One of the joys of our travel in France is meeting and connecting with the people of that great country. In Andlau, visiting the church Eglise Saint Pierre et Saint Paul, we saw a small studio with some interesting looking metal sculptures. Closed for lunch, we assumed, we went to the church and shot for a couple of hours. Afterward, while shooting the exterior, I noticed a group of three people leaving the studio. It turned out that they were the owners; Valérie Christmann and Patrick Chemin, with their daughter Zoélie, and they were willing to show us their studio. Inside, PJ and I found an entire world of fanciful and striking sculpture.
With Valérie as the artist and Patrick the builder, they team to create powerful images. In the main display gallery there was an exhibit of “The Deep”, “La Profondeur“. Using found objects, these large metal sculptures of a great toothed fish and storm-tossed boat with an angel overhead dominate the small gallery.
The fish has an array of arcane mechanical devices that operate the fins. With the great spiked teeth, these gears give the impression of a feeding machine preying on the creatures of an under-world.
PJ and I were totally captivated by the art, and even more so by Valérie, Patrick and Zoélie themselves. They were kind enough to show us around their studio and their work areas, and to explain how and why they create their remarkable sculptures. Since the studio faces on the great Andlau church of Saints Peter and Paul, the church Curé was at first very concerned that the work harmonize with the church. After seeing what they produced, he has supported their work ever since.
We asked about the possibility of purchasing some of the work and Valérie shyly said that she has not been able to sell yet. She has image of the work as being part of the space in which they live and work, and her impetus is to create for that world, and not to sell to someone else. This completely refreshing attitude coupled with their charming, open personalities made a striking impression on both PJ and myself.
We think of Valérie, Patrick and Zoélie as friends we have made in our travels, and spirits we admire in our special world of France Romanesque. So, to you, our friends in Andlau, salut!