Author’s note: In preparation for a documentary on Armand Merizon, ARMAND, which premiered in 2005, numerous interviews were held with the artist about his personal life, his artistic career, and his spiritual journey. At that time his wife, four children, ophthalmologist, artist friends, two gallery owners, and four patrons were also interviewed.
Several years later, in preparation for this book, ARMAND MERIZON: HIS LIFE AND ART, Merizon was interviewed eight more times along with his ophthalmologist, more artist friends, patrons, and one daughter. Quotes in the following section are derived from these interviews.
The house in the country provided a haven for the five children and their naturalist father. They thrived in this country environment and learned to respect nature.
Michele recalls: My father wasn’t an art teacher in the sense that I have all these children and they needed to be educated and trained in the arts. He was not like that. He was so absorbed in his work. What we learned in the arts was kind of like you breathe in the air. It’s right there and you learn it without knowing you’re learning (Dornbush/Zandstra Interview of Michele Merizon, 6-21-04).
Armand: Oh, just the joy of energy, alive, in anything that’s growing–––there’s ENERGY coming out of the earth. There’s energy in the sun, in the air. There’s energy in the wind. It’s all around us. Every bit of our living body is energy. And you can get a sense of energy and propulsion, zest with a lot of color (Dornbush/Zandstra Interview, 6-14-04).
René: He is a naturalist. Anything that came into our lives, whether it was a mouse in the house, a bat in the bedroom, or snake in the garden, it was always something to be looked at and observed, and to marvel at the coloration and how it flew or how a flower opened. It was all something that you respected. He reveres nature (Dornbush/Zandstra Interview, 6-23-04).
A man like Joseph Krutch to me is sort of a bridge between the three branches of Calvinism, Schopenhauer, and then the modern scientific course of psychology. . . What I appreciated of Krutch is the reverence with which he took nature, the profound respect. . .To me a man like Krutch and other naturalists was a bridge between the white man and this distant creature we call the American Indian in relation to this physical world we live on, this earth. You get what I mean? It's not a conscious compromise on Krutch's part, but he's rediscovering the earth we live on and he respects it with a reverence.
Michele: He was very vocal about anything he noticed. ‘Look at the light on that. Look how the light is hitting that tree.’ How his mind was thinking artistically came out verbally.
Armand: “My instinct was to get out of the city, to get away from the parks, to some place quiet. So we’d go out by the tracks. It was a good place to paint and draw. And I would tell the children to look for this unique stone.” When it’s wet or polished it has a distinct mottled pattern composed of six-sided coral fossils. Finding one was an intriguing proposition—a treasure hunt for a Petoskey stone! Armand would give them a quarter for each one.
His children remember vividly those rock hunting excursions along the railroad tracks. Betty would pack a wonderful picnic lunch and off they’d go.
Aimé: We took off in our rusted dark-blue station wagon filled with five children, Mom, and Daddy—Daddy with his dark beard, white shirt open at the neck, and rolled-up sleeves, black hat set at an angle, and a stogie in his mouth. Eventually, turning off a gravel road, our car would bump along a faint lane that paralleled the railroad tracks. My dad gave out quarters if we found a Petoskey. We kids licked a lot of stones at the tracks (Dornbush/Zandstra Interview, 6-21-04).
Aimé: Another find would be an insect that looked like a thick weed. It had knobby joints connecting straw, stalky limbs. My Dad called it a walking stick...
Meanwhile, he’d paint while everyone waited for the sound of a train.
When a train came, we’d all move away from the tracks and get up on the bank and when the train was through we’d go back to examining Petoskey stones...
Sometimes, as a special treat after being at the tracks, Daddy would stop at an old store, Snay’s Grocery, in Alaska, Michigan, and get us all an ice cream—a perfect ending to a lovely evening. When we got back to the city and turned down our street, we’d all yell out, ‘Turn off Daddy, turn off Daddy!’ and, if he was in just the right mood, he’d suddenly zoom past our house and we would all cheer and cruise around the block before finally coming home again (Aimé Merizon Eulogy, “Daddy Stories,” 4-7-10).
Because of those experiences the Merizon children grew up seeing the light, rhythm, and composition of nature through the eyes of an artist.