Carpets, rural living and arts in Essaouira An interview with artist Kathy Lucoff Godin

Whether it is a herd of sheep thundering by as I walk to the little store near my home, someone walking through an old painted door, carpets hanging by the roadside or the medina architecture – it all speaks to me and makes me smile.

Ghazaoua Tapis by Kathy Lucoff Godin © Kathy Lucoff Godin

Ghazaoua Tapis by Kathy Lucoff Godin © Kathy Lucoff Godin

Fresh from deinstalling her Ghazoua Tapis exhibition at Galerie Jama in Essaouira, I had a chance to sit down with Essaouira-based artist Kathy Lucoff Godin to discuss art, rural living and life in Essaouira as an artist.

What’s next for you as an artist after the Galerie Jama exhibition?

For me, an exhibition is never the end or a culmination, but a continuation of the beginning. I received a lot of great feedback after this last show so I have much to follow up on in terms of talking to others who are interested in exhibiting my work and of course making acquisitions. In terms of where am I going with my art itself, I believe I have just touched upon the surface of the theme Ghazoua Tapis. There is so much more to discover. For the most part I have been painting on paper and I would like to move this work onto canvas. But also, my work has always been small and I would like to work on a larger scale. This does not mean making larger versions of the same type of imagery. Scale is very sensitive, and images that work small do not necessarily work large. So I hope to spend a lot of time exploring scale.

Tell me about your Ghazaou Tapis collection. Where did the inspiration come from?

All my life I have been fascinated with textiles and especially ethnographic textiles. Well, Morocco is a haven for the textile arts, historic and current. Wherever I go I seem to be surrounded by amazing pieces created by women who have been expressing their feelings through their carpets. The styles vary from wildly colorful and geometric to minimal with natural coloration. I love it all. I live in Ghazoua, which is a traditional village outside of Essaouira. It is not a carpet centre but there are hundreds of herded goat and sheep all possessing the most beautiful natural colors and sometimes patterns. In my home I have collected the colorful carpets from the Atlas Mountains. My paintings are inspired by it all so that is why I call my collection of paintings, Ghazoua Tapis [tapis is French for carpet).

Is this why you chose to exhibit this collection in Essaouira?

With the emphasis on inspired carpets, I wanted to exhibit Ghazoua Tapis in the right environment. Galerie Jama is extremely well known for Moroccan tribal arts. Mustapha, the owner, has an eye not just for quality, but selecting pieces for their artistic sensibility. For this reason, Galerie Jama in Essaouira was the best place for me to exhibit Ghazoua Tapis.

Essaouira is rich in art naif artists, how would you describe your style?

I am basically an abstractionist, but at times a little realism, or should I say identifiable objects sneak into the paintings. However, it all comes from somewhere whether gardens, carpets, architectural details, furniture or flowers. The impetus comes from the familiar but the power comes from its deconstruction and then my personal reconstruction.

How do you distinguish yourself from other artists? 

I think my work distinguishes itself from the Essaouira primitives. I only wish I could paint more like them and posses some of their freedom, but we are who we are. My paintings are not primitive in feel or style and are more controlled. The Essaouira primitives use a lot of figuration in their work. I have never done so. It sounds odd because I have never said this before, but my strength comes from objects not necessarily people.

Do you have a daily routine or do you paint when the inspiration is there? 

My daily schedule is usually packed so I save the afternoons for paintings and can’t wait for that time of day. Painting is emotionally and mentally challenging for me so I am only able to paint for about four hours at a time. When I am working, I get lost in the process but after four hours I get emotionally drained and have to stop.

Kathy Lucoff Godin in her Essaouira Morocco artist studio © Kathy Lucoff Godin

Kathy Lucoff Godin in her Essaouira Morocco artist studio © Kathy Lucoff Godin

When you’re not in your studio, where would we find you?

Painting demands me to be mentally and physically sharp so for that reason and also for my general interest in good health, I spend a lot of time working out. I take Pilates classes and have added circuit training to my schedule. This is all on top of taking my two dogs for two long walks everyday. With a full schedule of exercising, dog walking and the dealing with the normal routine of everyday life like shopping, etc. I have to make time to be in the studio so I cherish every minute of it.

When you’re not in Essaouira, is there anywhere else in Morocco that inspires you?

Every place I have visited in Morocco inspires me. I love the varied landscapes and architecture, the people who wear their colorful clothing, the crafts and the food. That does not mean that I will paint according to my travels, but as I have said before, “It all comes from somewhere” and I am sure it is all stored somewhere in my brain and will come out at sometime.

Why Essaouira? And why an artist in Essaouira?

Essaouira spoke to me many years ago when I first traveled through Morocco. It seemed like the most livable of all the places I visited; it was traditional but still offered creature comforts with lots of fresh ocean air. I remember the last 50 kilometers on the bus from Marrakech; the scenery changed from scrub to glorious green rolling hills. I had never seen a landscape like this in Morocco and these images stayed with me.

Six years later, the opportunity for a great change in my life presented itself. I had always dreamed of living in a foreign and exotic country so it didn’t take long to pack my bags. It has been five years and I have never looked back. I don’t believe there are right or wrong places to live if you are an artist. Gritty and loud urban environments as well as the more remote and off the beaten track all have their pluses and minuses. It is a matter of personal choice; how you want to live your life and at what stage in your life and career you are in.

For me, Essaouira offers an easy lifestyle with little to no stress, the opportunity to meet interesting people from different parts of the world and most importantly it is a visual and experiential panacea every time I open my door. Whether it is a herd of sheep thundering by as I walk to the little store near my home, someone walking through an old painted door, carpets hanging by the roadside or the medina architecture – it all speaks to me and makes me smile.

To find out more about Kathy’s artwork, visit her website at kathylucoffgodin.com or follow her adventures on Instagram.

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