Hopper in Paris

2019-2-24-Goolsby Paris 2-26 Post-8538A lot has happened since my last post. Today I cleaned up and cleaned out. My paintings are in a tube. I have checked into my flight. In about 12 hours, I will also be in a tube, flying back to the States with memories, experiences, and mixed emotions. As the light beamed through my windows today against the empty stark room, I reflected upon my exhausted arrival. I thought of Edward Hopper’s paintings of quiet reflection and solitude. I remember the cloudy and cold rainy weeks of January, the emptiness of this space, and the adventures that unfolded. Over the past weeks since my arrival on January 3rd, I have worked on 12 paintings. As each painting materialized, the room belonged more and more to me. I felt more at home and more at ease. I expect I will evolve over time because of this experience. A number of people at my open studio commented that my paintings reminded them of an American landscape, something they remember, something they were familiar with from their experiences.

World War II – Nazi Atrocities Remembered

Since my last post, I have visited the Deportation Memorial and the Shoah Memorial. These two sites within a quarter of a mile from each other create environments for quiet reflection on the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who were deported from France to Nazi Germany death camps during the occupation of France by Nazi Germany during World War II. The immensity of this tragedy, the incomprehensible failure of humanity that even allowed something like this to get started, and the revelation of all of it when allied troops finally pounded Germany into surrender is sobering to say the least.

The History of Wars

The tragedy of wars, the technologies of wars, how wars result in national leaders, and the long history of wars is exhaustively displayed in the Musée de l’Armée at Hôtel national des Invalides. It covers every war that the French have ever been engaged and overs a perspective that is interesting for an American in France. I might note that when I encountered Napoleon’s preserved stuffed white horse, I was somewhat amused because the image of Napoleon Crossing the Alps, at the Palace of Versailles, showed a horse that was a great deal more glorified than this horse could ever have lived up to. Napoleon’s tomb under a phenomenal dome gets the prime location in the entire complex as the high altar of the church under a baldachino, clearly inspired by St. Peter’s in Rome, plays second fiddle.

Rodin’s Museum

Rodin was clearly the greatest sculptor to have emerged since the time of Bernini in the 17th century. Rodin’s time was a time of Impressionism, yet he worked in very substantive materials, bronze and marble. His career seemed to be one of gradual development and this museum does a nice job of tracing his growth chronologically. A great deal of emphasis has been placed on his creative process, drawings, models, and inspirations.

I came away with the sense that his forms were expressive, organic, and intense. I made better connections with the works that were inspired by Dante and how they ultimately played out in his masterwork, The Gates of Hell.

Monmartre and Basilique du Sacré Couer

The guide books make climbing this hill seem difficult; however, I took my time and was never once out of breath, exhausted, or anything like that. I did not use a metro ticket to take the incline.  When I first saw the church, it seemed very starkly bright and clean. It is a strange mixture of styles held together by a fairly impressive dome. The interior proportions are also a little strange as the apse mosaic is disproportionate to the rest of the interior.

Out on the streets, one feels as though you are in the Paris that is the traditional 19th century Paris. Loaded with cafes, galleries, boutiques, and sketch artists, you cannot help but feel that you are maybe in a different time, well if you look closely, you can can find the state police armed with automatic weapons casually protecting the public in the background. I briefly escaped the main streets to find some quiet areas. I was wondering as I ate my lunch and watching a sketch artist working with two children for a portrait sitting, if this was a good way to occupy the kids while the parents went to grab a drink.

Street art in this area, like the Marais district, can be found in abundance. I cannot begin to say what it at all means, but it adds a bit of grit to an area that is clearly a tourist trap.

Some other Impressions: Musée Marmottan Monet and Musée de l’Orangerie

These paintings are about water and light. Water is fluid and light flickers.  Monet made great paintings about it. I was impressed by the dry scumbled brushwork that built and built and built and how that ended up looking fluid. Lastly, I was able to see the painting that started it all, Impression Sunrise.

Also on display are works by Caillibotte, Berthe Morisot, and Manet.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned mixed emotions. To start, this residency has been an opportunity of a lifetime. I have been able to meet artists from all over the world. I have been able to see face to face the works from art history have been in the forefront of my mind for decades. I waited too long to come. On one hand, my two months have been too short. On the other, I am ready to reunite with my family back home, a family I love and have missed very much. Hopper paintings are lonely. Studios are lonely. Empty studios are especially lonely. I think that solitude is necessary to create. This solitude is part of the sacrifice that is experienced by artists. I am not going to promise that this will be my last post regarding Paris. It will be my last post from Paris, until I perhaps one day return. Good night and goodbye river Seine.

2019-2-24-Goolsby Paris 2-26 Post-5543

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Day Filled with Paintings

2019-2-22-Goolsby Fondation Vuitton-5094Courtauld Collection at Foundation Louis Vuitton

After seeing the banners around town and hearing about the show from a friend, I concluded that these two shows were not to be missed. I felt fortunate because I knew Manet’s “Un Bar aux Folies Bergère,” featured on the banners was here from England. My heart goes out to those currently visiting London and not being able to see this at the Courtauld Institute in London. The show featured impressive impressionist and post-impressionist works by all of the big names. Also, it was a pleasure to see a small gallery of delicate watercolors by JMW Turner. I learned from my past experience and purchased a timed reservation online. I ended up in the gallery 20 minutes early, and they scanned the ticket straight from my phone. The gallery was reasonably crowded. Patiently waiting and weaving towards the works made it possible to get a satisfying viewing. I especially enjoyed a number of the smaller works in the collection by Degas, Monet, Gauguin, Manet, Van Gogh, and Seurat. I am including a few samples from the show that I particularly enjoyed seeing.

2019-2-22-Goolsby Fondation Vuitton-4920
Manet’s famous masterpiece, “Un Bar aux Folies Bergère”

The Foundation’s take on Contemporary Painting

The second exhibition I viewed was drawn from the foundation’s permanent collection. I did not use the audio guide, and I did not see booklets, but my interpretation of this exhibition boils down to critical and curatorial perceptions about what remains relevant in the practice of painting. To some extent, the show is geared towards expanding the definition of painting beyond what is typically considered painting. The first large gallery is dedicated to Joan Mitchell, and her take on expressionism with very large-scale works, most of which are in diptych format. There is no question about these works as paintings. They feature “the mark.”

2019-2-22-Goolsby Fondation Vuitton-4977
Gallery featuring Joan Mitchell’s Paintings | Sculpture by Carl Andre

As the show continues, one turns a corner and on the wall is Joseph Kosuth’s tautology “A Sentence With Five Colors.” Alternative materials that may or may not include pigment become folded into the concept of painting and that is one major theme of the show.

One of the most engaging parts of the exhibition is the famous installation “Infinity Mirror Room” by Yayoi Kusama from Japan. 4 viewers at a time are given approximately 3 minutes to view the work, which had a reasonably quick moving queue at the door. Once inside with the door closed, one is surrounded by colored dots on phallic forms that in the French mirror tradition, reflects the space into infinity. One also finds their own reflections as well, and the 4 individuals in the room become a multitude. Significantly, this particular work was the catalyst that launched this artist’s career into the international stratosphere, and she is now celebrated as Japan’s most successful artists.

2019-2-22-Goolsby Fondation Vuitton-5038
“Infinity Mirror Room” by Yayoi Kusama

Once again, I spent some time exploring the architecture of Frank Gehry’s building, During this visit, they had the lower level along the waterfall and reflecting pool open.

The weather was great, so I exited out the back of the museum and spent some time sketching in the garden before taking the metro back. I am grateful that I have been here long enough to see a total of 4 exhibitions in this beautiful place.

 

 

 

 

 

Versailles – Power Trip 101

2019-2-22-Goolsby Versailles-4467

Yesterday was the day. The weather looked great. I had completed my reading, planned the journey and left for Versailles. Everything went smoothly. I went to the tourist information office and paid the 10 percent commission because there was absolutely no queue. They were really very friendly and helpful. After leaving, I approached the Palace and entered the short line into the entrance around 10 am.

2019-2-22-Goolsby Versailles-4475
Average fence in front of palace

Gold was my first impression. Gold was my last impression. Gold was the motif throughout the experience. Grandeur describes the Palace and the Gardens. They are big, vast, and the one thing I will leave France etched into memory is the giant scale of so many of my experiences. Paintings, Palaces, Churches, and Boulevards are all big. Exhausted describes how I felt after the 10.42 miles that I walked yesterday.

I went into the experience thinking that I was not really going to react well to the pomp and excesses of wealth that I will (frankly 99.9 percent of us will not) never achieve or understand. I know that much of the palace is in many cases not decorated with the actual original objects; however, they have done a great job making it all seem authentic as much as possible. I appreciated the light and beauty of it all and certainly have an improved understanding of some of the history of France. I actually left the experience liking King Louis XIV. I’m not sure I would really like him in real life, but I left the Château feeling like he had some level of accessibility for his people and that he wanted to govern well for them so that they could lead good lives. The secession of rulers after him was of course answered by a very tumultuous history of revolution. The palace conveys the King’s divine connections to all kinds of historical gods, his sense of power, a celebration of French technologies/inventions, and the fact he was a knowledgeable individual with an investment in art and musical culture. Beyond Louis XIV, there is plenty of history through the rules of Napoleon, and the citizen King, Louis-Philippe I. Some surprises for me were versions of David’s paintings Coronation of Napoleon and Napoleon Crossing the Alps. Since the Louvre had the Coronation under wraps for restoration, it was impressive to see this version that David also painted.

Palace

These pictures emphasize some of those thoughts along with some of the things from the gardens, which are also vast. The gardens are in the winter condition at the moment with numerous statues covered and fountains that are not running. I found one section with blooming daffodils and that is the extent of the floral display at the moment. So, it is fascinating to see what goes on in the dormant months and a couple of my pictures show that. The geometry of the landscape and the French Control over nature is clear.

Gardens

I made it down to Marie-Antoinette’s section of the compound and saw the Grand and Petite Trianons, the Temple of Love, Grotto and Belvedere. Did I see everything? No. I gave it a pretty good attempt.

It is great how this whole thing started as an escape from city life when it was initially constructed as a hunting lodge. Even Marie-Antoinette’s wish to get away from it all manifested itself in strange ways.

2019-2-22-Goolsby Versailles-4903
Front of the palace near the end of the day

I left the Palace around 5:15 pm and received my final flicker of Gold as I glanced back at the palace. My feet hurt a lot, but it was a beautiful day.

Drying Time

 

IMG_8299This blog is an attempted reflection of the time that started on January 2, 2019. One knows that when the expiration date on the milk is the same as your departure, things are winding down. I’m not sure if this blog post will conclude with some grandiose summary revelation, or only be one more piece of thread in the strangely woven tapestry of my experience here in France.

I came not to conquer but to explore. I try and use my sabbaticals as an escape hatch to suspend the intensity and variables of everyday living at home in Emory/Glade Spring, Virginia. My life there is rich with inspiration and filled with challenges. At work, I have the privilege of working with wonderful colleagues and students, excellent facilities and a pulsing world of change. At home I find comfort in the nest that is my family; the word supportive does not even begin to describe their level of care for me as I have tried to find a path into and through a world where my creative output might survive and find meaning for an audience. My wife, Patti, sacrifices much for me to take these journeys away from home so that I can come back refueled for whatever lies ahead. This is the third sabbatical that my family has experienced in my academic career that I have chosen to travel away to some foreign land. I also give credit to her mother, Barbara, a strong woman who modeled for her five children a life that often meant being the household navigator while her husband, Jim, was deployed at sea in the U.S. Navy. I give recognition to her for creating a paradigm of support that has now been passed on to me through my wife, her daughter. Thank you to all in my family who have made this residency possible.

2019-2-19-Goolsby Paris Portfolio-2982
The Marais building of Cité internationale des arts where my atelier is housed.

Once I received final confirmation that I would be the resident here during January and February, I immediately started my preparations. I ordered the paper in November, afraid that due to some manufacturing glitch, it would end up back ordered. I purchased more Paris books. I really should have worked on language skills, but the time just wasn’t there. Immersion was the inadvertent strategy. Sometimes it works.

I came to France with the idea that I wanted to turn my painting upside down, perhaps become more abstract, more visceral, more juicy, less descriptive, and find some new energy in my work. There has been some experimentation that will go home in the suitcase with that will not end up in the photos on this blog. I guess every artist has some secrets and that is the way that it is. It’s the part of your creative exploration that fails, and you really don’t want it shown, or at least not at this point. In my plan to come to France, I was not convinced that I would make paintings of Paris, and rest assured, I am not setting up a stand along the river Seine. I also didn’t get a big break with an opportunity to show at the Grand Palais, either. I have met some interesting people here from several parts of the world. It is always exciting to see what others are doing. In terms of French culture, I would say I have grown and now possess small amounts of French expertise.

A definite benefit has been a great opportunity to actually see so many of the works that I have studied from art history. The medieval period, 17th, 18th, 19th centuries and current times are rich.

Cite PosterLast night (February 19, 2019) was excellent. The core group of folks who have been here since I arrived attended my Open Studio called “Fictive Space.” The evening also included a steady stream of visitors from France, Uruguay, China, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, and others equally as important that I am inadvertently leaving out.

2019-2-19-Goolsby Open Studio-4269
Core group of fellow residents early on at the Open Studio in Atelier 8317

They started coming 15 minutes early, and I closed the event at 10 pm. It is great to meet so much of the young and excited composers, musicologists, art historians, architects, and musicians from all over the world. The Cité international des arts is quite remarkable for this achievement. I enjoyed the people who asked questions and by the end of it felt reasonably well about sharing works that are brand new and likely not 100 percent complete. They must now dry.

The Paintings

So in this post, I am providing individual images with the caveats that they may or may not eventually be exhibited, and they can indeed be subjected to my future revision. The light in the studio compounded with the technical deficiencies (camera model, lack of a tripod, and uncontrolled studio lighting) make the reproduction of these paintings a modest attempt at best.

Now that the paintings are drying, I am spending a little more energy on sketching in my journal and shooting photography. I have numerous museums on my final list. I can do this!

Higher and Higher: Amiens

Last Friday night I did not sleep well. The Saturday morning trip had to many “what ifs” involved. I woke at 2:30 am and again at 5 am. At that point, I just got up, made the coffee and got ready for the day. I got on the metro at Pont Marie at 7:04 and headed toward Poissonniére where I would then walk 8 minutes to Gare du Nord, assuming I walked in the correct direction! I did. All was well. I was so early for my train that was scheduled to depart at 8:04. Saw a “5-Guys” with a breakfast menu, and I did it up right with a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. My son would be proud.

The train departed. I was surprised at how long the Parisian sprawl continued before the landscape gave way to something rural, lots of factories and stuff. Most of it did not look that wonderful. The sun finally broke the horizon and I was looking at frosty fields and wind farms. It was a regional train, so we stopped frequently. When we arrived at Amiens I was a little surprised because there was not a lot of urban sprawl. Before I knew it, I was there. I could see over near the horizon one structure that dominated the skyline, the Cathedral. I have wanted to see it for decades. This trip had another bonus. One of my students, Sam Mungai, who enrolled in my Sistine Chapel class last semester, is in Amiens on a Study Abroad Exchange Program that our college has with Université de Picardie Jules Verne. So, Sam and I made arrangements to meet at the train station and he would show me the city and his place of study.

He graciously gave his entire day and patiently navigated as I took more than 300 photographs. We had a wonderful lunch at Miam’s. We saw the cathedral, walked along the river and canals, visited two campuses of the University, and ended the tour with a Macron Macaroon. I logged in at 13.31 miles of walking for the day. In our conversations, it was clear that he was happy with his university experience in Amiens. As a double major in Mass Communication and French Cultural Studies, he certainly was adaptable in the Amiens community.

Amiens initially struck me as more relaxed than Paris. It is smaller than Paris but by the end of the day we did end up in a more modernized section of town with the bustle that I have come to expect. I enjoyed the picturesque nature of the city.

The historical and university portions of the town are architecturally varied ranging from medieval to highly modernist. After an initial coffee stop, we visited the cathedral, which Sam knew was my top priority.

I expected the cathedral to be big, so I had no surprise there. I have been in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris several times, so I am expecting something similar, in a way. And it was in a way. But, Amiens Cathedral is very different from Paris and my readings prepared me. Amiens is more sculptural. The stained glass has been ravaged from wars, so it wasn’t going to be better than St. Chapelle in that regard. Upon entering through the portal, I was immediately struck with the three-dimensionality of the sculptures, the row after row of successive arches that suspended themselves overhead. I was also mesmerized by the complexity and richness of the sculptural program. The sculptures are not simply adhered to the structure but they visually become part of the structure. The architects and sculptors in this case have transformed the rigid nature of stone into an organic growing structure that soars. Truly, verticality rules here. But so does light, which becomes very apparent once you enter into the cathedral and absorb the view down the central nave. Beyond the altar, the ceiling area above the choir becomes a magical glowing white. This is about as close to a visual heaven on earth as anyone is likely to ever see. In the photographs that accompany this blog, I have included the things that support the idea that this cathedral is sculptural but also to certain extent, this cathedral is mystical. One cannot help but observe the way that the light from the stained glass transforms grey stone into beautiful pastels that one can easily find in a 19th-century impressionist painting. It is the largest cathedral in France. It is the tallest cathedral in France. I loved the round windows in the transepts. I loved the rose window above the organ. I loved the tombs. I loved the choir area with its burst of glory. The builders of the church took Gothic to an extreme that is beyond what these pictures can possibly show. I was surprised at the quality of light in this building.

Furthermore, I feel like the scale of this building challenged my photography skills and equipment. I truly needed a wider-angle lens.

When we arrived at Parc Saint-Pierre, we patiently waited for the sun to sink below the horizon. In the distance, the cathedral provided a beautiful silhouette, reflecting in the lake water, as the contrails of jets from a nearby airport etched their lines into a dramatic French sky. It was a great day that ended by reinforcing the idea that there must be something very important up there.

So Far Away: Notes from the Louvre

I purchased my ticket from the kiosk at 9:45 and 21 seconds, am. There was no standing in line except for a brief security check, which took 4 minutes. I entered underground through the shopping mall directly from the metro, no waiting, no advanced ticket – and before I knew it – I was in the largest art museum in the world. I had my bucket list in my mind. I have wanted to see the masterpieces for decades. By the end of the museum, I had walked for more than 9 miles and taken more than 300 photographs. The experience was grand. For starters I will say hip-hip hooray for the demise of royal power so that this sprawling architectural wonder could be shared with a broader audience including myself. For a mere €15 I could freely roam about the former royal palace, or at least the parts that were open.

Works Missing in Action: David, Oath of the Horatii, Coronation of Napoleon I; Giorgione and/or Titian, Pastoral Symphony.

­

As I entered the Denon Wing of the Louvre I really wasn’t sure what to do or where to go. I simply decided to follow the signs to La Joconde. On my way, I encountered Michelangelo’s slaves in the Michelangelo Gallery. The two figures here were originally designed for the lower section of the Tomb of Pope Julius II in the beginning of the 16th century in Rome. The Dying Slave who seems to be at peace /resigned to fate and the Rebellious Slave, who is resisting against all odds, touch upon two different life approaches. It was a nice encounter on the way to La Joconde.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3605

I climb another set of stairs and find myself in a room that brings great joy to my heart because as I enter I see Delacroix’s Death of Sardanapalus. It is huge. It is every bit as magnificent as I had hoped. On the opposite side of the room is his Liberty Leading the People. It has a tour group in front of it. I am lucky because no one cares about Sardanapalus. It is bigger than Liberty. It is incredible for its painterly virtuosity. Its color is rich, transparent, translucent, rich, fluid, brushy, sumptuous. He paints flesh beautifully. Delacroix is great with death/destruction; repeatedly revealing beauty within that theme. Over next to Liberty is Delacroix’s painting of Dante’s Inferno.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3613

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3612

This Michelangelo-like figure is a tormented soul in the River Styx (the painting is loosely based on Canto VIII). Pay attention to the water droplets (in the zoomed photo). This detail within the overall epic drama of the painting makes him the 19th century Spielberg. Delacroix’s Romanticism was built on a foundation that traces its way back to Baroque artists including Rubens and Bernini. Also in the room is Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa with its monumental and political splendor. The French love protest. It is dark and brown.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3619

I finally decide to move on with the day, and exit into the next room…a gift shop already? Yes, but I turn around and on the rear wall is Ingres’ Grand Odalisque. Ingres is best appreciated by viewing the real object. There is perfection in the system. It is linear and classical to a certain extent. It is smooth. It is so smooth. There is nothing else like it.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3626

The next door is a big one. Wow, is it big. I enter into the room of the most famous work of art in the universe. It is La Joconde; from this point on, all art viewing goes downhill. This painting is the definition of masterpiece. This is the quintessential masterpiece. It is Leonardo da Vinci’s great work of mystery, sfumato, chiaroscuro, and the pinnacle of the High Italian Renaissance, the Mona Lisa. So now I’ve finally seen it, from roughly 20 feet away with light reflections all over the protective glass.

No one I have ever spoken with about viewing this work has experienced a satisfactory viewing, so my expectations were not high. The installation is one in which protection outweighs any reasonable viewing experience. The way that is displayed is so compromised. It would be better to go ahead and sell tickets to those willing to wear a face shield and rear handcuffs so at they could stand 24 inches away from the painting for 30 seconds. You could still employ the bulletproof glass.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3661

Furthermore, the selfie-picture-thing is just out of control; therefore, I’m posting the most obnoxious selfie-picture-thing from my Mona Lisa viewing experience so that others visiting the Louvre can have even lower expectations than I could ever imagine. If this photo should perhaps go viral, then we can revise Dante’s Inferno to include one more form of symbolic retribution.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3670

Before I know it, Veronese’s Last Supper at Cana is inundated with a tour group, so I look at, it and I move into the next hall. It is rather grand. Not knowing where to go, I simply say to myself, “let’s simply wander over to Leonardo’s Virgin & Child with Saint Anne.” Now this is odd, it’s a Leonardo and I can see it. Nobody knows it’s here? I can stand 15 inches away. There are no queues, no guards no bulletproof glass…this is my normal Leonardo viewing experience. This is like the National Gallery in Washington, or the Ufizzi in Florence. Not only that, but it is such a lovely Leonardo. The nice color is due to a recent restoration, although the restoration has been controversial.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3673

Nearby is Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks and it too, has excellent accessibility. I noticed my white hair emerging for the sfumato (Smokey Haze) while looking at my photos and decided that this was a cool selfie for a lot of reasons: I am emerging in the presence of a bunch of holy figures, I am surrounded by really interesting gestures including a blessing and a prayer, and the Virgin Mary is being very supportive over me. Most of all, however, is that I am not blatantly disrupting other viewers! This is a work that, like the Mona Lisa, can use a cleaning. It is mired in deep thick dark murky varnish.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-Rubens Medici Room

After a brief lunch at the café, I continued my journey by visiting French Painting upstairs and then segued into northern Europe. I enjoyed my time wandering through Rembrandt’s, Van Eycks, and so forth when I made this turn into a very large room of Rubens, all Rubens. It was the Marie deMedici cycle. I remembered in my 17th coursework that I loved Rubens but when it came to this series I was flabbergasted at the theme. Here is essentially a wealthy woman with very few important life achievements being put into allegorical contexts with all of history and the Gods. Let’s face it; her arrival to France after a proxy marriage to a King, being represented with Poseidon and ancient sea nymphs in the foreground is blatantly preposterous. I remember chuckling out loud during art history, which opened up quite a conversation with my wonderful art historian. At the very least it seemed a bit gratuitous for Rubens to include such voluptuous sea nymphs in the foreground, commanding more attention than Marie, herself. My art historian could not convince me of the work’s validity. Seeing the entire cycle in its entirety has impressed me in terms of ambition, scale, technical virtuosity, and the invention of allegory in the most imaginative ways. Now, even my hero Delacroix cannot match Rubens’ capacity for painting flesh.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3791

I am including a detail of a sea nymph here, again, with the water droplets that are so masterfully depicted. Guess who influenced Delacroix? And, guess who paid Rubens? Was it worth it? Well, Marie de Medici secured her place in history and this epic cycle of paintings is Spielbergian within a 17th century context.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3813

A Digression -The collection here holds so much and some of it so big that it is sometimes difficult to look for the smaller gems. A painter like Chardin comes to mind. In Northern Europe, there were the Dutch still life painters. This Dutch floral arrangement shows that beauty can exist in the temporary. It doesn’t have to be a great allegory. It doesn’t have to be associated with the ritual of religion.

As I continued my visit, I exhausted the European painting strand, casually wandered through decorative arts, and started my literal descent into antiquity as I started exploring the lower floors of the museum. The conversation that continued to play in my head after seeing the Medici cycle (and if you have ever had me for art history you have heard me say this) is how art is often a result of the power structures that produced it; in this Roman relief sculpture, it happens to be religion and prescribed ritual.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3722

In this image, a priest is reading the intentions of Jupiter from the entrails of the bull prior to the emperor embarking on a military campaign. The work was discovered in the Forum of Trajan in Rome.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3827

The Great Sphinx is the largest outside of Egypt and weighs several tons. It also represents a king, with the name inscribed under the beard. The lion’s body gives the king power. As a future king needed the sculpture, his name was added until there was no more space; at that point, the earlier kings names were removed completely and new ones added.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3845

This large capital is from the palace of Darius I in Susa, Persian Empire from the 6th century BCE. With it he was trying to bring together two traditions, the Babylonian and the Iranian. Ionians were brought in to complete the designs, which included two bulls, back to back, on the top. The courtyard where the columns originated were six columns wide by six columns deep. Darius I, the king, was trying to assimilate the various cultures of his empire.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3859

The winged human headed bulls from 8th century BCE are from Khorsabad, Assyria (now near Mosul, Iraq) and originally guarded the doors of the palace there. The horns on the tiara symbolized divinity. Each bull has five legs. From the front, they are standing still. From the side, it looks like they are walking. They each weigh several tons. The palace was constructed of unfired bricks. These along with other slabs protected the base of the walls.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3872

This stele made of basalt and is very important because it was erected in the 18th century BCE. King Hammurabi is on the left. The god on the other side is the sun god. Below is a very long and complete legal text. The law predates biblical laws. The central part governs life, commercial, agricultural, slavery, family, economic issues including price regulations. The family is foundational and the laws cover marriage, engagement, divorce, adultery, etc. For example, if an adopted child should say to his parents, “you are not my real parents,” his tongue shall be cut out.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3853This statue from Ain Ghazal is the most ancient work from Neolithic times housed in the Louvre. It is more than 9000 years old. It is on loan from the Jordanian government. It is thought that it is perhaps related to ancestor worship. The figure is made from lime plaster on a reed framework. It predates the invention of ceramics. It certainly has striking power.

2019-2-8-goolsby-louvre-3899

Well, it was morning when I arrived and by around 7:30pm my endurance was waning. It was evening and now darker. The work crews were cleaning and sweeping. The museum would remain open, but I was exhausted. There was a strange and peaceful quietness in the sculpture courts. When I saw this haunting sculpture from Medieval times, I decided it was time to rest, perhaps, not as permanently as the gentleman was experiencing in this effigy from the Tomb of Philippe Pot from the 15th century.

You may be wondering what I missed and I may never know. I know that it was hard to get this to a point where it would fit into a blog. The guidebooks say that the average visitor spends two hours at the Louvre. I was lost and found so many times, but I discovered things to explore for more than 9 hours. What was nice for me is that I was able to take in things that were off the beaten paths, and in a lot of ways, those were the better experiences.

Momentum

How the city of Paris looks is so dependent upon the weather. Today is yuck cloudy and cold. The Seine has transformed from olive to yuck brown. I see folks with umbrellas outside of my studio window; it must be raining. Yesterday sparkled at the beginning, diffused for a good part of the afternoon, and walloped in the end with a crystal clear sunset behind the Cathedral. Enough of the weather! It is now time for me to get on with the blog and I am catching up.

First, last Thursday I went see an exhibit by JR called “Momentum.” Seems this guy found his first camera in a Paris subway and immediately he became the illegal street artist type – Oh, Keith Haring, don’t think you didn’t start a movement or anything! First you, next Basquiat, and now JR, who makes no bones about it, gets his initials from the 1980s hit television show about the Ewings, known to a lot of folks as “Dallas.” I know you can hear the theme song running through your mind now, da, da, dah, da, da, da, da da, dah…. So he took it to the streets, getting arrested, over and over again (I can see why I can never make it as an artist for several reasons…one, I seem to somehow avoid situations that involve arrest – for example, I pride myself for getting a baguette, paying for it with legal currency, and transacting the entire affair in French! – so I have no hope of making it as a great artist, like JR.  He is from Tunisia.

Anderson Cooper: CBS 60 minutes:

“When a giant photograph of a child appeared looming over the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego this fall, art aficionados knew right away it was the work of an artist who calls himself JR. You may have never heard of JR, but his giant photographs have appeared in some 140 countries, sometimes in fancy art galleries, but more often than not pasted illegally on sidewalks and subways, buildings, and rooftops.” (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/larger-than-life-displays-by-french-photographer-jr/)

Okay, so how did this play out in the Maison Européene de la Photographie? Brilliantly, is the correct answer. I loved the exhibit, so beyond that, what? I am blown away by his professionalism, the imagination, the social awareness, ambition and the craft. I think I am experiencing some of the same creative restrictions that he did with this show, mainly the restriction of space; he has handled it well. JR typically has the world as his space and he is able to work on a very large scale. Much of the work in this show documents some of those but other works employ the space allotted by this small museum.

JR GUNHe takes on a number of issues, but it struck me as a little odd to take on gun control; nevertheless, the projected interactive image of collaged figures, which slowly moved struck a nerve and was eerie in terms of how quiet it was while the different voices could be heard on an interactive audio available through a phone app download. So everybody in the collage has a voice, but they sure aren’t listening, especially to each other. It was nice to find a way to finally let each individual speak one at a time. It is a nice contrast to cable news shows, in particular, that seem to fail in this regard.

One observation that I share with some of my fellow residents here is that we may “kind of be in France” (and we are), but we are really in Paris, which is an international city that co-mingles cultural diversity from all over the world. Truthfully, a previous residency I held in Auvillar several years ago, seemed more authentically “French.” Paris, and I love it, well one can have anything one wants…I think? For example, and this is weird, my favorite eating place right now is La’s du Fallafel in the Jewish Quarter, which is just a couple of blocks from my studio. And, on the French side of life, I did successfully go to the Boulangerie to get a baguette today and did the entire transaction speaking French, which is a major achievement for me since my teachers are still marveling over any English that they were able to finally get me to achieve.

Yesterday was special because of the weather. I posted some lovely images on Facebook from my 3-hour, 9-mile walk (These are at the top of this blog). I knew I was getting out and had know idea where life would take me. As I meandered through neighborhoods with mostly closed shops because it was Sunday, I finally gravitated toward the Eiffel Tower. I have avoided two things since I have been here, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Please understand that the art attracts me to the Louvre. The crowds and immensity of the Louvre are the determining negatives. So this selection of photos is a little strange, and I took a tremendous number of others, but here they are, in their old-fashioned square format attempt at replicating film a film look.  I did finally make it to the Eiffel Tower!

2019-Paris-STUDIO PAINTINGS-2This blog is called painting in France. I maybe should have called it something else because my experience is more holistic than that; however, I do paint. I am working from experience. I arrived here with the idea that it was time for something new. I am honestly ready for whatever is next. I just haven’t found the “next” yet. But I am working with imagery and ideas that up to this point, I just have not been able to get to in my everyday routine of teaching and its associated responsibilities; I am exploring them here. I have enjoyed it so far. As I am thinking, I have concluded that this work, probably like much of my work right now, resides in a collective fictive space comprised of memory, past evidence, and current engagement in creative process. I set up the conditions for the work back in September when I became the candidate for this opportunity.

Each work is painted on paper, Arches oil treated-paper (22 x 30 inches), and I will hand carry them onto an airplane in a tube as a “personal item” when I go home. I’m not concerned with them being finished. I do want each of them to be a pretty good start. Conceptually, they are centered on landscape as a psychological space. In addition they have each originated from a specific physical place. I have allowed myself time to explore here in Paris, and at some point may result in some Paris-specific artwork, but two months is a short time. We will see if and how it evolves. The other thing that is important, is that I have allowed myself time to think, time to absorb, time to reflect, and time to feel. I have also had time to mourn and I am grateful. But for now, the image (above) represents most my studio progress so far that I am willing to share. It’s passed the halfway point here and I still have much to accomplish. Signing off for now.