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.
He 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!
This 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.