from The Vanishing of Camille Claudel (II) by Erin M. Bertram
Artist, sculptor, lover, friend, daughter, sister. Camille Claudel speaks from beyond the grave to survey her life, her work, her years as Rodin's lover, working alongside him, her years in the asylum at Montdevergues, her legacy.
Erin M. Bertram from the Vanishing of Camille Claudel (II) evokes the artist's voice, her reverence and wonder at the human form, her drive to create, despite her exclusion from the École des Beaux-Arts, from state commissions, despite her past, the betrayal of her family, of Rodin.
"Rodin was spying on me, haunting me, trying to steal me.
So I worked in seclusion in my atelier among sculptures, cats, the heavy stone the darkness brings.
I carved and carved.
I carved and polished and carved, hands rouged by the rough, wet work of the thing—iron driving, then making graceful—seducing—the stone.
At night, as a girl, I’d reach deep into the earth with both hands, dig and dig until my knuckles were rusty hinges, ruddy up to the elbow, haul red clay home in a wheelbarrow.
Shape creatures out of nothing.
Draw from formlessness a form.
As a girl, I built a life-size human skeleton out of clay.
All 206 bones: clavicle, sternum, mandible, cochlea, femur.
How better to study the shapes the body makes—its bendings, its flexes, its draws—than to lift, out of the earth, one of your own?
I gave her a name but never said it out loud.
The femur was my favorite. Sometimes, I carried it around with me, gripping the proximal end for balance.
[extracts from from The Vanishing of Camille Claudel (II) by Erin M. Bertram]
Publication date: 19 April 2021
Erin M. Bertram is the author of fifteen chapbooks. Their first book, It’s Not a Lonely World: A Memoir on the Edge, won the Karen Dunning Creative Activity Award, and is forthcoming from Trembling Pillow Press.
To see from The Vanishing of Camille Claudel (II) in motion, visit this clip.