Rio Grande Sun 2014Santa Fean article 2013



Article by Samantha Deman for released on 11/25,2010


Clôdie François: Conveyor of Light in a New World

Her house overlooks an endless horizon, and just below it is the Arroyo Seco, a dry creek bed whose stones still sing the buried song of the water, audible to those who know how to listen to the silences of the wind. The waif-like figure of Clôdie François follows the meandering paths engraved among the boulders, patiently gathering the willow branches, destined to rig the fine textiles of her lanterns, like the sails of ships woven in far-away places: Nepal, Thailand … Into them she will breathe a kind of clarity, like a haiku that dissolves the shadows and brings what was lost in them into the most intimate light. This diffuse light will suggest the fleeting but potent impressions of a land of vivid life, with the gold of poplar leaves rustling in autumn and the motionless flight of an eagle, a land revealed to us through the inspired art of Clôdie François, capturing the forgotten gleams of a place where the heart of the Earth-Mother is always beating.
Their gracious curves and gentle forms recall the gestures and poses of a traditional Indian dancer. Whether they serve to shape the bold outlines of an insolent chest of drawers, a seductive chair, or a fairie-like lamp, her creations vibrate with a subtle and playful elegance.
This self-taught artist finds her inspiration in the powerful, sovereign nature that surrounds her: the immense and enthralling spaces of New Mexico. It was here, in this place of history and legend in the heart of the American Southwest, that she decided to settle with her family a decade ago. It was preceeded by a kind of quest for her soul, during which she was involved with music, theater (a passion which remains as strong as ever), writing, and journalism. She describes her decision as the outcome of “a story of love, of friendship, and of falling in love with the Land of Enchantment and its tricultural roots (Indian, Hispanic, Anglo). It was here that I found a sort of fragment of the country of childhood. In spite of its political and economic barrenness, I found a sense of freedom, less confined than in France.”
And it was here, in “a quest to express the grandiose beauty of the places, light, and colors at almost 10,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo mountains,” that she happened to remember the window of a tiny boutique in Paris that displayed cardboard furniture. She contacted Eric Guiomar, creator of the concept in France. “He was enthusiastic about training someone across the Atlantic in his field, and generously initiated me by long-distance in the techniques of cardboard furniture.”
While mastering the techniques of this strange esthetic adventure, Clôdie François learned to reproduce the creations of her French colleague, and then began to “transform them, little by little.” Finally her own imagination and feeling began to take over. “Playful by nature, I love to experiment with forms and colors. Today, I especially strive to go beyond mere function and utility, in a search for more ‘gratuitous’ forms.”
She is never without a little notebook for her sketches and drawings. “I scribble in it while walking, or even in bed at night, when awakened by an idea or an image.” After this, several stages follow in the process of realization. “After the design is complete, I actually make the piece of cardboard furniture myself. In fact, it wouldn’t interest me to do otherwise.” The original sketch is drawn to scale on a cardboard sheet, which serves as “a sort of pattern.” Then she uses a power-saw to cut out the forms in several copies, according to the thickness of the furniture. These shapes are then “sort of woven together, using braces,” so as to fill out the volume and structure. A new layer of cardboard is added before the colors are applied, using various pigments, of lively, warm, or cool hues, decorated with leaves of hand-made paper from all over the world, especially Asia.
Her preference for the changeable and flexible material of cardboard has its source in childhood memories, when she was fascinated by public junkyards. “In those open-air cemetaries, all the abandoned, broken, dirty objects seemed to hold a secret story. I like to think that my creations are laden with such fragments of memory.” In fact, she only employs used cardboard, typically scavenged at large discount stores. Though she has now begun to work with wood, it is also scavenged. Thus she combines the rigidity of one found material with the flexibility of the other. She likes to mix hybrid materials, “to watch how they confront each other.” Nevertheless, she retains a special love for cardboard, “which has almost become a metaphor for my own slight frame, and the seeming fragility that it conveys. But it can become extremely strong when you work with it — like an invitation to work on my own inner strength.”
In her creations, Clôdie François succeeds in her avowed goal: “an alchemy between the light and colors of this part of the world and my own story, my personality. I try to live in phase with places which powerfully evoke the image of the Earth-Mother in desert spaces, her entrails exposed to the sky. In these landscapes of primal chaos, we are compelled to experience the fleeting fragility of our existence, and the feeling of being only passers-by. The very material of cardboard favors creations that can express the lightness of being, and the imagination and flexibility necessary for life in such an environment, where extremes marry. And also, it’s a form of mockery of obsessive consumerism.”

Traduction Joseph Rowe

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