From Trombones to Dreams:
The Unconventional Art Journey of Marie Maitre
Can you tell us about your childhood experiences that led you to find solace in art? How did art help you overcome the challenges you faced?
I was essentially rejected by my mother, and I was often alone. She said I was crazy. I slept in the living room while my other sisters slept in a bedroom. My mother was harsh with me. She hid food so that I couldn't eat, she cut off the hot water in the shower when I was about to wash myself, and there were physical and emotional abuses.
I felt good only when I was creating. When I was young, I would create with whatever I found. I would take white sheets and embroider them. I would invent various creations using whatever was close to me.
When my hands were occupied, so was my mind. I saw nothing but my creation, and it changed my mindset. I escaped during the time of my creation. I believe, and I am certain, that the act of creating saved my life.
What inspired you to start creating sculptures using paper clips, and how did you come up with the idea of using wire mesh as the framework?
The cost of a box of paper clips was more than affordable for me, as I had a very small budget at the time. The fact that they could be purchased in large quantities at a low cost led me to choose this material.
I thought for a while about how I could hang them. I took a walk in my garage to see what I could use, and I came across a small piece of wire mesh that was lying around, and then I said, "But this wire mesh could be great for my paper clips!" I immediately tried it, started hanging my paper clips, and I loved the result. I was captivated by a material that, on its own, wasn't very attractive, but in large quantities, it creates a spectacular effect!
3. As a self-taught artist, how did you develop your unique artistic style without any formal training in the art field?
I sought to create sculptures using an unusual material; I did not want my sculptures to resemble those of another artist.
Marie Maitre is a French artist, born in Chenôve (21) and raised in Genlis until the age of 9. Her childhood was not a happy one, marked by violence, but Art became her lifeline, keeping her going. She has always loved creating since she was very young, but her Art took on a much more significant role at the age of 18.
Her first jobs were diverse, ranging from a chambermaid in hotels to a laboratory assistant for INRA, and even working in a police school. Despite only completing schooling until 9th grade (3ème) and obtaining the BEPC, she started working without any formal training in the Art field, being self-taught.
In 2017, everything changed when Marie began creating sculptures using paper clips, a material she could purchase in large quantities at a low cost. She found the idea of using wire mesh as the framework for her paper clip sculptures. Later, when she ran out of space for her paper clip sculptures, she explored photography, becoming both the photographer and the model for her creations. She crafted life scenes by incorporating images to bring them to life, always striving to be innovative and stand out.
Alongside her art, Marie works as a caregiver for an elderly person every morning, dedicating her afternoons to her art. She is also a mother of two daughters, aged 9 and 7, whom she shares custody with on alternate weeks.
Marie dreams of living fully off her art and having her own museum to showcase all her paper clip sculptures and photographic creations. She also wishes to have a workshop area where people can observe the creative process and immerse themselves in her unique artistic world.
Her aspiration is to be perceived as an atypical artist because, for her, Art is not about copying what exists but rather creating from the imagination. She loves it when Art comes from the depths of the soul and evokes emotions in those who contemplate her work.
By Guillaume Jean Lefebvre
Winning accolades for your art is a remarkable achievement. Could you share the emotions you experienced when you were recognized for your work for the first time?
I received the 'Leonardo da Vinci' award in Milan a few months ago for one of my sculptures made from paper clips. It was my first award, and the emotion was overwhelming.
On the day of the award ceremony, my heart was pounding, and when they called my name, I felt my whole body trembling. I genuinely thought I might faint right there in the middle of the room.
Once on the stage, I introduced myself, and the Foundation that recognized my work presented me with the small 'Leonardo da Vinci' statuette along with the catalog of awarded artists.
I was deeply moved, and I held onto the little statuette with great care before finally finding a safe place to display it.
5. Balancing a career as an artist with being an assistant caregiver and a mother must be challenging. How do you manage your time and find creative inspiration amidst your daily responsibilities?
Having joint custody of my children allows me to immerse myself in intense creativity during the weeks I am alone. Once I return from work, I am eager to create; it's a constant need, almost like an addiction—I simply cannot do without it. I can spend hours on end engrossed in the act of creation.
Inspiration flows abundantly, and my mind is filled with ideas. However, it's true that I need a peaceful environment when I create. As a result, I mainly indulge in my creative pursuits when the children are at school.
6. Your photography art complements your paper clip sculptures. Could you elaborate on the process of creating these life scenes with images and what message you aim to convey through them?
I mainly started creating photo artworks when I ran out of space for making sculptures with paper clips. I had an intense desire to express myself and find an art form that required minimal space, which led me to photography. Through photography, I could express myself without being constrained by the need for physical workspace.
When I work on a paper clip sculpture, I already have the completed image in my mind. It takes many hours of attaching paper clips before I can even catch a glimpse of the beginning of something. There is a lot of work involved before an artwork comes to life, but that doesn't bother me as the end result is simply magical, at least in my view.
My photo creations mainly depict everyday scenes of life, but I also explore an imaginary world to offer people a way to escape and immerse themselves in their imagination.
What dreams and aspirations do you have for your art career in the future? How do you plan to realize your goal of having your own museum and workshop space?
My dream is to have a vast space where I can create and own my museum to showcase my sculptures made from paper clips and photo artworks. The walls of my museum will be adorned with paper clips, creating a unique and captivating atmosphere. I envision the exterior of the museum to be opaque, concealing the wonders within, and when visitors push open the doors, they will be overwhelmed with emotion. I will name my museum "Folies de Marie MAITRE."
My ultimate goal is to be able to sustain myself fully through my art, with people purchasing my creations to support the realization of my dream. Currently, I lack a dedicated studio space, and that's what I miss the most—ample room to create freely.
I am passionate about my artistic journey, and with the right space and support, I believe I can create even more captivating and meaningful artworks.
8. Being perceived as an atypical artist, how do you deal with any criticism or challenges that come your way, and what advice would you give to other aspiring artists who want to follow a non-traditional path?
I accept all criticisms, sometimes they carry meaning. Regarding my sculptures made of paperclips, most people say to me, "But that's crazy!" or "Are you bored at the office?" As for my photography creations, the most common question that comes up is, "Who is your photographer?" I reply, "Myself." Some people tell me that my photos are disturbing because they speak and evoke emotions.
I love it when my art evokes emotions; it's the most beautiful gift for an artist. Knowing that my works elicit emotions when people contemplate them.
I don't have too many pieces of advice to give to other artists, but the word "persevere" comes to mind. Never give up on anything. Hard work and determination always bear fruit! And just because someone has studied art doesn't mean their work will be better or more emotional! On the contrary, I believe the opposite!
When we don't have techniques learned in art schools, we rely on our instincts and are less concerned about following the rules of art or what we have learned. I think this brings out more emotions!
Let them put their heart and soul into their art, and they will have succeeded!
Your art is said to be deeply emotive. Could you share an instance when someone's reaction to your artwork deeply touched you or left a lasting impact on them?
When I exhibited at art shows, people told me that they had been attending these shows for over 20 years and had never come across sculptures made of paperclips before. They were astonished by the number of paperclips a sculpture could consist of and especially the amount of time involved in creating them.
During one exhibition at a show, a person truly touched my heart. A gentleman approached one of my sculptures made of paperclips, gazing at it in wonder without saying anything. After a few minutes, he started talking to me, asking about how I came up with the idea, how many paperclips were used, and how many hours it took to create. As I began to talk about my art, he listened attentively, but at a certain point, he struggled to speak as emotions overwhelmed him. He said, "I'm truly sorry, but the way you talk about your art gives me goosebumps, and I can't even find the words to speak." He wiped his eyes before leaving and said, "Please, keep going! This is exceptional! Surprising and unlike anything I've ever seen!"
Even as I answer your question now, I still feel emotional because I can vividly recall the image of that emotional gentleman standing in front of my paperclip sculptures.
As for my photography creations, people often ask, "Do you have a photographer?" I reply that no, I do everything myself. This surprises them greatly.
I have had some people ask if they could use my photography creations as inspiration for their paintings. I was deeply touched by these requests, and of course, my response was a resounding yes!
10. Your journey as an artist is both inspiring and unique. How do you hope your art will impact others and the art community at large? What legacy would you like to leave behind through your creations?
I hope to convey the message that individuals who have experienced challenging circumstances can find solace and healing through art if they truly desire it from within themselves.
For those who wish to know more about me, I have written two books: "Francesca, de la douleur à l’envol" published by Editions de l’œil du Sphinx, and "Par-delà le Mur des Ténèbres, le retour de Francesca" also published by Editions de l’œil du Sphinx. They are available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.fr/dp/2380140421
One of my greatest aspirations is to have one of my paper clip sculptures become a part of a museum's collection. It would be one of my most cherished accomplishments and recognition of my artistic journey.
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