Although Niki de Saint Phalle is really known for her Nana works, they just aren't my cup of tea.  However, I love love love her more performance based work from the sixties.  My favorite work by far is Saint Sebastien or Portrait of My Lover (1961).  A target sitting in place of a head above a man's dress shirt and tie?  Genius.  Such a poignant statement on the fine line between love and hate, and the messy feelings that get tied up in messy relationships.
I made a portrait of my lover, a man's shirt glued on to a piece of white board, with a dart board for its head. I was actually very angry with a boyfriend I had and I enjoyed throwing darts at his image.  

... When I saw it hanging in the show I was fascinated to see the spectators throwing darts at the construction; and the idea of audience participation attracted me. So I started thinking up a new way of getting the audience to play with the work, and to be involved with the work.  

I had the idea of putting some bottles of paint behind a plaster form, these would be fired on with a gun and the paint released; the idea of destruction being one of construction (Niki de Saint Phalle, unpublished text 1987).
Also intriguing are Niki de Saint Phalle's "shooting" paintings which the artist used to take out all of her frustrations with this world (especially men, however not limited to them).  Sometimes shooting at a monstrously painted human figure, other times at an elaborately arranged assemblage with strategically placed paint cans, Niki says of this work:
I shot at daddy, all men, small men, large men, important men, fat men, men, my brother, society, the Church, the convent, the school, my family, my mother, all men, daddy, myself, men. I shot because it was fun and gave me a great feeling. I shot because I was fascinated to see the painting bleed and die. I shot for the sake of this magical moment (Kempel, Ulrich: The Political Universe in the Art of Niki de Saint Phalle).
This is art as therapy at its best.


  1. I am an art historian and enjoyed reading this entry. Could you tell me where you found Niki's unpublished text from 1987? Thank you very much!