CODE BLUE: PASS IT ON. Camille and Gwylene
Written by Gwylene Gallimard, Chair from 2011 to February 2014, edited by Lorrie Jayne and Omari Fox, and published in three parts in 2015 Azule Newsletters.
The place was created by Camille Shafer.
AZULE is a work-in-progress, moving from a circle of friends to a sustainable organization. Serving at AZULE as a Chair for three years was a pleasure, an honor and hard work. I always worried about the load-power-charge in my hands and was aware of what I could not bring to Azule. Six months before the end of my term (February 2015) I started to prepare the passing on of what was put in place at Azule, its burgeoning programs, promotions and administration. In March AZULE hired its first staff, Natalie Marsh. In June, we voted in a new structure of two co-chairs, Lynda Wheelock & Ital Al-Amin, and two co-secretaries, Jean-Marie Mauclet and Lorrie Jayne. Today I am an active volunteer Board member of AZULE.
At this junction I want to take the time to add to Azule's archives the stories of the long friendship Camille and I have had since 1967, a friendship between two very different persons with a similar accent. Camille describes herself as a Radical-French-Appalachian-Hillbilly and I do describe myself as a first generation immigrant and artist in the South of the United States.
Our first encounter was in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Camille had her own apartment. There she could organize very lively conversations about art, every Wednesday. I remember myself as a quiet participant, all ears open. All these artists, students, travelers, knew so much more than me. And I sensed I could learn a lot from them. I followed Camille's discoveries of contemporary music, her knowledge of the Middle Ages, their architecture, their guilds. For me, long Board meetings at Azule still evoke the time where conversations are a way to learn and create outside of class. Thanks to a summer job in Quebec, I followed her for a few months when she was offered a teaching position in Havre St Pierre, on the Northern Shore of the Saint Lawrence River. To me she seemed fearless. So I was going to be fearless. Having missed - because of her - my plane back to France, she pushed me to hitchhike over the ocean. And it did work! Ask her for the story, knowing that in the late 60's hitchhiking was part of our education, almost a ritual to become an adult. Travel or die.
Our second strong time together was in the mid-70's. By that time Camille had married Dave Shafer and moved to Madison County, in North Carolina. Bernard Crespin, Olivier Rollin and myself were sharing a studio and living together in Paris at the time. Camille invited us to spend one year in what she called their farm, to live together as an artists' community. This was an amazing opportunity for city people. Tad Stamm, a photographer now living in Asheville, joined us from Toledo, OH. Each of us had an art project. Unfortunately and very sadly we had to leave after nine months, because the extension of our visas was denied. This was at the going away party that Bernard Crespin started the original Portrait Project. See http://azule.org/american-portraits
. Olivier Rollin decided to fully emigrate two years later to work with Dany Reiser in Asheville. And Camille, Dave and myself started an extensive exchange of letters and sound tapes in French and English until we reunited for a month the following year. The experience of this bilingual correspondence made my artwork move from drawings, collages, artists' books, silkscreens to notebooks of questions, sound I works, performances. A couple of years later, I was awarded a two year fellowship in bi-lingual Montreal (Canada) to transform this correspondence into sort of a novel consisting of questions, mixing French and English. Was it really a novel? no. Bernard Noel, a French writer recognized for his work on the meaning of questions, described it as a treatment of words as wood sticks. "Paris-Bluff" tells a lot of the life in Bluff - the Azule community - in the mid-70's, albeit in complex French/English multiform questions. It was never published and is not yet in a digital form. Maybe some day I will find the perfect collaborator and the energy to make it public.
It is an art/business endeavor that brought me back to the region, with Jean-Marie Mauclet: Gaulart & Maliclet French Cafe aka Fast and French. Olivier Rollin was our partner in Asheville. Deemed to fail - how often did we hear that in 1983! - the place in Cary, NC lasted fifteen years and the one in Charleston, SC is now over thirty year strong under the ownership of three former employees. The few first years were very demanding. Cooking, serving, cleaning, promoting, adjusting, paying bills and whatever you may imagine, kept us away from other art endeavors for a few years. We kept close communication with our Appalachian connections though. And at one point Camille proposed me a studio, an outdoor studio, the cove behind the barn. From sweating in a restaurant to breezing in the mountains! Inspired by my last work in Montreal, an installation with speakers, texts and ropes linking the baseboards of a gallery, I started to shoot ropes horizontally from one side of the cove to the other: 5 miles of taut rope, 1/2 a mile of sound wire; pathways and trails, sound stations and markers. I received a lot of local help and brought people from Charleston. After four years of work, in September 1993, "33 Gorenflo Gap, step 1"
served as the public opening for "Azule Visiting Artists Place", a NC non-profit.
From one of the speakers, hanging from a tree under a straw hat, the voice of a guide declaimed the place and its owners: "... Their house is as much a permanent construction site as a storage of odd leftovers and recyclable materials, and an availability of tools and equipment; a creative center for the community. The house is "growing out" of the old log cabin of the last doctor living in Bluff, Dr Kimberley and extends on every side and floor; This includes the digging of an underground floor by the one-handed Camille... All decisions are made for duration... To live (for 10 years now) inside a construction site has developed behaviors related to comfort and basic necessities that are at odds with ideas of social promotion, but that are also bringing back memories of our youth... "
The voice then described some specifics related to the ropes, speakers and the temporary park that was created, adding: "The cohabitation of both sites (the houses and the park) show the evidence of the emptiness of the cove (mapped by the ropes and bleeding in the forest) compared to the fullness of the house (growing from a nucleus): a huge contrast of attitudes and nevertheless a ground for peace, therefore a ground for socio-cultural exchanges as well as various ways of learning."
A lot has been accomplished since the early 90's when the rope project thrived "to bring the sky down, to anchor our feet, not to grow more vertically but to move more horizontally,"
while the house could be seen "as a plant pushing the ground further down and the roof higher."
The permanence of the building "AZULE the place" and that of my memories did nourish my work as the Chair of AZULE. I look forward to seeing AZULE's mission inspire new experiences and steady growth, thanks to a fresh slate of officers and the Board Members who do so much work. And thanks to you, our readers, followers, enthusiasts of Azule, "azulamours", you who have spent some time there. Go AZULE, Go. Support AZULE, Support, Participate, Propose.
PS: The public opening of "33 Gorenflo Gap - the park"
was funded in part by the SC Arts Commission.
AZULE IMAGINE... is a film by Bailey Barash azule.org