‘l love every minute of my life… I squeeze it like an orange and eat the peel, because I don’t want to miss a thing.’
Huguette Caland (January 1931 – 23 September 2019) was a Lebanese painter, sculptor and fashion designer known for her bright abstract paintings, erotic line drawings, and her Middle Eastern-inspired fashion designs. I came across her work in July 2019 at an exhibition at Tate St Ives – see exhibition catalogue:
Born in Beirut in 1931, she was the daughter of Bechara El Khoury, the first president of post-independence Lebanon from 1943. She began to study art in her 30s at the American University in Beirut just after her father died in 1964. By this point, Caland had married Paul Caland (the nephew of one of her father’s political rivals), had children, and taken a lover called Mustafa (who featured in many of her works). In 1970, she decided to leave her life in Lebanon behind and move to Paris to build a career as an artist. “Art is not a part of my life; it is my whole life.” She became a regular guest at the Feraud studio, meeting many artists, including André Masson, Pierre Schaeffer, and Adalberto Mecarelli. In 1979, Caland collaborated with designer Pierre Cardin, creating a line of caftans that were displayed at Espace Cardin. In 1983, Caland met Romanian sculptor George Apostu. From 1983 until Apostu’s death in 1986, they worked in Paris and in the Limousin, creating many paintings and sculptures during this time. In 1987 she moved back to Los Angeles. Then after moving from one studio to another, in 1997 she finally settled in a studio in Venice where she frequently hosted friends and members of the art community, including Ed Moses, Chris Burden, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, and James Hayward. In 2013 she returned to Beirut to say goodbye to her dying husband, and remained there until she died in September 2019 at the age of 88 – just after the end of the exhibition at Tate St Ives where I saw her work.
Her work – like her life – is characterised above all by a sense of fun, energy and delicacy in her treatment of themes of eroticism and relationships. It includes large abstract oil canvases of body landscapes, simplified ink drawings and fashion design.
See overviews and reviews: