It's my destiny to make a place where people can come and be happy: a garden of joy.
-Niki de Saint Phalle
Niki de Saint-Phalle taught herself painting and rose to artistic prominence through her colorful monumental outdoor sculptures of extravagantly voluptuous female figures. Early in her career, she became known for the abstract paintings she made by placing paint-filled bags above canvases and shooting them—a form of protest against patriarchy and rigidity. Through her “nanas”, a series of life-size papier maché dolls of the proverbial “everywoman”—including brides and mothers giving birth—de Saint-Phalle contemplated women’s societal roles. Later, inspired by Antoni Gaudí´s Parc Güell in Barcelona, she set out to create something equally impressive but made by a woman; the result was Il Giardino dei Tarocchi (The Tarot Garden), a garden filled with colorful sculptures based on Tarot card symbols, which she created over 20 years on land she acquired in Tuscany.
Niki de Saint Phalle's biggest project was the "Tarot Garden" she began to work on in Tuscany in 1979. This garden stretches over an entire landscape and has accessible Nanas. In 1988 Niki de Saint Phalle designed the world-famous "Stravinsky Fountain" at the "Centre Georges Pompidou" together with Tinguely. From the 1950s Niki de Saint Phalle has shown her work at numerous international exhibitions and became known as the artist who introduced the determinant theme of the female life principle to art history. In 1994 Niki de Saint Phalle moved to California on her doctor's advice to benefit from the mild climate. There she worked on her last large series of works, a playful homage to Tinguely's movable sculptures, the "Exploding Pictures".