This fascinating biography of free-wheeling French-born sculptor Louise Bourgeois, who is still going strong at 91, is the perfect way to get youngsters interested in art. Bourgeois, whose work is exhibited in galleries around the world, broke new ground for women in the field of art. Runaway Girl is a fitting tribute to her indomitable spirit and skill as a sculptor.

The authors are not content to present the mere facts of a life, accompanied by signature works. They delve avidly into the whys behind the whats, and the result, in this instance, is a narrative as vivid as a novel. Born to a family in the business of restoring medieval tapestries, the young Louise enjoyed her first taste of an artist's power while wielding a needle to reweave worn fabric, and redrawing legs and feet, the first features to go in panels dragged across floors for centuries. Raised in an unsettled household her dashing father appropriated her 18-year-old British governess as his mistress she would later use the events of her past to enrich her art.

Louise's mother advised her daughter that, to find success in life, "All you have to do is make yourself indispensable." Bourgeois did her best, attending art school against her father's wishes, moving to New York with her art-critic husband, and working in obscurity for years as Abstract Expressionism ruled the international art scene. It wasn't until the late '60s, during the resurgence of feminism, that she began to attract some long-overdue attention. Instead of bemoaning her unheralded years, Bourgeois looks upon them as a stroke of luck: "I was left to work by myself. I did not consider I was ignored. I considered that I was being blessed by privacy." To this day, she retains an enchanting humility ("As an artist I am a powerful person. In real life, I feel like the mouse behind the radiator.") and the eternally fresh outlook of a child.

The authors include passages from Bourgeois' journals, family photos and images of her work. Beyond a riveting life story, Runaway Girl is a copiously illustrated volume that provides a blueprint for aspiring artists of all ages.



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