Oh, tell me Camille, where does it all begin?

January 3rd, 2010

Everything is beautiful, all that matters
is to be able to interpret.

Camille Pissaro

God takes care of imbeciles, little children and artists.
Camille Pissaro

Why does one become an artist? What is the fascination with light and shadow and form? Why do we seek new answers to old questions? Why are some of us born with an unquenchable need to create?
On July 10, 1830, Camille Pissarro was born on the island of St. Thomas in the town with the charming name of "Charlotte Amalie." On December 29, 2009, I found myself there having fled the blizzards of New England enroute to a teaching assignment on St. John.
Lucky me!
I'm quite sure the city of Pissarro's childhood was vastly different from contemporary Charlotte Amalie. Today shops glitter with elegant gold, jewelry and trinkets, enticing tourists on the same narrow streets where he grew up in what was a bustling trade town. Cruise ships have replaced merchants ships which used to ply the waters with goods for the new world.

We searched (and searched, and searched) for his house which is (briefly) mentioned in guide books. It was hard to find. No one seemed

to have a clue where this artist had lived and worked. Finally, after being drenched in a tropical deluge, we found it, though there wasn't much to see, and the gallery which is now housed upstairs was closed.
At least I was able to walk on the steps where his tiny toddler and adolescent feet had trod, where I'm sure his frustrated father berated him for spending so much time drawing when he should have been doing his duties in the store…

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

2 Responses to “Oh, tell me Camille, where does it all begin?”

  1. Scott says:

    I really like that Pissaro painting. My favorite answer to your introductory questions is the one Martha Graham espoused: "There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is
    translated through you into action, and because there is only one of
    you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it
    will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The
    world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good
    it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It
    is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the
    channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
    You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate
    you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no
    satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine
    dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us
    more alive than the others." That passage always sends shivers up my spine.

  2. Liza Myers says:

    Thanks so much Scott! I hadn't seen that Graham quote before. It's sort of an absolution for artists.

Leave a Reply