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Valérie Chaussonnet

2008 Arthur Lane
Austin, TX 78704, U.S.A.
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My sculptural work is informed by my initial training as a museum anthropologist, my travels and field research in the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, Russia and Siberia, my deep interest in non-western art and shamanism, my French upbringing and my life-long interest in western art, and my love of welding.

Even though stock steel is cold, inhumane and generally unappealing, it is the weathering, the forging and the presence of welding marks that animate and warm the medium. Unlike industrial welders who join parts and hide the welds, I use the welding rod as a painting tool. I want the welds to show. Not only do they hold the parts, they are the art. The (wo)man-made marks on the steel are often what interests me most, be they old and historic, as those on the surface of my Kissing Brancusi piece, created with cut-out fragments of a 25-year-old industrial-welding-student cutting table, or be they drawn, like in a charcoal drawing, by the movement of the hand across the steel "page" in so many "practice beads", as in my series of Love Letters. These are love letters to steel, to sculpture, and to our urge to create, transform, and make art.

What my work carries, above all, is my love for people, personalities, attitudes, work and faces. It shows in both my figurative and abstract pieces. I enjoy turning steel into pieces that dance, pieces that suggest a story, that are feminist and witty. The weight of the metal allows me to play with the notion of vulnerability, frailty, and resilience, when I translate, with a little irony, an ephemeral, flat and delicate paper subject (a letter, a rice-paper sumi-ink drawing) into a substantial steel sculpture.

As I often, out of preference, reuse discarded materials, and as I make work that honors influences and inspiration, I call my work collaboration: my work is never mine alone. The collaboration is its strength.

 Among my most profound influences are Brancusi; Caro; Claudel; Utamaro; Hokusai; the Nabis and other Japonisant French painters; Carpeaux; Bourgeois; Ai Wei Wei; Abakanowicz; Gaudi; 17th-century French architecture; and numerous anonymous, inspired, Yupik, Alutiq, and Baule mask artists, as well as anonymous French Primitive sculptors and European Cave painters.