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Arnhem, 1927 – Baarlo, 1969

Ferdi, born Ferdina Jansen,  left for Paris in 1951, where she trained with sculptor Zadkine. There, she also met Cobra member Shinkichi Tajiri, who taught her how to weld.

Ferdi made jewellery and compositions from welded iron, a material that was quite unusual at the time. Cobra initially inspired her welded objects, but soon the structures were derived from insects, which she was fascinated by.

After a trip to Mexico in 1965, Ferdi started making monumental flowers and ‘hortisculptures’. These were built around a wire mesh, which was covered with foam plastic and then finished with synthetic fur. The works received mixed reviews. According to some, they crossed a line between ‘high’ art and crafts. Ferdi did not feel as if she had a lower status as a woman. She therefore did not call herself a feminist. Yet her work is associated with the struggle in the 1960s for more sexual equality and freedom for women

Ferdi led a “triple life” in which she simultaneously fulfilled the roles of mother, wife and artist. For some people in the art world, however, it was difficult to see beyond her womanhood. In reviews, she was characterised in the first place as a mother and a woman, dressed in patent-leather boots and blond wigs, rather than that these reviews offered a deeper analysis of her artistic practice. Yet, thanks in part to a 1955 documentary made by Tajiri, Ferdi was able to garner acclaim for her innovative work. Her career came to an unexpected end with her untimely death.

Ferdi, Mothers invention

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