|From||United States of America|
|Birth||27 September 1942, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France|
Michell Cassou (born 27 August 1942) is an American painter, teacher and author.
Cassou, a French-born American citizen, is internationally known for her groundbreaking work of using painting as a tool for self-discovery, and for exploring the spiritual dimensions of the creative process. The method that she developed to access spontaneous creativity is now known as "Point Zero Painting". She is the author of Point Zero, Creativity Without Limits, Kids Play, Igniting Children's Creativity and Teachers That Dare, Using the Creative Process to Teach the Creative Process. She is the co-author of Life Paint and Passion, Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression. She has also authored two booklets, The Buddhist Art Doctor and The Question Book as well as DVD's and CD's.
Her very early paintings are included in the Collection de l'art brut, Jean Dubuffet's great collection that was granted a permanent home by the city of Lausanne and is now one of the most powerful and overwhelming art museums to be found anywhere in the world. Her work to preserve the spontaneous creative process and share the amazing life changing potential of creativity has been embraced by thousands of students. She has been praised by the American mythologist Joseph Campbell and the French painter and sculptor Jean Dubuffet among others.
She has been teaching since her early twenties, first in Paris, then Canada, Ottawa and Montreal, then in the United States.
Presently she teaches the Point Zero Method under the name Michell Cassou Painting Workshops. She conducts workshops in the San Francisco Area, at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur California, at the New York Open Center and at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos New Mexico, in various Zen centers and other locations throughout the United States and Europe.
Early Life and Education
Michell Cassou was born in 1942 in Marseilles, France amid the fear and chaos of World War II. The daughter of a Jewish mother and a father who was a Catholic French officer, she was born into a world where her safety could not be assured. Amid the bombing of newly occupied France, Micheleʼs mother boarded a boat with her infant daughter and Micheleʼs one-year-old sister. Together they fled across the Mediterranean to North Africa. Her first three years would be spent in Morocco; she would not meet her father until 1945 after the war had ended. Then with her mother she moved to the town of Hyères on the Mediterranean. She started to draw and paint when she was five years old. Her childhood was filled with dreams of inventing and creating. She created art with every available method and material, while innately refusing to engage with traditional structures. At the age of 14 her growing family, now including seven children, moved to Paris where Michell attended Helen Boucher High School. Shortly before she turned 17 her family moved to Algeria to join her father who was serving as an officer in the Algerian war. Michell finished high school in Algeria, once again under the threat of war and terrorism. At the end of Micheleʼs last year of high school her mother would once again flee with her children to safety, this time in the opposite direction. Michell was thrilled to be back in France and at home in Paris, but her experience of the torture and cruelty that she witnessed in Algeria left an indelible impression on her.
She enrolled in traditional Parisian art classes with the hope of increasing her personal expression. When this approach threatened to destroy her innate creativity and its gift of spirit and freedom, she shifted direction by joining L’Academie du Jeudi, a free expression studio for children, created and run by Arno Stern. She felt she had found what she had been looking for all her life, pure creativity. It was there painting with the children, Michell discovered the magical force of spontaneous painting. She painted in this studio for almost four years, nurturing and protecting her own creative process in that environment. She discovered a way to express herself spontaneously and without need for conventional training and its techniques. There she also came into contact with Krisnamurti through his books. K. was going to be her first spiritual teacher and influence her life and teaching. By her early twenties, painting had become her full-time passion and within just a few months she herself began to teach.
Michell was married in the early 1960s and in 1965, gave birth to her only son, Phillipe.
In May 1968 Paris was in Revolt. The students of La Sorbonne, in defiance of the government and seeking major changes to the education system, broke in and occupied the university. During the occupation Michell was asked to paint a huge mural in one of the amphitheaters of La Sorbonne. The Mural was to be a 40ʼ by 8ʼ spontaneous work as the public watched. She saw it as a chance to introduce the creative process into the curriculum. It would be the first time however that her work would be exposed in a public way. It took three days and three nights to complete the painting. The environment was explosive with crowds, police, barricades, protests and meetings. The revolution began to spread from the students to the working people, and fires began to sprout up throughout the neighborhood. She was subjected to both criticism and praise and yet she continued to paint. A week later armed police took back the Sorbonne. The mural was removed, but for Michell the experience of sharing spontaneous creative expression with the crowds that flowed through the university that week was permanently fixed.
Within a few years the family moved to Canada. After seven years of marriage, divorced, Michell returned to the South of France for a year. In a small village Nans les pins, she studied Yoga and meditation, painted and deepened her understanding of creativity and of Krisnamurti's teaching. For Michele, that year would be a "Wonderful heaven of peace in beautiful natural surroundings and austere life.". She then moved back to Canada, and soon after the United States where she settled in California.
In 1978 her intense desire to share her discovery and passion lead her to found The Painting Experience Studio in San Francisco. This studio offered classes and workshops year round for 11 years; in 1996 The Painting Experience Studio closed and its name moved to different teachings. Since then she has continued to paint and teach workshops, write and train teachers in the Point Zero Method throughout the United States and Europe.
"Michele Cassou is catalytic visionary: a fuse lighter who sends people rocketing into their creativity."- Julia Cameron. "Michele Cassou offers a wise and profoundly creative inspiration for the liberation of the human spirit. Just the way lively music makes you want to get up and dance, this book makes you really want to get up and paint the fullness of your life." -Jack Kornfield,
During her life Michell Cassou has painted several thousand paintings. She has used them to share the depth and power that the creative process holds. Her creative passion continues to expand more and more into the spiritual aspects of the creative process and the power of painting as a practice, not only for self-expression but to re-enter the mystery of life and explore who we really are.
"I can never possess my painting, I have to rediscover it every time. I can never say that I know how to paint, because there is no way to grasp it, the only thing I can do is forget what I know." "Now is the time to put the last stroke on the painting. I let myself slide all the way into it. I feel its full embrace. I stand in the most intimate fashion, in the closest possible way, at the center of my own passion. I am ecstatic. God's beauty fills me. My soul is full."
In 1972 Kay Kritzwiser said in The Globe and Mail:
"The moment you see Cassou's strangely eruptive paintings at Mitchell Gallery, you can see why Jean Dubuffet, the French artist and Paris gallery owner, would want to show her work. The uneasy result, heightened by her use of harsh orange and frequent twisting black abstract forms, gives a strong suggestion of protest and odd rhythms." "Michelle Cassou." Kay Kritzwiser, The Globe and Mail, 1972.
In 1979 AI Morch said in San Francisco Examiner:
"From this initial exposure, Michele Cassou began to assemble her theories about the nature of creativity, and a method of how to share it with others who are caught in the ‘traps of the traditional.’ ’I realized that what was preventing me from truly expressing myself were my concepts of art and beauty on one hand, and my desire for approval on the other.’"
In 1979 Jon Jacobs said in The Nickel:
"All her life San Francisco painter Michele Cassou has been a reluctant rebel. A largely self-educated artist, she has steered clear of the doctrinal rivalries of competing artistic ‘schools.’ But her very avoidance of doctrine has often made her a pariah in the fashion-conscious art world."
In 1981 Dorothy Burkhart said in San Jose Mercury News:
"French-born artist and teacher Michele Cassou believes in ‘spontaneous painting.’ In the beginning it feels like complete chaos, as gaudy globs of color and swirling forms appear. ‘But then something is born, comes alive,’ Michele Cassou says. ‘First there's a spark, and then total surrender as feelings start talking directly.
In 1981 Robert Evangelists said in City Arts Monthly:
"And it is this attention to the ‘second alternative,’ painting from the heart and gut without intermediary, directly (as opposed to intellectually, reasonably, pursuing a particular preconceived effect and seeking approval that you achieved it) which makes Cassou's paintings and method of instruction unique, liberating and worth checking on."
In 1991 Anne Cushman said in Yoga Journal:
"Michele Cassou has been painting and living in this intuitive style for over a quarter century…It's crucial, she tells us, to trust our impulses, even if our rational mind disagrees with them. If we feel drawn to the red paint, we must use it, even if we’re certain that red will look awful and that we’d be better off using pale blue. Our intuition offers us so much but we always think we know better.".
In 1996 Daryn Eller said in Intuition magazine:
"Does it matter what kind of endeavor? Michele Cassou, not surprisingly, votes for paint as the optimum medium, not because it's necessarily superior, but because it's practical. ‘It's quick and it's easy, and you can face what you’ve just done right away,’ she says."
In 1996 Melody Romancito said in The Taos News:
"To paint without concern for the opinions of others. Painting for process is the visual equivalent of journal writing, Taos writer Natalie Goldberg, a student of Michele Cassou's says ’provides what every creative spirit thirsts for - a long slow drink of the experience of the imagination.’...This approach to art and creativity is one that some painters, here in a place where result is of top concern to artist and dealers alike, would do well to explore. It might free many from painting pretty, yet soulless paintings that serve only as decoration and not a reflection of the creative spirit."
In 1996 Carrie Click said in The Aspen Times:
"The painting experience is about expressing creativity, and not about developing artist finesse. For Michele Cassou, originally from France and a resident of San Francisco for the past 20 years, the process can be fascinating to observe as it takes hold of her students. ‘It is therapeutic,’ said Michele Cassou of her workshop. ’More than anything, I teach people to listen to their intuition. It happens without thinking.’"
In 1992, Anne Cuschman said in Utne Reader:
Wouldn’t it feel good to be able to paint without having to think about what you’re doing?" asks Michele Cassou. "Without having to think if it's good if it's bad, if could be better, if it could be worse, if it could be deeper, if it could be more meaningful?.
In 2002 Anne Devillard said in Natur & Heilen German magazine:
"Michele Cassou. ‘Creators are like warriors. They march and march. The creative process is extremely powerful.’ Yes, this is a spiritual initiation. It's about the exploration of the soul to the exploration of larger reality, another dimension of consciousness. The creative act enables us to explore the universe."
In 2007 Victoria Cummings said in Spirituality & Health magazine:
"There is no right or wrong, no judgment and no criticism. French artist Michele Cassou, author of Life, Paint and Passion, pioneered process painting more than 40 years ago. You experience what is natural and unique to you by starting at what Cassou calls point zero. It’ s a rewarding journey into the unknown."
In 2008 Richard Garriott Stejskal said in Taos S magazine:
"Through traditional study the technical aspects and the structure seemed to drive her further and further away from the purity of expression. For three years Cassou reveled in relearning to paint with the freedom from preconception and constraint that a child has. First in France, then later in Ottawa and California, she continued to paint and teach her method of free expression. Through her painting she discovered more and more about herself. In a kind of circular fashion, she began to realize her childhood dream of discovering the end of the universe, ’the point at which matter ends,’ her Point Zero."
In 2011 Maghi Thurlow said in The Connection magazine:
"In Point Zero process painting with Michele Cassou, we focus on hosting a movement instead of making a painting. The universal creative energy moves through us, bringing forth what we hold inside. It helps cleanse and enliven the deep unknown parts of ourselves. We learn to trust our intuition and begin to accept the boundless ways that life can manifest through us."
Additional references in books
- Kathleen Fury. 1996. "Just Imagine." New Choices magazine. p. 53.
- Mary Jane Casavant. 1996. "If you ask us." Common Boundary magazine. p. 46.
- Emmet Fox. 1997. "The Magic of Spontaneous Expression." Science of Mind Vol.70 No.4. pp. 12–17.
- Alejandra Nash and Phyllis Lane. 1998. Unleashing Creativity book and documentary film about the power of being creative.
- Tona Pearce Myers, editor.1999. The Soul of Creativity. "Inside the Heartbeat of Creation", pp. 2–6. Publisher: New World Library. ISBN 1-57731-077-2.
- Gail McMeekin. 2000. The 12 secrets of Highly Creative Women. pp. 14, 23, 58, 64–65. Publisher: Conari Press. ISBN 1-57324-141-5.
- David Riklan. 2004. Top 101 Experts Who Help Us Improve Our Lives p. 374. Publisher: Self-improvement online, Inc. ISBN 978-0-9745672-3-5.
- Anne Devillard. 2009. Heilung Aus Der Mitte. (Healing from the Heart). pp. 25–33. Publisher: Driediger. ISBN 978-3-932130-22-9.
- Kate Appel. 2009. Two Rivers: Awakening to Your Inner Aliveness Through Painting. pp. 8–9. Publisher: Author House. ISBN 1-4520-9563-9 ISBN 978-1452095639.
- http://www.icreatenow.com/ Michelle Cassou and her studio.
TV, Radio, and Web Interviews
- November 1978. "The Joe Bavarasco Show." KMO Channel 20, San Francisco.
- November 18, 1992. San Francisco: "In Search of the Miraculous", an interview of Michell Cassou by Richard Liebow. 28 minutes.
- November 22, 1996. Seattle interview with Rosemary Broccoli. "The Creative Process."
- November 1997. Washington: Wisdom Channel Television: "Creative Arts & Spirituality: Life, Paint and Passion with interview with Michell Cassou." 30 minutes (1019).
- January 5, 2005. Charleston: "The Parents Journal with Bobbi Conner." "Creative Kids Play", a radio interview with Michell Cassou.
- July 9, 1978. The Northern California Art Therapy Symposium, 4th annual. San Francisco.
- March 18, 1979. New Earth Exposition. Brooks Hall, San Francisco.
- March 8–11, 2000. The Ontario Convention Center, Ontario, California. Starshine, Encinatas: "Come to the Edge Conference." Michell presented "Life, Paint and Passion."
- October–November 2001. Germany. Kongreg-Zentrum Garmisch-Partenkirchen International Conference: "Soul in Medicine." Michell presented "Creativity and Healing."
- November 15, 2002. Oakland, California. The Sophia Center at Holy Names College. Michell presented "Creativity and Spirituality."
- September 12, 2004. San Francisco Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. "The Healing Power of Art." Michell presented "Paint, Passion and the Creative Power."
May 2010 w/ host(s) Dr. Carol Stalcup
- June 17, 2011. Author and workshop facilitator Michell Cassou. Teleseminar. Posted by Gabrielle Javier-Cerulli.
Author and Workshop Facilitator Michell Cassou Teleseminar.
- July 8, 2011. "Intuition comes from the whole person, from a place that includes the conscious and the unconscious. The total result of all feelings and perceptions manifests spontaneously through intuition. Intuition gives expression to the feelings; that expression is unique and perfectly fitted to the needs of the moment."
- July 2011 Daily Inspiration: Michell Cassou
"If you do not listen to your intuition, it will stop talking to you. Your intuition is like a sensitive friend. If you question it, censor it, judge it, it gets hurt and becomes silent."
- "The Inside World", September 22, 1971. University of Ottawa, Canada. French: Bourse pour realization d'une fresque. English: Grant for realization of a fresco, University of Ottawa, Canada. Solo.
- "Michell Cassou." 1972. Mitchell Gallery, Toronto, Canada. Solo.
- "New Invention the Collection d'l Art Brut de Lausanne of Jean Dubuffet. Museo de Navarra, Spain. November 1996–January 1997.
- Michell Cassou. Life, Paint and Passion. p.80.
- From the catalogue Nueva Invencion Coleccion de Arte Bruto Lausana. The collection of L'Art Brut Lausanne of Jean Dubuffet. Director de la Collection: Michel Trevoz. Group show. pp. 62, 75.
Jean Dubuffet Collection. L'Art Brut Lausanne.
- Life, Paint and Passion: Reclaiming the magic of spontaneous expression", 1995, Penguin Putnam Inc. ISBN 0-87477-810-7
- Questions: To awaken your creative power to the fullest", June 2009 ISBN 978-0-9802259-1-4
- Point Zero; Creativity without limits", 2001, Penguin Putnam Inc. ISBN 1-58542-085-9
- The Buddhist Art Doctor: Prescriptions for creative and Non-Creative seekers", September 2002, @Michell Cassou Workshops.
- Kids Play: Igniting Children's Creativity", 2004, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. ISBN 1-58542-328-9
- Teachers That Dare: Using the creative process to teach the creative process", June 2011, DeHart's Publishing USA ISBN 978-0-9802259-2-1
- "Birth of a Process." By Michell Cassou. 1999 DVD-R.
- "Creativity and Passion" ~ A Lecture By Michell Cassou. VHS Tape or DVD-R. 1999.
- Point Zero: Insights and Images. Michell Cassou 2003 DVD-R.
- "The Flowering of Children's Creativity." Discovering the natural evolution of children's creativity and helping them find the joy of self-expression. by Michell Cassou. 2006 DVD-R
- "Awakening of the Mystic." by Michell Cassou. 2009 DvD-R
- "Body, Sexuality, and Spirit" by Michell Cassou. 2010 DVD-R