Friday, January 06, 2006

Great day, sad story

What a fabulous day this was. We took Maggie to the Detroit Institute of Arts for the first time (her first time, I have been there 90 million times and Paul about half that) so we could check out the exhibit they have going about Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin. The museum is in large part closed because of major renovations, so it's hard to find my way around, but it's the same imposing, beautiful place. I am not at all a talented artist and have only taken a few art history classes, but being at the DIA feeds my soul more than just about anywhere except for Gesu Church. The hidden messages in the Diego Rivera murals juxtaposed with the suits of armor in the Great Hall, the echo of my footsteps in the marble lobby, the light filled Kresge Court and the many nooks and crannies and hidden areas that make you feel as if you've discovered the magic wardrobe are the backdrops for some of my best memories as a child, my best dates in my single days, and now a happy afternoon with my husband and little girl.
Maggie, of course, was an angel but loud. She is enormously fond of her own voice and used it all through the exhibit. Not wanting to be one of "those" parents, Paul and I kept trying to shush her and finally he brought her out. She did charm everyone, smiling and goofing and being clearly impressed with herself for riding in the disgusting umbrella stroller we borrowed from the museum. We ate in the cafe there after the exhibit because we wanted to hang around for their Friday night activities and she ate an amazing amount of food and loved sitting at the table. She's really such a joy and a treasure, annd I feel so grateful to be her mother.

The exhibit itself was fascinating. Camille Claudel was the 17-year-old student of the 40-ish Rodin. Their art shows the passion they felt for each other and for what they were creating. Her story really saddened me, though. Sidetracked by mental illness, she lost much of her inspiration and faded away, spending the last 30 years of her life institutionalized. Meanwhile, Rodin married the mistress he was with for much of his life and died one of the most celebrated sculptors of his day. What must it have been like to be her? What must it have been like to be such a beautiful, brilliant, physically strong (she carved her own marble) woman at a time only the first was valued? And have things gotten so much better for us today?

The last photo of her in the exhibit is one taken by her dear old friend, with whom she shared a studio in Claudel's first days as an artist. Her agd, poignantly sad face started out defeatedly at the camera. It just hit me so strongly, to see this proudfoundly sad woman sitting alone in the garden of the institution. Her face spoke of such loss and loneliness and sorrow, so much hard life after the most creative and intense decade had passed. I wondered if anyone had been kind to her or if she'd driven away everyone who tried. I was also struck by a quote emblazoned on the wall, from her art dealer. "He never loved anyone but you, Camille." How sad, that at the end of her life the only person who could offer her that which she most craved was someone who relied on her for his livelihood.
I wondered too if the visit from her fellow sculptpr brought her joy or sorrow. Was it a comfort to know she was remembered and sought out by someone who'd meant a great deal to her at an exhilarating time in her life? Or was the reminder painful, that she'd been passed over by the world at large and those golden days were so far away?

It's occured to me recently that some of the battles I still find myself fighting happened a long time ago. I'm trying harder to live in the present and experience my life now, as it happens. That's one of the reasons for this blog, actually. Camille Claudel's story moved me so deeply because of that. What do you do when the muse has passed?


Moxie said...

I have to run off to pick-up at preschool, but, dude, why didn't you mention you were blogging again?

I'm going to be thinking about Camille Claudel for the next few hours, and maybe I'll have some coherent thoughts later on. Here's one--How did the Claudel/Rodin relationship differ from the Rivera/Kahlo one?

misschrisc said...

Amy I just found your blog through Em's blog. A fellow musuem buff here. I can't wait to take baby S to a few of my favorite haunts. We're spoiled here in France with great art places, but unfortunately we don't have a lot of fabulous modern art musuems, something I really miss about the States.

I don't know much about the life of Camille Claudel but you've piqued my curiosity. Interesting story.