Niki de Saint Phalle was a French-American sculptor, painter, filmmaker, and author of colorful hand-illustrated books. Widely noted as one of the few female monumental sculptors, Saint Phalle was also known for her social commitment and work.
She had a difficult and traumatic childhood and a much-disrupted education, which she wrote about many decades later. After an early marriage and two children, she began creating art in a naïve, experimental style. She first received worldwide attention for angry, violent assemblages which had been shot by firearms. These evolved into Nanas, light-hearted, whimsical, colorful, large-scale sculptures of animals, monsters, and female figures. Her most comprehensive work was the Tarot Garden, a large sculpture garden containing numerous works ranging up to house-sized creations.
Saint Phalle's idiosyncratic style has been called "outsider art"; she had no formal training in art, but associated freely with many other contemporary artists, writers, and composers.