Love Letter to Huguette Caland

Huguette Caland, Eux, 1978. Oil on linen. 39.5 x 39.5 inches.

Huguette Khoury Caland (1931–2019) was a force to be reckoned with. One of Lebanon’s best-known artists during her lifetime, Caland is still considered a leading artist of the Arab world and beyond. I love the breadth of her practice; her cheeky kaftans covered in erotic line drawings and her bright, whimsical paintings populated with sensuous forms, depicting bodies as landscapes. 

Caland grew up with a creative spirit and a talent to express her inner world. In an interview with Ricardo Karam in 2006 she explains how, as a child, she didn’t realize she had an imagination, nor that her experience of reality was a result of her imagination and dreams. She describes where she grew up in Lebanon and remembers drawing numerous characters on the walls, each of which had different personalities, names, and voices. Caland left her comfortable life in Lebanon to pursue a life of art. Over the years she continued to paint bold and expressive portraits, veering toward abstraction. 

I admire her courageous, rebellious spirit, her stubbornness, and her drive to follow her passion. She was so unabashedly herself, never aggressive and always poised. Qualities that come through in her playful compositions and multidisciplinary practice.

Caland said that she ultimately wanted to be friends with herself. A brief look through her oeuvre proves that she did just that. It is difficult for a woman to pursue these dreams and be taken seriously, especially back then; but Huguette achieved both magnificently.

Author: Nadine Nour el Din

Nadine Nour el Din is an independent researcher and cultural practitioner. She holds a BA in Visual Arts from the American University in Cairo and an MA in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy, with distinction from Goldsmiths, University of London. Her academic, curatorial, cultural strategy, and research work focuses on the arts and cultural production of the Arab world and wider region.