cj fleury

Article written for The Low Down
June 22, 2007
published in Artists of the Gatineau Hills , 2007

cj fleury, Live!

cj fleury is a force of nature. To talk to her is to meet a mind, heart and soul committed to the creative process not only in her own life but in the lives of everyone she meets. There is an innocence about her idealism in an age of rampant commodification that restores faith in the act of creating for its own sake. We are creators. cj believes this and lives this with every fibre of her being.

Where to begin? With the 9 year old kid in competitive figure-skating who understood her coach when she talked about the energy that flies down your arms and out your hands, streaming to the far side of the arena. Who understood that everyone is a ray of energy – “those sparks of light in your eyes” – that can be extended to others, that can affect others.

“Creative messages are all around us. They come from everyone and everywhere. Mentoring is where we should all end up because at some point in all of our lives someone found us and got us going. Someone gave us wings.”

For cj it was her mother. Of four children in the family, three entered the arts – brother musician, sister in film-making, and cj, artist extraordinaire. Their home was filled with art. “We moved every 3 or 4 years with the Forces – each house became a home when the art went up on the walls. I thought everyone lived like that. I thought everyone operated on metaphoric levels of language, shape and mood, and were understood.”

This interaction, this reciprocal creative dialogue would determine cj’s life work. Competing in Lake Placid, cj went on to teach and choreograph figure-skating until her mid twenties. Wherever she went, she studied art at universities and colleges but her own passionate experience taught her more. “People wonder how I know so much about sculpture. I grew up learning primers of structural design from my mother who made my skating costumes.”

Moving to Ottawa, cj had solo shows at Wallack’s, SAW and 101 galleries but she longed to escape from cloistered space out into the world where everyone could share in her work. She created a series of shields, first with paper on linen, then in metal, which she termed “callers of like-thinkers”, where holes in the skin allowed energy to pass through. “Every village would ideally have a shield-maker to mediate and protect people in emotional crisis as they learned to name and make their own shield.”

cj took the concept to the people. Her work inspired public art commissions and community arts projects that soon became models of collaboration. In the aftermath of the Montreal massacre at the Polytechnic, cj and Mary Faught, the landscape architect, created Enclave, the Women’s Monument Against Violence in 1992. In the last fifteen years cj has gone on to create dozens of major public installations, some permanent, some temporary, involving up to 200 non-artists in her process, sharing her knowledge and opening wide the portals of learning. She has taught in schools, lectured in universities, written endless articles, made videos, created websites of dialogue on how knowledge is made and who has access to it.

For cj, art is at the heart of LIFE! Artists continually molt, lose their shell, return to the raw state of unknowing in order to grow from a truer core. It may be dangerous to be so open, so sensitive but it is also a gift that opens the doors of perception for others who may not know how to be as deeply aware.

“What is this schism in art between those who believe they can create and those who think creativity just didn’t fall into their gene pool? In earlier indigenous cultures there was no word for art. It was not a privileged or precious act. In Nature art is a selected survival skill – it is the act of making special, of calling attention to things. It is what we all must do to become more alive.”

cj fleury Flower Petal Mandala Project

cj fleury
Flower Petal Mandala Project