Once again, Women Leaning, the four quirky wood figures with pencil-drawn hands, finely sanded pompadour hairstyles and solemn plaster faces, gracefully hug the wall on the 7th floor of Harold Washington Library Center. The wood and paint glistens anew and the plaster faces are unblemished. This important sculpture by Marisol had been undergoing restoration at the Chicago Conservation Center since April.
Born in France to Venezuelan parents, Marisol Escobar (1930-2016) is popularly known by only her first name.
Created over the course of 1965-1966, Women Leaning, like much of Marisol's best-known sculptural work, is an assemblage of plaster casts, wooden blocks, woodcarving, drawings and paint. The mask faces for each figure were cast from the artist's own face. When asked about this, Marisol noted, "Whatever the artist makes is always kind of a self-portrait." Artists, after all, are part of the contemporary culture that inspire them.
The work's unique combination of materials made it an ideal teaching example, so Women Leaning made a brief appearance at the Chicago Conservation Center's EXPO Chicago 2017 booth at Navy Pier before returning to its home pedestal at Chicago Public Library. Specialized art handlers Sam, Alfredo and Ray transported and carefully reinstalled the piece.
Women Leaning was donated to CPL in 1972 by Edward H. Weiss, who worked as an artist and collector after retiring from his Chicago advertising agency.
Next time you're here, take a look at Women Leaning and the other permanent artwork on display throughout Harold Washington Library Center. A checklist of works, organized by floor, is available in the lobby.