Out Takes

So this is  Paris and there are a lot of quirky moments when something amusing pops into view and  ends up on my camera roll.  But often they just  don’t fit into the themes I am writing about this time.  I  now have enough of these images  to make a little farewell post as Alan and I will be winging back to winter on Saturday. Turn  on the sound track to Amelie and read on.

photo  I love this turn of the century Sephardic girl (from the   Musee Juif) with her pointy hat, mono-brow and hopeful expression. Zoom in.

photo 2  Watch out Alan! Giant sculpture fragment fro the Musee des Arts Decoratifs is coming after you.

photo 4  This impossibly cute little chest of drawers  at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs looks like it is going to jump up and run into a Disney animation any minute. Lumiere where are you?

photo 6  In January, bakeries feature galette du roi, a delish almond and puff pastry dessert which honours the three kings of the Christmas story. A”bean” is tucked in and whoever gets the bean  wears the golden crown that comes with the cake. Pictured is the bean, a little ceramic baker. Very cute. If you’re me, you not only get to wear the crown, you also get to call your dentist when you get back, because after  biting down on the bean you require a crown of a different kind.

photo 5 Worth peering at this poor image to see the cavorting doggies on the lawn of the Tuilleries. Used to be NO ONE got on this grass, now they have a dog run. Dogs, sculpture, the Louvre…. heaven. Speaking of which.photo 10  Around the corner is Heaven. And Heaven is on the Allee des Justes, named for those who helped the Jews during World War II. Some things just make sense.

photo 8  Here is Bacchus at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs. Note the cleverly placed draperies. He is peering into his cup as if to say, “This stuff may have a future…”

photo 3 I couldn’t agree more.

photo 7 It’s chilly just hanging out on the side of the Louvre. Can you tell?

photo 9  Time to fade out. See you in Winter.

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On a Binge in Paris

You know what happens. After the first one, you’re feeling good. Loose, stimulated, happy.     But then you want another. Finding one is no problem, so you go ahead and indulge. The pleasure is intense. You can’t stop talking and thinking, your mind is darting everywhere, from what you know to what you wish you did. You tell yourself, no harm done.  Next thing you know you’re doing two a day. Exhaustion sets in but something is driving you. You just…have to…. keep going… to museums.

It’s true, we did two yesterday and one today. It’s too much but we can’t help it. It’s our last weekend in Paris and, il faut profiter. Yesterday we woke up to a morning that looked like this:

photo 4  Yes, that is greenery. Sunshine. Perfect day to journey across Paris and see this:

photo 14Eiffel Tower – seen from Trocadero (a plaza across the river)

At Trocadero, is another museum that we have not seen before: the Palais de Chaillot, a museum of architecture  and “patrimoine”. Like so much we have been to, it was blessedly empty (take a note, last two weeks of January are prime time for museum-going in Paris).

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photo 7  Impressive, no? Especially for fans of medieval art. I kept saying to Alan, “Why couldn’t these churches be saved?

photo 6 Dummy. These are moldings taken of the original works. I cannot imagine what it must be like to put the whole east facade Rheims cathedral in a mold. But these French are awfully clever.

photo 13  Isn’t he lovely?

And this?     photo

 

An enjoyable aspect of all this is that these architectural elements are often high up in gloomy cathedrals and here you could really see the beautiful carvings of so many anonymous master sculptors.photo 10

I got into depictions of Eve (I”m always into that).

photo 9photo 8photo 3 Upstairs at the Palais Chaillot an enormous room full of architectural models.

photo 27photo 20 But having traversed hundreds of meters of culture, Eve was ready to bite the apple. We went in search of food and found it down the hill at…. The Musee d’Art Moderne. After quiche and a salad…. are you thinking what I’m thinking?

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That’s Sonia Delauney on the left (the painting, I mean) and a gorgeous Dufy on the right. I won’t tire you with more, but it was lovely and not too much. Not really.

Today…. hmm what shall we do?

photo 17  If the army of the French Republic is going to spend so much time and money guarding the Jewish Museum, the least we can do is go, right? We waved to the two machine-gun -toting soldiers, cleared the airport-level security check, and entered this:

photo 29  Yes, a seventeenth century hotel particular, where else but in the Marais.

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photo 18 Just a taste of what we saw. Speaking of tasting, this museum-going is hungry work. What would be the right meal after getting in touch with our Jewish heritage?

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Fallafel! Another heritage item guarded by machine gun. I kid you not.

And what are we reading?

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Small Wonders

This post about the royal palace of Fontainebleau and that extended wing of the Louvre called the Musee des Arts Decoratifs has, I would think, an unexpected title. It expresses a  strategy that I use when I am out and about: the larger the place, the more one should concentrate on the small stuff. I am  looking for the real spirit of the place, the times and the people, and it can often be found in those small things.

We have been visiting the past and especially the seventeenth century. We drove out to Fontainebleau on the weekend,  another field trip to the past,  and a stellar opportunity to   bone up on the history of French monarchy. Napoleon (there’s a joke here – Bone up, “Boney”, but I can’t think what it is) who had his pick of the French royal abodes, spent a lot of time there and called it, “The true home of kings.” Indeed French royals lived there continuously from the 12th c. to the end of the 19th.

photo 24 Here, at Fontainebleau, is Napoleon’s throne room. Grand, no? Does it speak to you of the time, the man? In a way. But what about this?

photo  In terms of materials, this hat and coat may be amongst the least precious objects at Fontainebleau. But they summon the man with a wrenching immediacy.  As does his campaign bed. He spent far too much time on it.

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Grand spaces abound at Fontainebleau.

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Francois I (same period as England’s Henry VIII) built this massive ballroom. For some reason, he believed that he had to reinforce the grand gesture with a series of small ones.

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Royal initials are everywhere, inside and out. Kingly graffiti. Massive egos? I think so.photo 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everywhere at Fontainebleau, small things draw the eye.

photo 6  Beautifully patinated balusters.

photo 5  Everything not carved is painted. Doesn’t she look like the Mona Lisa?

photo 2 Wonderful fabrics.

photo 18  A small fresco, so very lovely, so easy to overlook in the context of the space it is in, below, the Chapel of the Trinity, Fontainebleau.

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Outside,  is a massive park with statuary.

 

photo 24photo 19  But the moss and lichen-covered railings speak of time’s passage even more eloquently.

On to more time travel and a first visit – to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs – housed in a wing of the Louvre. At first, it didn’t seem that different from the Louvre proper. Lots of Fine Art is there.

photo 22 For example, this Gauguin, presented absolutely without fuss. “Wow'” I thought. “That painter is a lot like Gauguin. Oh. That painter IS Gauguin.”

 

photo 23

Fabulous sculpture, isn’t it. Takes the gallic shrug to a new level.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s look again for the small stuff.             photo 21

photo 8 Marquetry. Painting with wood. What mastery.

photo 9  My favourite gallery: 17th century chairs. Each a perfect, small sculpture.photo 11photo 7

photo 10  When Alan saw me kneeling on the floor to photograph this one, he said, “You really ARE a girl, aren’t you?” He noticed.

We often hear that the devil is in the details. But I would side with the  great Vladimir Nabokov who wrote,  “there is no delight without the detail” (thanks Tom).

 

 

Hanging With my Besties in the Hood

IMG_1971 “Yes,” I said, pointing to my faux Matisse which was drying on the floor, “We’re having a workshop today on Matisse decoupage”.They gave me a blank look. This was the third couple to drop by yesterday morning who clearly had no idea who this “Matisse” might be. We stared at each other. I pointed to the book on the chair. “C’est un peintre francais.” “Ah oui?” the husband said as the wife frowned.

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She was trying to imagine a world  in which people know about different painters and try to make things inspired by them just as I was trying to imagine a world in which they don’t. They left and I bustled around mixing paints and spreading paper on the floor. I was sad to think about people going through life not knowing about Matisse. Obviously, his work is the thing, but knowing about his life, his struggles and how he prevailed is enriching, too. That was the idea behind the workshop.

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“Painting with scissors” was Matisse’s  primary focus for the last 15 years of his life. Too ill to stand at his easel, and on a quest for simplicity and flatness in his work, he took great pleasure from his cut-outs as we do today. images

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In my own “Matisse” I included a blue nude (but pink in mine), the undulating leaf-shapes, and stars and suns. What fun.

IMG_2011 Here Renalee starts the process by covering large sheets of paper in colour. Matisse had his studio assistants do this.

IMG_2012IMG_2045Phyllis and Suzanne deliver blues and pinks.

IMG_2020A floor full of lovely Matisse colours: the colours of summer and happiness.

IMG_2061 First the canvas is divided into asymmetric areas with masking tape. Then squares , rectangles and rhomboids are painted on, in the same happy colours.

IMG_2086Working on the floor turns out to be the best way to do it.

Before we can continue, the paint must dry. This gave us a chance to see slides of Matisse’s work, to discuss his ideas, his place in the story of art, and his life. It was great to share his story with this lovely group of women. I could see that they were moved by Matisse in the same way I am. I don’t know these gals very well – some hardly at all. But there was a great feeling of fellowship in the room. We had a common purpose and interest. We trusted each other. We were sharing ideas and making art together in freedom.  We ended this part of the workshop by thinking about some of the things Matisse said:

“(My aim is) to present emotion as directly as possible and by the simplest means.”

“Exactitude is not truth.”

“Everything is new, everything is fresh as if the world had just been born…”

This last statement  was made by Matisse following the illness that left him bed-ridden. His child-like excitement at the beauty of the world and his vocation of expressing his feelings through cut-outs is touching and inspiring, no? “That’s the spirit I want you to bring to your cut-outs,” I said.

IMG_2126 Cutting begins. Faye works on placing and moving things around. Everyone is silent as they concentrate on their compositions.

IMG_2135IMG_2118 Christiane’s colour choices are original and stimulating.

IMG_2109 Elaine knows a thing or two about composition.

They are all coming together so well.

There’s a lot of moving shapes around before the final gluing. IMG_2136

By the end, we’re all exhausted, but everyone has a really beautiful work to take home. One of the new-comers said,  “That’s the most enjoyable afternoon I’ve spent in a long time.” Others murmured assent. I was filled with the glow that comes at the end of a good class. And the delight of getting to do what I need to do – share knowledge, share art, make things, nurture people, express myself. How lucky is that?

Open for Business

Somehow, it happens. After weeks of imagining, calling, emailing, paying (and paying) discussing, deciding, listing (not a verb in the sense that I mean it, I know), shopping, cleaning, plastering, painting, framing, nailing, hanging, writing, translating (alas, badly), we finally made it to the opening night of our beloved artefact gallery. I just checked my to do list and somehow all those things happened. Now our summer can truly begin. IMG_1889 IMG_1893IMG_1895IMG_1891IMG_1888IMG_1892

 

Many friends and family members came. A number of folks new to artefact came, too. Elaine and Jim cooked up a storm despite the fact that the food is SUPPOSED to be lousy at a vernissage. Let’s take a look at what we are up to in artefact this summer.

IMG_1887Fabulous pillow collection. Faithful readers will recognize the Paris fabrics on the pillows made by wonderful Laure Bonneville. The shelving units are neat and were whipped up by talented friends.

 

IMG_1796Laure.

At the serious end of the gallery, fine art rules. The exhibition is called “Atila et Moi”. Moi is me. I’m showing the works I did in France – mostly acrylic and pure pigment on paper. Have a look.

IMG_1913 This is one of the  ones that sold.

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Do you see some of the influence of the art I was looking at in Paris – at the Art Fair, and the Drawing Salon? Here’s a reminder:IMG_1270IMG_1272 I saw these intensely coloured works and got interested in trying out the use of pure pigment in my work. The colours are so rich and deep.

The Atila of our show is a surrealist painter whose works came up for auction at Drouot in the early spring.  I acquired several lots thinking, I could build a show around this stuff. It is really good. The show is about surrealism and the influence one artist has on another. Go here for more info on the gallery, the show, and for my artist’s statement. Man, was this  fun: conceiving and curating the show and hanging it, aided by friend Alison. I think Atila would have liked it. That idea has been important to me. Have a look.

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Atila and an etching from 1980.

IMG_1907The etchings look great clustered together in the black gallery where you can really get up close. The work on the easel is one of mine, inspired by Atila Here’s a close up. IMG_1901IMG_1903 IMG_1868 More Atila’s from the 1980’s. I love their mysterious symbolism. I come back again and again thinking who are these people; what stories are they acting out? You feel on the verge of comprehension and then it slips away again.

It was a great night and a good party. Today in the gallery it was blessedly quiet and I enjoyed the peace and the alone time. IMG_1908

We are open for business. Damn! Is that painting crooked?

Here We Go Again

Yes, I’m back. I’ve missed the blog, and it feels great to tell you that many readers have been saying that they miss it , too. Time for a fresh start and a new focus, without forgetting the fun we had before, in Paris.

IMG_1778 Ferns emerging in mid-May.

Six weeks have passed since we returned from our Winter in Paris. We have picked up our many responsibilities: houses, gardens, aged mothers, adult children who still need us, and the extended circle of friends for whom we wish we had more time. During our absence, a member of the extended family died, leaving us a lovely bequest but also the  ton of work it takes  to settle the many details of an estate. Our car died, too, and it was not a clean and painless death. But while our Uncle is missed, the car is not. Good riddance. Never buy a Hyundai.

How does it feel? I LOVE it here. Here is me. Here is who I am.I adore Paris, but I can never be a Parisienne, however fascinating  that idea may be. All this baggage of home and its people and the things that go with it  doesn’t quite define me, but it is a big part of my definition. It all expresses a myriad of choices made over decades, and all the work and nurturing and trying and imagining that has gone into crafting  my life. It all stands out in relief now that I have been away and I must say that I like what I see. Pretty much.

IMG_1809 Our country garden..

IMG_1802 We came home to primroses.

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Things are different here and so am I.  For one, I am less good-looking. Here’s what I mean. I was going through some of my Paris pictures with my friend Hannah, who will be  in Paris soon and wanted to get my thoughts on Versailles. So I was showing her pictures of me and my friend Alison at Versailles and she pointed to one and said, “This must be Alison”. “Uh… no. It’s me.” She looked at the photo again in disbelief and then back at me.”Okay,” I said. “I up my game when I’m there.” She reacted the same way to several more photos. I vowed to start wearing make-up again. And accessories.

IMG_1626Me at Versailles. Note foulard, tight pants, vintage belt, Chanel (not really) jacket, everything matches.

baggy pantsMe at home with Sophie. Note baggy pants,  dirty hair tied back so that I look like a ninja, sensible red boat shoes, glass of wine.

I’m less focussed on food here. It’s just a lot more difficult to get the very best ingredients and usually involves getting in a car and takes time which I may not have. Meals are simple, usually grilled fish, a salad and a glass or four of wine. Chocolate is a must because I insist on healthy eating. I hope to be eating from the garden soon and more on that later.

IMG_1849The gallery with new banner flying.

What I am very much focussed on is the art gallery, my beloved artefact, 255a Knowlton Road, Town of Brome Lake. We open in less than 5 days! Yikes. Any readers living in the vicinity are invited to join us for the Grande Ouverture, wine and cheese at 5 pm and a  chance to win a framed work on paper. That just rolls off my tongue because I have been repeating it over the phone so much and now even in my sleep I can be heard muttering, “framed work on paper…” I am so excited about the opening exhibition, “Atila et Moi/Atila and Me” which features the surrealist works on paper that I bought on auction in Paris and many of my own works, also in a surrealist vein. Here’s a preview.

 

IMG_1865One of my works.IMG_1868One of Atila’s works.

More to come, on every front. Gallery website: http://www.artefact-bromelake.com.

 

 

Dames d’un Certain Age II

Don’t think I have ceased researching my soon- to-be best-seller on the beauty secrets of middle-aged Parisiennes. Au contraire.  I know that in this time of resurgent Cold War and financial uncertainty, when a SARS-like epidemic out of the Middle-East (coincidence?) is heading our way, the primary pressing concern of the average North American woman of a certain age is how to stave off the ravages of time, shed wrinkles and extra pounds,  and achieve the insouciant epitome of chic that is the natural state of women over here. I have dedicated myself to this research (a fact I particularly insist upon in the expectation that I can write off all of my expenses on this trip in my 2014 tax return). I cannot give away all the book’s secrets, but to whet your appetite I would like to begin with a general discussion of certain myths concerning the aging Parisienne.

#1. It is not true that all  Parisian women are young-looking and chic. Not at all. They often  show their age. Every one of those Gitanes they smoked as they mounted the barricades in May 68 is written on their faces in wrinkles as complex as the Paris metro map. They often wear nondescript outfits and sensible shoes. Their hair is in  a bun, and  not a chic messy-bun as seen in the advertizing for Aesop skin care products. Not at all.

#2. It is not true that the French don’t try to be beautiful. Believe me, they try. Take cellulite creams. In the pharmacies of Paris there is hardly room for any drugs because of the amount of shelf-space devoted to cellulite creams. And honestly, who would be naive enough to think that a cream would get rid of cellulite, anyway?

Imagined conversation:

Pharmacist:   “Desolez, Madame, but I cannot give you any antibiotics for your oozing sores to-day, because we ran out of room for them.”

Customer: “Zut, what shall I do?”

Pharmacist: “Perhaps try some cellulite cream? It’s very effective.”

#3. It is not true that Parisiennes do not use botox. At a dinner party I attended recently, a truly beautiful fellow guest was so botoxed that when she spoke, she sounded like she had no teeth. It was painful to see her try to form words, and discover that her upper lip just wasn’t going anywhere.

Exercise for those considering botox:

Go to a mirror. Stuff four cotton balls under your upper lip. Notice that those witchy lines do disappear, but also notice that  you look like Bugs Bunny. Now try to talk. Say words like: wonderful, please, and why would I want to look so ridiculous.

Enough myth-busting, although there is much more to be said. Time for stalking the chic Parisiennes we do admire. Let’s look at some photos and analyze.

A few weeks ago, at the Paris Art Fair, I noticed that I was surrounded by the subject types we are most interested in. Ah-ha, iphone 5C at the ready!

IMG_1299 Here’s the setting. The beautiful Grand Palais. Chic Parisiennes are everywhere, selling, buying, discussing, seeing and being seen.

IMG_1282   Our first subject shows that you need not be young nor happy to be chic. She has style, she matches the paintings, the grey hair was a good choice and she understands that if you are going to go grey you have to wear lipstick.

IMG_1276 Perfect. The figure on the right has orange everything – jacket, hair and hem. And it’s really working. She looks vibrant, chic – er than thou. Her friend has the most gorgeous coat. The purse and pants are right.

IMG_1241 Some art. Just to raise the tone of our discussion.

IMG_1245 Oh, the young Moms. Jeggings, leggings, great knee-length coat, large hand bag, white platform running shoes. Copy that.

IMG_1253 Running shoes again. Now this hurts a bit, because no running shoes unless at the gym, used be a central tenet of the Parisiennes’ creed. But things have changed and running shoe culture has come to Paris. Still, as your teenagers know, they have to wear the RIGHT running shoes. White or black lace-ups. Look like Keds. Could be platform if you want a little height.

IMG_1243 More art. Improve your mind.

IMG_1246 Yes. Camel and perfectly coiffed. Oxfords are another good shoe choice and they are everywhere here.

IMG_1295  Arty, shawled, dark tights. Take notes.

IMG_1277 Dashing about. She’s working but always coordinated in the great Paris non-colours that are a no-risk choice for the chic.

Okay, there you have it. More myths busted and more secrets revealed in “Aging Like A Parisienne”, by Christine Stonehewer. Advanced orders accepted.