Jennifer Krasinski at Bookforum:
A romantic, and a terrific beauty to boot, Saint Phalle loved love, and men were some of her most potent muses. Elemental to her story is Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely, who was, over the course of three decades, her lover, her collaborator, her traitor, her ex-lover, and her husband, while remaining throughout her creative interlocutor. “Niki,” she recalled him telling her, “the dream is everything, technique is nothing—you can learn it.” She credited Tinguely for pushing her to realize in the early ’60s her “Tirs” (Shooting Paintings), a series of reliefs made of paint and foodstuffs secreted beneath a plaster surface, works that she would then execute, literally and metaphorically, with a gun. “It was an amazing feeling shooting at a painting and watching it transform itself into a new being,” she wrote of these firebrand performances that brought her to international attention. “It was not only EXCITING and SEXY, but TRAGIC—as though one were witnessing birth and a death at the same moment,” she added, perhaps hearkening back to her own origin story. In the wake of the “Tirs” came the “Nanas,” for which Saint Phalle is best known: enormous, luscious, multicolored sculptures embodying feminine archetypes.