First published: Summer 2017
John Maizels: What is your background and how did you first become aware of the world of self-taught art?
Valérie Rousseau: My long time interest in self-taught art has been nourished from childhood, where science, art and nature were deeply intertwined: my paternal grandfather Jacques Rousseau was a well-known ethno-botanist and professor who led many explorations to the far north of Québec, to study Inuit and Native American cultures. Our house was filled with artifacts and self-taught creations that he brought back from his trips. My maternal grandfather was Jean-Julien Bourgault, a celebrated, self-taught wood carver and storyteller known throughout the region – his house always welcomed collectors and passersby. My parents – lovers of fauna and flora – cultivated my interest in the arts and traditional knowledge without discrimination. This environment defined my approach to the arts and made me aware of the importance of looking at things with an open mind and a 360-degree perspective. I eventually completed a PhD in art history and a master’s degree in art theory, both from Université du Québec à Montréal, and a masters degree in Anthropology from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris.
How did the Société des Arts Indisciplinés (SAI) in Canada come about?
In 1996 I became aware of two self-taught art environments in Québec, those of Léonce Durette and Richard Greaves whose work was later exhibited internationally. I then decided to change the subject of my master’s degree to study the conservation of such practices within a larger art historical perspective. I visited environments in California, meeting and travelling with Seymour Rosen, the founder of SPACES in Los Angeles. This trip was game changing. Upon my return, I founded the SAI in 1998, with art brut veteran Eric Mattson and ethnologist Pascale Galipeau, with the goals of leading projects towards the recognition for this material in Canada, initiating scholarship, discovering new artists and building an archive.
Valérie Rousseau in New York, 2017, photo: Ted Degener
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #94.