Known best for her exuberant, often large-scale sculptural works that celebrate the abundance and complexity of female desire, imagination, and creativity, Niki de Saint Phalle viewed making art as a ritual and a performance—a process connecting life to art. This unconventional, illuminated biography, told in the first person in Saint Phalle’s voice and her own hand, dilates large and small moments in Saint Phalle’s remarkable life as an artist who pointedly challenged taboos.
In a kind of collaboration with the artist, Nicole Rudick has assembled a gorgeous and detailed mosaic of Saint Phalle’s visual and textual works from a trove of paintings, drawings, sketches, and writings, many rare or previously unpublished. These confessions, declarations, meditations, and musings trace the most intimate contours of Saint Phalle’s life. In some works, Saint Phalle articulates herself with startling candor and self-examination; in others, she carefully and slowly unwinds her secrets as she herself wrestles with them. Throughout, her agency in telling her own story is paramount.
What Is Now Known Was Once Only Imagined is an erudite, insightful, and generous construction of Niki de Saint Phalle’s life that, despite the recognizability of her work, has remained mostly obscured, until now.
Nicole Rudick is a critic and an editor. Her writing on art, literature and comics has been published in the New York Review of Books, the New York Times, the New Yorker, Artforum and elsewhere. She was managing editor of the Paris Review for nearly a decade. She is the editor, most recently, of a new edition of Gary Panter’s legendary comic Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise (New York Review Comics, 2021).
Published by Siglio Press, 2022.