This 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.
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.
Last 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.
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.
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!