Crystals, Crosses and Talismans in the Luberon

Cristine Ferrer at home and work

Using her home in a small village in the Luberon as her studio Christine Ferrer transforms memorabilia, spiritual icons of belief and references to human fragility and memory into a fascinating cabinet of curiosity.

A portrait of Christine as a 17 year girl and reflections in the Menerbes studio

Meeting Christine

Behind a small 19th century door on the Rue de la Republic in the village of Goult, where I live in the south of France, I discovered the atelier of this remarkable artist. I had passed the unassuming door dozens of times while running errands and visiting friends in the village.

Local history had informed me that the house had been a field hospital in the 1800’s and boys’ school in the 1900’s and finally landed in the hands of Christine Ferrer to  become  her creative atelier, studio workplace and home.

Ferrer was not unknown to me and I had seen some of her work in numerous exhibitions around Provence. But I was about to learn a whole lot more about this intriguing woman and her world.

Christine with “Absent body” a wire dress in lights in the Goult studio
The entry to her gallery in the Goult house with an installaion of caged lights on gold wires created for an exhibition at Mathieu Lusterie Gallery, Gargas, Provence

On a beautiful late September day in 2019 I was invited by artist friends to “Se Deplacer” (To Move On), at an Open House celebrating Ferrer’s 10th anniversary as a working artist as, poignantly, it was also the final exhibition to be held in the Goult house as she was moving to a new 17th Century property in the neighboring village of Menerbes. The non-descript door was finally opened to me.

Atelier, work and home

The glittering lights on the prayer stool is a human form made from antique sacks animated with light strings was showcased at the 2016 exhibition “Sur le Fil” at Campredon Gallery  L’Isle sur la Sorgue; the bell jars on the farmhouse table showcase miniature wire sculptures; and the piece de resistance is a crystal “fantome” an iconic piece, that today hovers over the roof in the Menerbes house. The birdcage installation is set off by a 19th century red velvet sofa on the Rez de chausser, the main floor, of Christine’s former Goult home

Over the years Ferrer transformed the three-floor house from a place where bones and shattered souls had been pieced back together and latterly where young French minds had been molded, into an “Cabinet of Curiosities” where home and studio melded seamlessly creating a world of startling imagination of thought and art: A kaleidoscope of where embroidering and spinning of gold thread, myriads of lights turned into wire sculptures, cabinets brimming with curiosities such as beautifully hand-written antique letters, devotional relics, postcards, watch faces, scapulars, rosaries, crucifixes, skulls, human hair and birdcages surrounds one.

“VOUS ÊTES ICI” /YOU ARE HERE featured in 2018 exhibition and the Chateau Tour d’Aigues, Provence hangs in the stairwell Goult house. ABOVE Petites robes crafted from antique postage stamps and tiny +- +- lables and beautifully embroidered linen “Consolation” cloth.

Ferrer’s ability to fabricate meditative arts that question, reflect and examine existential and deep personal mysteries of life is without question. Her works range from miniature embroideries to monumental installations.

“I have the feeling of digging the same furrow, to follow a common thread, that of my personal history being absolutely turned towards a larger, more universal history.”

“ I consider the accumulation of memories and every object, no matter how small, a treasure. I see many visual references to my childhood – photos, drawings and charms all gathered to evoke creativity – traces of people who are important to me and other small gifts and offerings that are equally significant.” *

“I love my collection of the Virgin Mary’s that were mainly sourced in South America and feel they protect me. It’s a feeling absolutely outside of religion – more like a talisman or protective charm. I also like to collect stamps and tape to incorporate them with threads, ribbons and notebooks. It is incredibly reassuring to have these items surrounding me.”

A garden offers a place for inspiration, contemplation and sharing with friends

Christine takes great pleasure in the garden. In Goult she built a Japanese inspired guest house. Here she is able to enjoy meditative moments. The centurian garden quince tree produces fruit for preserves and the outdoor kitchens, ubiquitous to Provence provide sweet spaces for al fresco dining to enjoys meals prepared in the well equipped if eclectic kitchen.

A little personal history

As a young girl from the Haut Pyrenees it was dancing that first sparked Christine’s artistic dreams. She danced until she was a 18 when the reality of supporting a family became the priority but, fortutiously, did not extinguish her artistic ambition.

With her tall, thin, willowy figure it is of little surprise a career as a photographer’s model came easily, as did work in fashion and television in Paris. She launched a South American period and moved to Uruguay for 12 years. Returning to France with her daughters in 2008  to settled in Goult it was there in 2010 she was to successfully commit to her dream of becoming a fulltime artist.

To say her works intrigued me would be understating the case and my effort to learn more was generously accepted. Christine and her agent Stephanie Borsa graciously approved me photographing her works for this blog. This allowed me to spend time with Christine and led to further photo sessions including following her work on an installation at Mathieu Lusterie.

Christine and the “Tree of Tears” installation at Mathieu Lusterie Gallery, Gargas, France.

The year 2020

Covid’s intrusion has globally impacted everyone but in June of this year I was able to return to photograph the Menerbes Studio.  Ferrer had devoted her “lockdown time” creating a series of artist boxes – one for every day of the initial two-month lockdown. In my humble opinion she was, in a way, letting her creativity continue to blossom while letting a little more of her spirit out of the box.

Christine is currently working on a body of work for four exhibitions in 2021 and a new collection of crystal dresses, “Absent Bodies”.

Christine at Mathieu Lusterie gallery. The glittering, semi-presciious crystal “No Body” creation, is an example of what we can look forward to in 2021.

The following is a list of the venues for exibitions in 2021.

March 2021: VALLÉE CLOSE exhibition Pétrarque Museum, Fontaine de Vauclus:

June 2021: CONSOLATION exhibition Chapelle St Charles Avignon

June 2021: Installation: DESIRE, Galerie “Un lieu Une ŒUVRE”, Ménerbes

September 2021, Installation “DO / UNDO”, Tangier Biennale

During 2021, therw will be an extended exhibition of small dresses in quartz crystals, series “Absent Bodies”, at BRAS, hotel in Laguiole

All these dates are to be specified and confirmed, given the health context.

* Christine’s quotes: from Where Women Work, Ruth Ribbeaucour

2 thoughts on “Crystals, Crosses and Talismans in the Luberon

  1. OMG! This is beautiful, fabulous! I love her, love you and this post! It is amazing! I have probably walked by that door myself never imagining the magic within!! Fantasy is nearby so much more often than we think. A post like this transports the reader into a place we find ourselves too seldom invited! You are so amazing to find this in the world we so often pass by!


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