“Les CAMACois” (October)

CONTINUED FROM “Les CAMACois” (September)

 

 

Lucky for us, it was only a few short days until a whole new group of amazing artists arrived at the CAMAC ‘compound’ – the October crew…

 

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This group was a bit smaller, and the days were generally more quiet as the Autumn chill set in. As you may have noticed, the September crew primarily consisted of American artists (6 out of 9), but the October crew was decidedly more diverse. With artists from Peru, Chile, Slovenia, Iceland, Algeria, and the States, our time together was characterized by intense conversations about culture, politics, language, and art. These conversations were rich and illuminating, and one of the things I cherish most about how this lovely group of people came together…

 

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Photo by Jón Özur Snorrason

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Photo by Jón Özur Snorrason

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Photo by Jón Özur Snorrason

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Photo by Jón Özur Snorrason

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Photo by Raquel Esquives

The first of the ‘new arrivals’ that I met was Christiane Pooley, a striking young painter originally from Chile who splits her year between there and Paris. She speaks three languages – Spanish, French, and English – and was kind to act as one of my informal French tutors for the new month. She is friendly, and bright, and has a sweetly mischievous smile …

 

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Photo by Jón Özur Snorrason

I love that Christiane protects her clothing with an old bathrobe while painting.  This makes a lot of sense to me as it covers much more than the average apron or smock!

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Christiane’s paintings are beautiful, surreal works of broad brush strokes and gorgeous color (be sure to take a look at her website). They make me think of photographs – or rather, memories of photographs. While at CAMAC, I was impressed with Christiane’s desire to further develop her skills and artistic practice by working on both finished paintings as well as small exercises and studies that focused on exploring the true parameters of perception and seeing…

Paintings in progress, almost finished…

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Some of Christiane’s studies and exercises…

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Her studio space…

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Jón Özur Snorrason is an Icelandic writer who loves the “Pink Panther” movies, and makes some of the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted (we were lucky enough to benefit from his culinary skills almost every weekend – what a sweet guy, that Chef Jón!)…

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Photo by Raquel Esquives

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Jón put us to work in his kitchen many times, mostly rolling out dough for the naan / roti (Indian flatbread)…

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Photo by Maja Pegan

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Photo by Jón Özur Snorrason

In Iceland Jón works as a teacher, and helps run an artist residency called Gullkistan with his wife and another couple. (Several of us “CAMACois” have already discussed the possibility of a reunion at their residency someday in the future – I wonder how many jackets Raquel would pack for ICELAND!?) Unfortunately, since Jón writes in Icelandic, I don’t know much about his work. I did get to hear a few pieces that had been translated to English during a little group tour of each other’s studios, and they were lovely…

 

At Jón’s request, Laurie read his work aloud to the group…

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Jón in his writing studio…

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The other writer in our group was Noria Adel from Algeria – a poet and playwright. She arrived to CAMAC a bit late, which meant I had only about three weeks with her before leaving at the end of the month. Noria speaks Arabic, English, and French, of course (yay! another French tutor!), and she spent several years living in Damascus, Syria. She recently returned to Algeria because of the conflict in Syria, and that has clearly been a difficult experience. Her eyes light up when she speaks about Damascus, and as someone who has always been searching for a Home myself, my heart goes out to her – she had no other choice but to leave hers. She has a quiet and gentle manner, but this does not belie her incredible strength, integrity, and grace…

 

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Noria is very disciplined, and spent most of her time working on her play in the computer lab, even for several hours after dinner most nights. (I admire her for this, as it is nearly impossible for me to get work done after dinner – once the sun has gone down and I’ve got a full belly, there’s just no hope for productivity). Noria writes in French, so unfortunately I’m not able to read much of her work. However, as with Jón, I heard a few translated poems during our ‘studio tour,’ and enjoyed them very much – strikingly honest and full of beautiful imagery… just gorgeous. You can read some of her poems in English here

 

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Photo by Jón Özur Snorrason

That leaves me with one more artist to tell you about – my fellow American, paper artist Laurie Krasny Brown. Laurie grew up in New York City, and now splits her year between Manhattan and Martha’s Vineyard. She has an interesting history in childhood education, as well as writing / illustrating children’s picture books (including a sadly-out-of-print book titled “The Vegetable Show” which tells the story of a vaudeville show starring… who else?… vegetables! YES! This sounds like my kind of book). She is married to Marc Brown, author and illustrator of the widely-known “Arthur” children’s book series (which, because I’m also a preschool teacher, excited me a bit more than it should have).

She’s a petite woman, with a uniquely adorable sense of style, highlighted by her signature pigtail braids. She is intelligent, extremely curious and inquisitive, and has a particular talent for asking poignant questions that make you think long and hard about your answer. There’s a calmness to her that I appreciate very much, but also a playfulness that can’t be missed. She’s got THE BEST laugh that will make you smile immediately, whether you know why she’s laughing or not. When I think of Laurie, I think of that laughter – deep, hearty, and full…

 

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Photo by Jón Özur Snorrason

 

Laurie’s work is fantastic – made almost entirely from various painted papers, she creates objects that explore the concepts of play and imagination, particularly through the lens of childhood board games and toys (a likely topic, given her background in childhood education and children’s books). Be sure to check out her great website

 

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While at CAMAC, Laurie was very inspired by the town of Marnay-sur-Seine, which she clearly adored. Throughout the month, she created her own little village on her studio tabletop, complete with interpretations of Marnay’s bridge, rows of neatly planted trees, and my personal favorite, the adorable shuttered windows that dot the houses of the town…

 

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As the month went on, the village scene evolved…

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Some of my MOST favorite details – the shuttered windows! (You can see how these appeal to my love of doll houses and everything miniature)…

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The way Laurie keeps her studio and materials organized is a work of art in and of itself. Those of you who know me well, will immediately understand why I appreciated this so much…

 

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And with that, you’ve been introduced to all of the “CAMACois!” Well…. except of course, the furry “CAMACois” friends – this post would certainly not be complete without them! I’ll start with our most ever-present friend, the cat-in-residence, Frida (after Frida Kahlo, naturally)…

I met Frida on my way to make breakfast the first morning after my arrival. This was a bit of a surprise because I’d arrived early in the afternoon the day before – after close to 24 hours there, I had no idea that a cat lived on the property at all. But as I walked into the main building, there she was – sitting right smack in the middle of our enormous dining room table, looking like she owned the place (let’s face it, she DOES), and greeting me with many hearty meows. We became fast friends after that (but of course, as I mentioned, her heart truly belonged to Maja)…

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Frida’s favorite spot to nap…

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…and when Maja had to get up, Frida went to “daycare,” as we called it…

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Photo by Maja Pegan

And then there was our canine friend, Tibo! Tibo belonged to the Director of CAMAC and came to work with him most days. He is an incredibly sweet little guy (well, BIG guy actually), and is intensely loyal to his master. With that said, he’s a bit mischievous, and listening is not exactly his strong point. He barks incessantly, and was known to run off into the village for hours at a time, to the Director’s chagrin. My favorite time with Tibo was spent playing ‘soccer’ in the grassy courtyard with one of his toy balls – he would chase you and try to snap the ball out from under your feet. There’s just something about watching a dog play that is so much fun – the unadulterated joy is infectious…

 

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Lastly, there was… ummm… The Rabbit. Allow me to explain: It was purchased by a former artist-in-residence who also worked at CAMAC for a few months after her residency period was over. Nobody seemed to remember what she had named him / her, but we were told not to be surprised if we happened upon it in the bike shed. It was an absolutely ENORMOUS thing (for a rabbit), and stayed mostly out of sight – that made it all the more exciting when you were lucky enough to have a sighting…

 

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And of course, last but not least, I must mention our fearless administrative leaders – Director Jean-Yves and Assistant Director Karine…

 

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Photo by Raquel Esquives

 

These two have been working together for years, and we joked that if the “CAMACois” were the children of CAMAC, Jean-Yves and Karine were the parents. Just as children learn which parent to approach depending on the nature of the request, we learned there was a similar system with Jean-Yves and Karine. Want extra bottles of wine with dinner? Asking Karine probably won’t get you very far, but if you ask Jean-Yves when he’s in the right mood, you’ll be successful. The heating in your room isn’t working? Karine is the gal for that job. And so it goes… Yes, it may have been a bit manipulative on our part, but no matter. Indeed, I think their ability to compliment each other in this way signifies an excellent working partnership! (tee hee)…

 

Maja with Karine and Jean-Yves…

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And so, with all the ‘introductions’ complete, I’ll leave it there for now – I hope you enjoyed reading about all of these amazing artists and their wonderful work.  Next up, a post about our out-of-town excursions – that’s right, folks, it’s FIELD TRIP time!  We’ll take a look at the other “sur-Seine” villages nearby, the cities of Troyes and Provins, and… get ready for it… footage from an absolutely ridiculous Medieval / Lord-of-the-Rings-esque show that, for better or worse, a few of us had the great privilege to attend. Oh yeah, man – good stuff…. Á trés bientôt!

 

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