1959 Bruce Conner Born: McPherson, Kansas 1933 Died: San Francisco, California 2008 mixed media: nylon stockings, collage, cardboard 65 3/4 x 48 3/4 x 4 1/4 in. (167.0 x 123.8 x 10.7 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Edith S. and Arthur J. Levin 2005.5.12 Not currently on view
In Conner's Arachne, hushed-up stories, violence, and decay seem to lurk beneath the suffocating webs of nylon. This assemblage of found objects reflects the junk art, funk art, and beat culture of northern California in the 1950s. Like other artists and writers in his crowd, Conner was willing to dig around in the seamy corners of America's sunny and hygienic culture.
But Arachne only hints at, instead of narrating, unpleasant doings. The artist explained that "a rewarding experience for me is [a story] where you are not told what to think and what to do. Otherwise, that's what you get in jail. That's what you get with government." The title of this work refers to the proud girl who wove stories of the gods' misbehavior into her cloth, boasting that she could outperform Athena, goddess of spinners and weavers. Out of spite, Athena transformed Arachne into a spider, condemned to weave webs in the darkness until the end of time.
Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006
Animal - insect - spider
Mythology - classical - Arachne
Object - other - sewing tool