Thursday, August 1, 2013

In Paris 2013,-studying paintings in Proust for my "From Paintings in Proust" artwork series.

It's been a complete delight to have spent such a fine time in Paris (not without a few wrinkles though). The apartment I rented  has some space for me to do a little artwork, very little with all else to see and travel the Metro for - ah and of course the Monet's Gardens. On this, my last day, and with it being too hot to go out (92 degrees at the moment and getting hotter by the hour), I'm about to work on a small piece on Mona Lisa's eyes (of course one never knows and it may turn out to be something completely different). It's my starting point. I'll also look over the other small pieces I've done and the looking over will add to my gestation on the flight home.I feel very grounded in my project having successfully tracked down the works I've been especially interested in with my Proustian theme, and spent days going about the Paris streets and seeing the flavor of current street life.

 Monet and his Gardens may well be my turning point. I plan to tackle something (audacious of me for sure as one can never compare to Monet) from my many garden pics (350!). With also having gone to the Monet museum yesterday and seen (beside the artworks) that short film connecting his then revolutionary approach in his art to the  violence of WWI (and as we saw at the grave, he'd lost a son in the debacle). Surely for him, and then exaggerated with WWII, old parameters became iconic and passe for upcoming artists, too fixed to be continued. After we saw the resident artists' open studio exhibits at the Gverny Terra Foundation, I've been thinking that the emphasis is still on tearing things apart. Maybe it's time to put things together. That is in a new way of course, and for me isn't that what my project is about? Yes it is.

When daughter Janet and i came back from our year around the world in 1977 (yes, way back then), traveling to 11 countries and with my having created welded masks, mask tale performances, led workshops, etc., my then mentor, Peggy Billings said I had to "become myself in a new way". Seems to be an ongoing process with my going here and there, being here and there, and all for long enough to impact my art.

So, PARIS! I didn't expect to come but Peter Scharf, a childhood friend of my son Dan was here and when his mother told me he likes company, I began to explore the possibility and realized that I had to come for my From Paintings in Proust art-making project. Friend Jennifer Donnelly (from our 2006 time together in Taos at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation's artist res) lives n Paris (now married with a two year old), I felt I'd have good company. It turned out I had lots of companionship. Dick Janney whose family I've felt a part of since his eldest (now grown) was a baby visited for a few days for traipsing through museums with me, and Alak Roy, sculptor friend from Chittagong, Bangladesh is here as a resident artist at the Cite des Artistes. I discovered that Alak was in Paris after I sent him a link to the film made by German TV in 1983 of me in the Koln scrap yard, welding masks, and  doing performance demos.
He then emailed me a reply that he was going to show it to his students at the university but at present was in Paris. We've spent good time together walking about in the Hotel de Ville area, the Seine, and Notre Dame. Dear Jennifer eased the way for Peter, Alak and I to visit the Monet Gardens as she works at the Terra Foundation artist residency where we were invited to visit the current artists' open studios.

It's been a very active time! As soon as I arrived, I was prepared with a list of artworks from "Paintings in Proust" in the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay. But first, I'd an appointment to visit the American Embassy and see my Susan B. Anthony sculpture that was donated by collector David Mishkin years back.  I was graciously welcomed. The sculpture now resides in the Counselor of Cultural Affairs, Jennifer Rasamimanana's office at the American Embassy. A proper base is being created and the work is scheduled for a prominent spot. The words on Susan B. Anthony's skirt are "Educate all women to do precisely as I have done, rebel."
From there I walked to the Musee d'Orsay, stayed six hours finding all but one of the artworks on my list of about 12 for that museum. Of course I also went through the entire museum, something not possible at the Louvre. I went back a few days later for three hours to review and found the elusive one that their web site said were not being shown ( two others are on loan in Venice). The d'Orsay doesn't let you take pics but here's  La Source, by Ingres from Wikepedia. The painting remains in the Canon of studied art. Ingres epitomizes the idealized male view of womanly beauty (and where I ask is her pubic hair?). Stunning nevertheless, I enjoyed looking at it for a half hour. My notes say:

Bland face, vacant eyes, on second look wistful and sad, face as a mask, nice shadow on side of outstretched hand. Her left breast nipple points to the water. The sexy pouring water is like rope or string. Her feet are mirrored in the water. Strong arms. All is serene save for the pouring water. She is in the light, all else is dark. There's a highlight on the vessel the color of her skin as above her left eye (right of pic). Note her round belly. So young and already pregnant! Hmm.

The next day I spent seven hours at the Louvre:

Suzanne in front of the I M Pei - at the Louvre.
Here's a detail from a Veronese in the same room as the Mona Lisa. As you probably know, there's always a crowd in front of Mona with hardly anybody looking at the other masterpieces. The Wedding Feast at Cana is absolutely huge, covering the entire opposite wall form Mona. And on..

I came back the next day for three hours at the Louvre and then three at L'Orangerie. Dick arrived from Munich and we went to the Moderne (for the Keith Haring show and the permanent collection) and to the Pompidou. The artwork is magnificently hung everywhere, and always in proximity of artworks to make a joint statement. I noted how the French artists who ushered in the modern movements continued to paint the same subjects in the same poses. Something I'll expect address in my own series.

After being totally immersed in the artworks in the museums, as I spent a day at the Monet Gardens wit Peter and Alak. Here are excerpts from an email I wrote soon after coming back from the Gardens that also gives some backtracking about my time in this remarkable city:

Paris has been of course wonderful though in some ways difficult - mainly because of computer/IPhone log on issues, and then my emails were  hacked. I've had hours and hours away from my painting focus to stay on the phone through Skype and then getting to sleep at 2AM because that's when the offices are still open. Through it all, sounds and chatter in the courtyard remind me where I am. It's also been  hot. Today seems so far  wonderfully cool, and yesterday at the Monet Gardens we were mostly comfortable weather-wise throughout the day.

I've had happy days and days at the museums, seeing the paintings there that are referenced in Proust's novel, and of course endlessly more. Seeing the paintings has been a main focus as planned. Yesterday friends and I were at Monet's Gardens - so extraordinary, giving new undertandings. The insights that the Gardens give us into Monet's mind, even more than the paintings - which I love. They, and the gardens as a whole speak of this  being a huge legacy, a still living work of art, completely unique. It clearly was created out of  the his artist's mind. His joining of nature's natural ways with his selected plantings for color and texture is utterly superb. Everyone who goes there is deeply impacted. It's a must do! Especially for artists.

Naturally, I took endless photos yesterday (350). I'll aim to honor the remarkable beauty of the gardens with "response" paintings I've yet to create (daunting though that may be considering what Monet has done). And to think, it was generous funding by our Lila Acheson - widow/heir to the Reader's Digest fortune that made its restoration possible. As an aside, I've also learned that the restoration of Versailles was made possible after WWI by John D. Rockefeller. Hmm.

That's the news for now - now to that little artwork and the final packing. Getting up at 5AM tomorrow for the journey to Ridgefield, CT,  my home base since 1965!

The first ones are of Ariel who we met on the train. She's from Brazil, in France for a month and studying law in Brazil. The rest are from the Monet Gardens. That's Peter towards the bottom. Enjoy!!

No comments:

Post a Comment