themes, the same concerns, the same fractures. "I am still a girl trying to understand myself," she once wrote, and the shadow of her mother and, in particular, her father hung over her for all of her very long life.
Born on Christmas Day in 1911, Bourgeois grew up in France, the daughter of parents Louis and Josephine, who had a gallery in central Paris where they sold restored medieval and renaissance tapestries. Her father dominated the household, humiliated his daughter and betrayed his wife.
"Her father was very macho," says Gorovoy. "He slept around with her friends; he controlled the money." Bourgeois, he believes, always had "unresolved Oedipal issues that were very strong".
Her father's philandering began when her mother was struck down by influenza. She died in 1932 while Bourgeois was at the Sorbonne studying mathematics. Her mother's death prompted her to switch to study art, despite her father's disapproval. She met the American art historian Robert Goldwater in 1938 and left for America the same year.
Bourgeois saw herself as a runaway girl. The couple adopted a child from France in 1940 and then had two of their own. She built a new family in America and yet her earlier life in France continued to be the fuel for her work and her rage. "I don't think the runaway ever forgets the past," says Gorovoy. "For someone who runs away, the past looms very large."
It possibly didn't help that the post-Second World War American art world was so very male, very macho (think of the scale of all those abstract expressionist canvases). Her work, Askew points out, was bought by the Whitney and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but when Gorovoy first met her in the late 1970s she hadn't shown her work publicly for years and was still little known. He became her assistant - and, as he says himself, her "pacifier".
"Louise was one of those people who, when she was anxious, she would attack. She had this formidable intellect but emotionally she was like a baby. She would have trouble negotiating. I would try to calm her down and try to do all the things she couldn't do, wouldn't do."
By the time Gorovoy met her, both Bourgeois's father and her husband were dead. She saw her life as a series of traumas. "Louise was not a happy camper," Gorovoy says. "I think you see that from the tenor of the work. She went through severe depressions. She was suicidal.
"Life was a struggle. Being a woman in the art world was problematic. It was frustrating. She would associate that with patriarchy and her father."
As a result she would often lash out. "She would just go on a smashing rampage. She would go to the studio and smash everything she was working on. She would go after people. She would just say things. It was like Tourette's Syndrome. What would come out of her would be inappropriate, very harmful or nasty. Sometimes she would have these grand fits and everyone would get caught up in this maelstrom and I would just leave the house. The next day she would call and it would be like the storm never happened."
Out of this sturm and drang emerged art that was intensely physical, that conflated male and female, that was obsessed with the body and memory. "The work communicates on such a basic level," says Gorovoy. "It's so human. You don't need to know her biography."
Perhaps it's that emotional power that explains why her work speaks to artists decades younger than her. "When I first saw Louise Bourgeois's work I had no idea of her age and I foolishly presumed she was a similar age to myself and thought, 'Here's an artist I can really get on with'," Tracey Emin tells me. "But even though Louise was five decades older then me, we did have things in common. Just before she died we collaborated on a series of prints titled Do No Abandon Me."
Emin is excited about the upcoming Edinburgh shows. They offer a chance to see how an artist can maintain her voice into old age. In a way, the art on show is an act of recuperation, of mending itself. In one room there is a book Bourgeois made out of recycled clothing, her own and her husband's (you can even see the buttonholes).
That recurring Bourgeois symbol the spider - the mender - is the maternal side of the artist. Her mother was a tapestry weaver after all. "She was amazed by the spider's web," recalls Gorovoy. "Spiders also build a world out of her body, which she felt she did."
There's one untitled work in the exhibition - a glass vitrine with a loom and a multi-breasted figure made out of the berets the artist wore all her life. As she grew older and frailer, her search for a mother figure in her art became more apparent, Gorovoy believes. "By the late 1990s most things, I think, were much more connected with her mother. She never really talked about her father in the last ten years of her life. She talked about him a lot earlier, but I think she resolved the issues with him."
There's a softness to her later work. It's less geometric, less phallic, Askew points out. More maternal. Walking around the exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art, Gorovoy says, is like seeing the last chapter of her story in a way. "It's like you're reading someone's life. Louise always said, 'My work is about my problems. A lot of people might not be interested in my problems.' But the work conveys what it is to love someone, what it is to be rejected by someone, what it is to make amends and want to be forgiven, this range of very basic emotions that we all experience. She's giving visual form to these emotions. That's a remarkable gift."
Louise Bourgeois: A Woman Without Secrets is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art until May 18. Louise Bourgeois: I Give Everything Away is at the Fruitmarket Gallery until February 24