Sunday, February 17, 2008

Emerging from the Shadows

Left, Camille Claudel and friends in their studio
Right, Old Man with Boy, by Marietta

Emerging from the Shadows is the title of the class I taught this weekend for PSU. I realized as I was putting the final touches on this class that the stories of the two artists I'd chosen for this one -credit class were very somber. I've taught several one credit classes which covered two women artists each. Most of the stories carried much joy, as well as struggle.

This weekend's class dealt with two talented artists whose work and lives were overshadowed by a male artist. In the case of Marietta Robusti, the daughter of famous Renaissance painter, Tintoretto, most of her work was absorbed into her father's body of work.

Marietta was known in her time to be a highly talented and skilled portrait painter whose work was as polished as her father's. Marietta was the oldest of 8 children. When she was a child, her father dressed her in boy's clothes so that she could go with him around their city of Venice and visit painting studios. Later, Marietta and her brothers, Domenico and Marco, painted in their father's workshop. Their contributions were then signed by Tintoretto. Because of her own work, Marietta was invited to go to the court of the King of Spain as a court painter, an honored position. Tintoretto was reportedly too attached to his daughter to see her go, and also he likely needed her to assist him. She was married in her late twenties. Her husband had to move in with her family so that Marietta wouldn't leave home. She died in childbirth at 30. Marietta has been seen as a victim of her father's need for her talent. What were her real feelings? Did she want to go to Spain? Did she want to stay home in Venice? These and many other questions were debated in class this weekend.

We also grew to know Camille Claudel, the great 19th century sculptor whose career started brilliantly, but ended when Camille was committed to an asylum for "madness." (If you google the Rodin Museum in Paris, you'll be able to see many of Camille's works and read her biography.) As some of you may know from seeing the 1986 movie about Camille Claudel, her story is very sad indeed. The positive note is that Camille's work was "rediscovered" in the early 1980's after many years of obscurity. Her work and life had been overshadowed by that of the famous sculptor, Auguste Rodin. Now she has emerged in her own right, as her sculptures emerged from blocks of marble. We can see her and Marietta and honor and be inspired by them.

Students of this class were inspired to create the projects you see here--these are just a few.

For the last month, I have been extremely busy. I've taught several classes and workshops, worked in my therapy practice, hung a show that will open the First Thursday of March, made an encaustic diptych, etc, etc.

I love teaching, and the other things I do as part of The Art of Your Life. Now it is time for me to emerge from the shadows. I love inspiring others but I realize I have to have a balance with time for me to have artist's dates with myself and just let ideas percolate. March will be my month for that, I've decided. I have one workshop scheduled so I won't go through teaching withdrawal, and for the rest of Winter Term have my wonderful "Women, Creativity, and Healing" class at PSU. This lighter schedule will allow me to return to the studio to face any temporary creative blocks I've developed. One of the wisest quotations I know about creative blocks is that, "You are not blocked, but empty." It's time to add to the balance in my creative savings account. Time to go out and look at art, nature, get out of town, visit friends' studios, and if necessary, do the "ugly" work that sometimes has to come out before the good stuff starts.

Another quotation I like is "Art is all about starting over." There's a rhythm to inspiration and withdrawal from creating. For me it's like the changing of the seasons. As spring approaches, (yes it does, really) I approach a creative renewal. My commitment to myself and my students is to honor and nurture my own artistic process and theirs.


Dot Hearn said...

I enjoy seeing the various inspired works that students produce from your classes and workshops. Those are inspiration to others, as well.

I also really like the quote about "being empty." It is, indeed, a reminder that all of us need to take time to 'fuel up' now and then.

Keep up the good work and you deserve a time out! Good luck in your explorations and renewal.

gl. said...

i love these! i love imagining how the students created them and what the art meant to them.

i also like the "You are not blocked, but empty." quotes. do you know who said it? the artist's way talks about art being an in/out flow, and that blocks can happen when we are out of balance. i hope you have a great break!