Jean-Claude Gaugy was born on July 7, 1944 in the Jura region of France. At fourteen he left home and lived on the streets of Paris. He learned he could make money by drawing portraits of people on the street. He was hired by a famous Paris restauranteur to sketch portraits of the restaurants patrons. The restaurant owner sent the young Gaugy to school during the day. He attended the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts.
At age 15, while working at the restaurant, he met Salvador Dali who arranged Gaugy's first gallery exhibit at Galerie de Seine.
Gaugy continued to show his work and attend school. He did his advanced studies at the Academie Julien and Academie du Feu. After meeting the Soviet ambassador to Paris at an opening, Gaugy had museum exhibitions in St Petersburg and Moscow.
Gaugy spent two years in the military serving in Africa. The experience so affected him that upon his return to France he spent time at a monastery and considered a monastic life. He eventually returned to art and again returned to school at the School of Design in Rome and a wood carving school in Oberammergau, Germany. The artist then returned to Moscow to attend the sculpture school.
Gaugy apprenticed with Henry Moore in England and shared a studio with Bernard Buffet in Paris.
In 1966 Jean-Claude Gaugy married an American art student and moved to the United States. In 1969 he and his wife moved to San Francisco where he began wood carving scenes from San Francisco. Eventually Gaugy began adding paint to his carvings.
Gaugy later remarried and moved to Florida. On a trip with his wife to the mountains of West Virginia, Gaugy came across an abandoned school which reminded him of his childhood home. He bought the school and began using it as his summer studio. Gaugy felt called to create a new art piece that he worked on during his summers at the mountain top studio. The finished work called The Awakening is a series of wood carved and painted panels that fit together to cover the entire ceiling and walls of the gym of the school.
After visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico Gaugy and his wife, Michelle,
decided to move to the city. The couple bought a gallery on
Canyon road and reconstructed a building down the street from
the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum for The Awakening piece. The Awakening
Museum, which is one large room measuring 8000 square feet with
all four walls and the ceiling containing the single piece,
was opened with its mission to be a place of respite and peace.