Claire Begheyn MFA


As a child I felt and knew I was different than my siblings. Much later I learned that my right side of the brain was developed more than my left side. In a family of brilliant left side thinking and working people I danced my life in between them.

In the summer of 1974, I moved to Maastricht with Govert Heikoop. We knew each other a couple of weeks. He had tutored me in perspective drawing. He was in his final year of his MOb teaching degree in drawing. One of the subjects I still had to study for as my teacher had become ill in the beginning of this year, to be able to pass my exam to become a drawing teacher.I became a textile teacher in 1972, in 1974 I finished my drawing degree.

 We got married October 17, 1975.

 During the 3 years in Maastricht I started to develop my thoughts as an artist. Professor Ko Sarneel came to the Burght in Heer, where we lived (he was one of the teachers at the Jan van Eyck Academy) to review and critize my work. These works would finally lead to my acceptance at Cranbrook Art Academy in Michigan. USA

This work is a compellation of different knitted pieces. I found them in one of the schools I was teaching. Students learned how to knit to teach this technique to kids they would teach after finishing this school.

Govert was studying at the Jan van Eyck academy in Maastricht from 1974 until 1977. I was teaching textiles, drawing and crafts at secondary schools and started my professional life as an artist. Professor Sarneel (+ 2012) came to our house in Heer, near Maastricht, and has been so kind to guide me through the first developments I made as an artist. His wisdom and lessons were the base from where I developed ever since.

Three years in Maastricht: 1974 - 1977

This is a poem Goof made for me in ’75:

like a bird in the sky
you like to fly around
until in your flight
you look down on the far ground
your thoughts are about things
you can’t say out of nowhere
things poets sing about
and everybody awards you
if you fly to your goal
the way to it is very curved
and sometimes difficult, but if you feel it
you will get there!
although sometimes you will capsize

Goof and I wanted to go study abroad already before we met (he to Canada. I to Sweden). It became America. We got accepted at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, MI. There were 9 divisions. Goof was in the painting- and I in the textile department.

My professor during my two years was Gerhardt Knodel. I had photography as one minor. My professor was Carl Tooth. And the second minor was architecture. The teacher’s name in my first year I do not remember. In the second year it was Daniel Libeskind. He wasn’t building yet.

September ’77. Start of my study at Cranbrook.

At Cranbrook Art Academy, where I got my MFA, I studied at the textile department. But soon I left the material. I had architecture and photography as a minor. Ever since I worked with many different materials as the material side of the work is not the content.

My MFA study at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan has had a great impact on my development as an artist since the approach of my work originates from that period. In my work I try to express the relationship between nature, being part of, and dependent upon, and culture, manmade.

I always wrote down a lot of my thoughts. So, I quote from what I wrote over the years. Hard work – clear thinking- humor- self-confidence.
You are what you choose today.

The mysterious

For me it has a lot to do with light and diffuse light. Choosing to live my life today involves taking risks and means to experience the mysterious, the true source of all art, the most beautiful thing, the unknown, as the source of my work. Mystery means atmosphere, mystery means nature, and mystery means humankind and they all work together. 
To build on the mystery means progress, means innovation.
Being an artist means an eternal search for my own truth, it means to strengthen my own I, my thinking, and my imagination. To be in myself, think in myself, I become myself and express myself.

It is not what you see or know. It is what you don’t see and don’t know: the mystery. Anyway: I think art must be pure and unspoiled like nature with the same mystics as are in nature and which we’ll never understand.

Failure can be instructive; it can be an incentive to work and exploration. It can even be thought of as success of it points the way to new discoveries or strategies for getting grip on the mysteries and the unknown

The end of my first year at Cranbrook. From my notes:

The first year at Cranbrook has been a very hard and fruitful one. Only after a year of struggle I accepted myself as an artist. I wanted to be one. I mean I felt myself an artist but did not want to work for it.
The study is very heavy because you must make art all by yourself. I decided to make it happen. I must build to grow.

The feeling is my inspiration. I try to find a perfect balance in the relationship of all the elements I am using and to come to a perfect unity in juxtapositions – materials and shapes.

September ’78. Start of my second and last year at Cranbrook.

September 28, ’79
I am not concerned anymore with the atmosphere in a public building but with the atmosphere in the private, in my own pieces. Every piece is a step on the ladder of
self-discovery and a force to explore new things to grow and enrich myself and my environment.

January 15,’79
I want to reflect upon the complexity of life in my pieces.

The horizon is the place were earth and universe/ infinity, visually touch. I consider birds as possessors of the universe. The horizontal shape is very important to indicate space –connection of the earth and universe – of body and spirit. I regard the female body as horizontal and earth. The mind as verticals.

I try to get rid of symmetry, series, or repetitions. I want to extend my pieces in the future space they will be through shapes which indicate a direction or by the position of the piece in the space to indicate infinity. They have an elusive part in them.
Vastness = horizontalism – space – infinity – endlessness. I am trying to find my balance between horizontalism – verticalism. A search for a perfect balance.
I found vertical stripes in the Natural History Museum in LA on animals in nature to hide their horizontalism. Verticals of grass and trees -to grow-.

About textiles.
They were made as part of human lives: clothing, rugs, tents, wall-hangings, curtains, rugs for the animals, saddle-blankets, towels.

 To be different makes me feel alone, but I like it more and more.

From: “Women as winners’: winners have different potentials. Achievement is not the most important thing. Authenticity is. She actualizes her own unprecedented uniqueness and appreciates the uniqueness of others. A winner is able to sustain her autonomy over ever-increasing periods of time. A winner maintains a basic faith in herself. A winner is not afraid to do her own thinking and to use her own knowledge. Growth comes through exploring, understanding and expanding our levels of awareness about our thinking, feeling and doing.

Textiles don’t have structure, they are structure.

Genuine growth means having the courage and confidence to try new things, and in the process, to let go of old ones.

 One fundamental thing is to mee your own expectations.

Januari 1978.

My interest in modern dance has been an interest for a long period of time. I went to many performances.
Dance = line = life

November 1978. About every month I had a critique. We called it a crit. You put your work in a special room and with the students of the department, and interested students from other departments, the work was looked at and criticized. A very intense happening. For days I could be depressed. It was not the intentions to heart, not at all, but to get this input pushed me deep down in myself every time. At the same time it was a step deeper in my thinking and development.

I want to indicate a feeling of vastness, of endlessness. I regard nature as a unity of juxapositions and by using different techniques and materials I try to come to a unity in my work.
Relationships I see as verticals. My mind too. Growth as well.

I think nature is mysticism – vastness – atmosphere and structure.

The shapes I use indicate a movement, a direction, a feeling of going on: continuity, immortality.

By drawing I can express my direct feelings very well.

Using new techniques, to explore new fields means growth in my work. 

The sky
Structure in landscape
Rhythm through speed
Structure needed to build
Structure marks on buildings/ streets
Horizontalism/ verticalism
Fabric in landscape
Fabric as housing
Fabric needed to build

Fabric in circumstances
Curtains/ windows
Dolls/ candy


What I want to do this semester is to continue to discipline myself and now with regards to production. The difference between the drawings and work in progress is too big and as long as a lot of the pieces never have been made the development keeps on jumping and does not become a sturdy and personal process.

Crit of my photographs:
Very refreshing work. Paul: do something with the very best slides. See how they are together. Jim: look at which slides you really consider as images.

 Textiles. I consider textiles not enough being on themselves. The early textiles had a use and that made their existence and disappearance. They always existed as a

April 6, ‘79

My work is very related to the wall as I see the wall as being in between us and infinity. It’s a barrier at one side and protection on the other hand – the windows make the universe/horizon visible. I like the idea of breaking through a wall. Not literally but imaginary. To me it means to go beyond it.

In my work as a beginning artist continuation of direction is implied – an indication that one has to go on to grow. There are always a lot of forces pulling back but the building of the character is very important at the same time. I believe that once you have a certain strength it is noticeable in everything you do.

I like to regard my pieces as being choreographs of dance. Or, better, interpretations of dance. That’s also the reason why I like to work on a scale related to the human body in different positions. I like contrasts in different materials: soft – hard, because they can create a perfect balance:
Light – dark
Light – heavy
Static – dynamic
Horizontalism – verticalism
Mutual understanding – intimacy – space – infinity.

I think to choose is one of the most important things for an artist.

When you feel free, you have all the time to yourself. To grow means to leave things behind.

As I am my work, my work is me.

I think good work can only evolve out of concentration. Only then you are in touch with yourself.

April 9, ‘79

In search for myself – meaning – explanation through words.

Emphasize and accentuate space and scale/ relationships in nature. Not a registration but a general interpretation of THE nature, the infinite space. Nature as a starting point.
My sculptures at this moment are wooden structures with a composition of various colored pieces of cloth. Around the whole structure a transparent cloth is stretched. They create a very spherical look.

I find my inspiration in nature. Impressions which stay in my mind. Nature is the mystery of the world. I cannot translate this mystery in words. Only through my work.

I work from sketches. Spontaneous drawings, to reveal my deepest feelings. My inner space. Colors are floating in depth or space in a way that is analogue to the suspension of color in the atmosphere. Meaning is like a horizon: it recedes in relationship to where we are. Descartes dream was to make life transparent, to view it as a pure lucid structure.

I got my MFA on the 25th of May ’79.

My graduation show in the Cranbrook Museum consisted of three works in my graduation show I showed three works which were indications of my future developments: A. A big installation in the colors blue, yellow and red consisting of wooden beams. The lines went from a floor structure into a diagonal pattern of wooden laths which leaned against the wall. This piece led to many commissions in public buildings which I started once back in The Netherlands.
A series of the same photographs shown in a zigzag pattern. Haystacks in a field. It was sold and you see the work on the chimney of the people who bought it. It was a repetitive movement of several photos with the same imagery. Stuck in between plexiglass and hold in wooden frames. It stood zigzagging on a shelf I made. It indicated that rhythm of nature always goes on. After death new life takes over again.

And a horizontal wooden flat work with transparent cloth around one part: the only textile remaining!:
The second piece was a very minimal work: a horizontal, indicating my connection with the earth, piece of wood in al long small triangular shape, with a transparent piece of pink nylon cloth stretched over it. One of the colors of the beautiful skies in Michigan USA.

The Netherlands. From 1979

In May 1979 we returned to the Netherlands and started living in the Eerste Helmerstraat 130, 4th floor. We rented a tiny studio in the Kerkstraat, aside from the Leidsestraat. We started teaching 2 days a week to keep our financial freedom.
9 Month later we could rent a bigger space of 130m2 on the Lijnbaansgracht 10. Second floor. Here we started working on maquettes which where the ideas for the commissions we got. From now on I will write in the I form. We never worked together as artists. Only the craft of painting and so we did together in commissions: that way we made extra money.


After 3,5 years Lijnbaansgracht, in 1983, in that time we got the most commissions, we were able to buy a house in the Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 106 in Amsterdam. A huge house. It would take 25 years to renovate and rebuild the house, which included our studios, into a palace.

In 1986 we could buy the adjacent piece of land which would become a garden and in 1997 part of it is used to extend the house. The city government wanted to buy it to build public housing. So, we decided to build ourselves to make it unattractive to expropriate it.

In the first year there was no time to renovate. The commissions took all the time. With a lot of pleasure, I worked day and night to see the sculptures grow under my hands.

A series of the same photographs shown in a zigzag pattern. Haystacks in a field. It was sold and you see the work on the chimney of the people who bought it. It was a repetitive movement of several photos with the same imagery. Stuck in between plexiglass and hold in wooden frames. It stood zigzagging on a shelf I made. It indicated that rhythm of nature always goes on. After death new life takes over again.

28th of September ‘79

The big advantage and trouble is that I cannot fool myself any longer. I have to use all my (intelligence) capabilities.

16th of October ‘79

Art is like sports. Continuously levelling up of my own level.

Commissions in public buildings

The time of the commissions was a great and intense period. At that time The Netherlands had a system that 1% of the costs of a new building was spend on art. The artist magazine BK had the commissions listed and you had to write a statement and send in slides.

My first commission in Amsterdam was in a school where music lessons were given. My work was situated in the entrance hall. The starting point was a quote of Marcuse: ‘Music has to let people sing and dance’.
In the commission to sketch your ideas you express the sculpture(s). Often in drawings and a scale model. And you make an overview of the costs.
The wood was treated with Epoxy West so no weather of humidity influences could change the painted wood.

The work is about dance. The dance of and in life and life itself. Rhythm is adjacent to dance (music, singing). Your own rhythm of life, dancing on rhythmic music is the ongoing renewing force of nature itself. For me color is bound to pleasure and life.

If the whole world should dance, sing, and make music there are no longer problems!

From my writings between ’79 and ‘82

Baroque pieces of furniture
Since the end of last century, I re-assemble wooden baroque devices and I re-used the ornamentation which was inspired by natural forms. I recycle these within my work by re-assembling ornaments as supporters for my work.

This work resulted in individual wall hangings, a flock of sheep with handspun dreads as skin and a series of big and small shell pieces, embedded in a frame of baroque ornamentation.

At this moment
I am researching the relationship between plants and the derived manmade ornamentation. I am trying to find the conjunction between nature and manmade. I am working on many sketches which will lead to the mural works. I am going back to more installation type of works. It is an exciting period this period of introspection. And I am anxious to see where my research is leading me to.


Being and nothingness. Jean Paul Sartre

Freedom implies:
The existence of an environment to be changed, obstacles to be cleared, tools to be used. Of course it is freedom which reveals them as obstacles but by its free choice it can only interpret the meaning of their being.

Lockes science method is: ‘the simple idea’ is more important than the complex whole. Complexity is equal to the sum of the simple elements.

Rainer Werner Herzog: the only I believe in is the despair.

Carl André: ‘If it isn’t difficult, it is not worth doing. I have some strong desires … I want what is not yet in the world’.

David Hilbert: Our first naïve impression of nature and matter is that of continuity.

J. Gasquet, Cezanne
: ‘What I am trying to translate to you is more mysterious, it’s entwined in the very roots of being, in the impalpable source of sensations.

Viktor E. Frankl: one has to realize one’s own truth, an impressive enterprise. Sometimes this happens through a natural inner growth, but normally one is working and striving a whole life.

Man’s search for meaning: fundamentally any man can decide what shall become of him
-mentally and spiritually. It is this spiritual freedom – which cannot be taken away – that makes life meaningful and purposeful. If there is a meaning at all in life, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death.
Tasks, and therefor the meaning of life, differ from man to man and from moment to moment. Thus, it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way.
Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.

Giacometti: The painter’s vision is a continued birth. ‘I believe Cezanne was seeking depth all his life’.

Robert Delaunay: ‘Depth is the new inspiration’.

Claire Begheyn: ‘Why did you become an artist?’
I never became an artist. I always was.