Tuesday Oct 19, 2021

Patricia O‘Donnell: “Of Flies and Spiders - Gradiva and Louise Bourgeois”.

In this episode we come back to deal with Psychoanalysis and Art, through the work of Louise Bourgeois and a small novel very dear to psychoanalysis: "The Gradiva (a Pompeian fantasy)”, written by W. Jensen in 1903.

Patricia O'Donnell presents her paper titled: “Of flies and spiders - Gradiva and Louise Bourgeois" and reports that a particular comment inside the book plus the added role of flies with their multiple meanings in the novel were the triggers for  thinking  about the French artist. 

"Maman", for instance, the gigantic sculpture of a spider in steel and marble, is the paradigm of a theme repeatedly evoked in the writings and works of the artist, who gave these attractive and fearsome creatures a variety of interpretations.

This presentation, which explores and interweaves some biographical information, such as her mourning, the discovery of the difference between the sexes, her writings, her sculpture "Arch of Hysteria”, is an attempt to give us a glimpse into an artistic universe, which expands like a spider's web.

The research into how she constructed the phantasmagoria around the spider constituted a psychoanalytical aesthetic experience with a body of work that invokes a past that travels through time in the face of an unknown future.

Perhaps the spider as an apotropaic and talismanic figure is a defence against the fantasies of death and vulnerability that are so poignant in today's world.


Patricia O'Donnell

Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst. Full Member and Training Analyst of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association (APA). Member of the International Psychoanalytic Association. Coordinator of the APA Culture Commission (2017 - 2020).

Associate Professor at the Department of Mental Health at the Hospital de Clínicas José de San Martín  where she created and directed the Free Expression Workshop (2016 - 2020). She has begun psychoanalytic research into naïve art.

She started her training in Psychoanalysis and Art with Dr. María Cristina Melgar, who together with Dr. Eugenio López de Gomara, were the pioneers, in 1960, of research into psychotic art in Argentina.

She gave lectures and training sessions to the guides for the exhibition: “Louise Bourgeois. The return of the repressed” at the Department of Education in the Proa Foundation (2011).

She has presented papers at national and international conferences; and publications, workshops and lectures on psychoanalytic art research in different academic fields.

She was shortlisted as a finalist for the Lucian Freud Award, 2014 and is Secretary of the Redes Solidarias Foundation.


She is the co-author of the books:

  • “The New. Lucian Freud. A psychoanalytical reflection on the enigma of the body and the world".


  • “Psychoanalysis and Art. From the psychoanalytic method to the encounter with the enigmatic in the visual arts”.
  • “Topica. Literature and Cinema. Encounters with Psychoanalysis: Louise Bourgeois and the Arch of Hysteria”.
  • “Women's Forum: Lee Miller”.


Link to the paper https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GOyFfPvc9VEchdeuEcjSBbWWQu-tJuGP/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=112457875385152358388&rtpof=true&sd=true


This episode is available also in Spanish



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