5. Liberté, Egalité, Solidarité
1985, 12’ x 19’
Camille arrived in New York City in the early 1980s “as a young woman searching for a new world, new friends, new adventures, and new opportunities. I was a freelance photographer in Paris and, with Basque friends, had recently published a book about Basque political murals in Spain.
“I was very impressed with New York’s amazing community murals, which at the time seemed everywhere, and I began to document them. By 1985, I was living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with my companion Paul and our 3-year old son Jules. Walking from the subway to Loisaida’s Avenue C, I was confronted by the obvious poverty in the neighborhood and the prevalence of drugs, daily finding needles in La Plaza, which we removed as we worked on our murals. I was also amazed to find everyday kindness, generosity, and solidarity.
“In my mural I wanted to express my joyful feelings as an artist and a young mother, conveying these positive emotions to the community and its youth. My artistic influences were Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and I used bright, primary colors and bold, dynamic lines to portray kids playing soccer. Around them on the yellow ground, I wrote the words freedom, equality, and solidarity in English, French, Spanish, and Basque (in honor of the Basque community that gathered at the Euskal Etxea Cultural Center in NYC.) My friend Hamid Irbouh from Morocco gave me a hand. Today, I regret not writing the words in Arabic.
“The soccer players were naked to represent freedom. I grew up in France, and during summer vacations kids ran around naked. So it was natural to paint the young girls and boys with genitals. One day as I worked, Eva came by and said that someone from the neighborhood was very upset to see children’s genitals in a mural. Cultural shock! I laughed, but in deference to the community, my poor little children became neutered.
“I met Eva at Cityarts Workshop—the community mural organization begun in 1968—and she became my mentor and best friend in New York. We made stencils for a peace demonstration—they represented the nuclear shadows of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and I worked as her assistant on murals in Brooklyn and Queens. Working on La Lucha—Artmakers’ first signature project—remains close to my heart and I miss my dear friend Eva who died in 1999.”
A co-founder of Artmakers and its current artistic director, Camille has been “a photographer, a painter, a teacher, a muralist, a videographer, a digigrapher, an installer, a nasty woman, mother, wife, etc. La vie continue.” camilleperrottet.com