A Classical Journey
“St. Julien-en-Genevois, where I was born, is near the French Alps, just east of Geneva. The Germans didn’t come around very often, in 1943, due to the remote location and proximity to the “Resistance” in the hills. The area was a serene sanctuary with breathtaking views of majestic peaks and lush Swiss valleys,” says local artist Viviane Blum.
Viviane and her younger brother spent their days running, playing, and exploring magnificent landscapes of their childhood. Their father worked for the local Seventh-day Adventist College, as the printing manager, and their mother was an important part of their local community in her volunteer service, and busy taking care of her young family. In the fall of 1955, the family received an opportunity to emigrate to the United States, with the support of a U.S. sponsor.
Viviane recalls, in vivid detail, crossing the vast Atlantic on an enormous ocean liner named the Liberty. The family was processed into their new “American” homeland on an island just off the skyline of New York City. With the help of their sponsors, the family would be on their way to their new home, first in Michigan, then on to Illinois. Viviane’s mother was the only one in the family who spoke English; she had grown up in Switzerland where learning English was a requirement of the education system. When Viviane and her brother entered school, they struggled a bit until their English caught on. They began to thrive, adjusting to their new environment and moving to the top of their class. Within six years of arrival in the States, the entire family proudly took their oath to become American citizens. Soon after, they relocated with their father’s new job opportunity to Mountain View, California, where Viviane and her brother finished high school. Viviane’s brother was then accepted to Stanford University, and Viviane went on to San Jose State University.
The love of art seemed to be part of Viviane’s life from the very beginning. Her parents enthusiastically supported their daughter’s natural artistic talent and supplied her with all the materials she needed to follow her passion for drawing. Viviane remembers carrying a small sketchbook everywhere, spending hours sketching anything that crossed her path. In high school, Viviane took a series of art classes, in which her teachers opened new possibilities for her in the use of materials and introducing new mediums.
Viviane had developed a keen interest in horses early in her life watching Polo matches near her home in Illinois. Later on, she was definitely hooked when she took her first horseback ride in Grand Teton National Park. While in high school, she met a couple that lived nearby who owned an Arabian, and as a result, she subscribed to horse magazines for a source of material for her drawing. Viviane remembers, “When I was a college freshman, I entered and won a national essay contest.” Her prize was being awarded her own Arabian filly! “What a dream come true, now I could become a real student of equine anatomy,” Viviane said.
During these early college years, Viviane began to develop interests in painting, design, and 3-D art, using water-based clay, wood, wax, and salt blocks. She received her B.A. in Art and a Masters Degree in French Literature from San Jose State University before moving on to the University of California at Berkeley to earn her Secondary Teaching credential. Viviane then took her love of art and talent with the French language into the Walnut Creek Intermediate School, where she taught for 37 years, mostly French then moving into teaching art the last 10 years before retirement. Eleven years ago, she and her husband decided to relocate to the Scottsdale area, where she continues taking classes in both sculpture and painting.
Today, Viviane Blum works from two studios, one in Berkeley and one in Scottsdale. She produces elegantly classic sculptural pieces and large canvas of sweeping southwest landscapes, as well as, the most elegantly rendered equine sketches. To be in the presence of her work resembles strolling through one of the finest museums of art history on earth, simply an awe-inspiring and priceless experience. Viviane’s work can be seen locally during the Annual Terravita Community Open Studio Tour, each February, as well as exhibits at the Terravita Desert Pavilion. She is also a member of the Sonoran Arts League and the Arizona Art Alliance and takes part in their exhibits throughout the year.
Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at email@example.com.