Monday, December 7, 2015

Le Dernier Mot
(the last word)
(part 2)
Luxembourg Gardens 1983  monoprint
I was seventeen the first time I went to Paris. It was 1971
and not too long after the student uprisings of May 1968 (click here for more)
 there were lots of armed gendarmes all over the city, a strange sight for
an American teenager 
The trip was a high school graduation present from my parents.
I was part of a group that went to study french for two months at the Sorbonne
 The leader took us on a whirlwind tour of the city, gave us our room assignments at Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (Fondation des États-Unis), our meal tickets at the student commissary, the lowdown on the métro, and then taken the rest of the group to study in Grenoble.

We had french class each morning during the week, and during afternoons and weekends the five of us were  free to do as we pleased
Summer alone in Paris.....What freedom! 
My companions and I promptly sold all our meal tickets to other students, ate in restaurants, I sketched, looked at art, explored and did lots of things teenagers shouldn't do, hitchhiking to a concert in England, for example.....
 BUT somehow I missed going to the Eiffel Tower
In February 1976, after graduating from RISD, I went back,
first traveling around Italy and Switzerland for six weeks 
In Rome I chopped off my hair
I was in Paris for four months to study intaglio at Atelier 17 on Rue Daguerre with Stanley William Hayter
Once again I had a room at the Fondation des États-Unis and every weekday morning I went to the studio
 to work on my prints

La Piscine Aquatint and Intaglio print 1976
 I did colored pencil drawings in my room
Cerises et Tissues  Colored Pencil Drawing 1976
And in the afternoons studied lithography at L'École des Beaux Artes, where I met other artists, Babeth Espuche, Abraham Hadad, Michel Potier, Pierre Legue, Thierry Giles and Gerard Legal
L'École des Beaux Artes
Le Retourne Lithograph 1976
And again I didn't go to the Eiffel Tower
When the four months were over, I returned to NYC, got various jobs, working at the Metropolitan Museum in the print shop, doing illustrations, and freelancing as a printer's assistant.  I managed to find time to work on my own drawing, painting, and printmaking. And I married husband #1
and grew my hair out 
Les Jardins Tuileries Monoprint 1983
In 1983, when troubles arose marriage-wise.....I went back to Paris, always a good place to figure things out and spent ten days with my friend Nina, wandering around, visiting friends, exploring
It was a beautiful October
BUT once more the Eiffel Tower was not in the cards...
Café Alphonso, Watercolor 1983
Inspired, I went home, ended my marriage, decided to move to Paris to paint the following autumn
and went to work to make it happen
my hair was still growing
Chez Mariage  Monoprint 1983
Luxembourg Gardens  Monoprint 1983
Barcelona 1984
And happen it did!
 First I traveled in Spain for three weeks with another friend,
Michel's Table Crayon Drawing 1984
then I moved into Michel Potier's house in Malakoff, right near Porte de Vanves,

   and into Hélène and Olivier's studio on Quai St Martin, the opposite side of town on the Bassin de La Villette
Hélène's Desk  Crayon Drawing 1985
 I took up Savate, french boxing, the teacher was a cop, his assistant, a thief
1985 was the coldest winter in 50 years. The pipes froze in the building, Hélène and Olivier didn't show up for weeks.  Ice cutters came down the Canal St Martin, to clear a path for the barges.
Alone and freezing in the non-heated studio, I drew the ice chunks floating outside the window, and painted furiously
Heat in Michel's house was sketchy too, so my friend Hadad let me move into a tiny studio across from his loft, in the Bastille
Hadad's Studio Colored Pencil Drawing 1986
It was in Paris that winter that I got my legal separation at the American Embassy 
At the end of my eight months of painting, I decided I would go back to NY, straighten things out, and return for good the following year.
So I didn't go to the Eiffel Tower .....and left my paintings rolled up in my friend Julien's studio
my hair was wild
By January 1986, things had changed again (of course involving a man).  I flew back to Paris for ten days, stayed at an artist friend's apartment in Montmartre, chilled out with my pal Babeth, got my paintings and returned to NYC.
I skipped the Eiffel Tower, it didn't even occur to me to go
 Eight years later husband #2 and I went to Paris, and then traveled south to Provence
It was so awkward speaking french for two.....auspicious, don't you think?
 we didn't go to the Eiffel Tower, par for the course for me, but for a first timer.....go figure
1994 Arc de Triumph
And not much later, when marriage #2 was ending, I hopped a plane back to Paris.  It was Christmas Day 2001, post 9/11, and the shoe bomber There were machine gun toting soldiers stationed at JFK.
Everything was surreal
Okay, so at least there's a pic
I stayed with Babeth, no longer married herself, living with her daughter on
Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, a new part of town for me.
We spent a lot of time catching up, had dinner on New Year's Eve with Behnam (her ex) and her daughter JenaÏs, a Galette des Rois (click for more) for dessert and then trooped up to Sacré Coeur to see the fireworks over the Eiffel Tower.
There was so much fog, we couldn't see a thing!
So we decided to go to the Eiffel Tower on New Year's Day.  It was a clear, beautiful but frosty morning.  Europe was beginning to implement the Euro but in France francs were still good until February.
We got to the tower, and saw two enormous queues.  We were told one line was to change francs into euros, and that the Eiffel Tower was only accepting euros. The other line was to go to the top....
Babeth had left her euro stash at home.
We left.....
March 2015

Paris was the last leg of my trip
I hadn't been in 14 years
I was surprised to find that two months after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, (click here for more) the city was bustling, and filled with tourists. It was a bit of culture shock after the emptiness of the Basque and Aude regions, where I traveled in the south
view from Catou's window
I was there for 4 days, mostly staying in Catou's apartment in the 2nd arrondissement. Not far from where Babeth had lived in 1976.
 So the neighborhood seemed a bit familiar. 
Back then it was a working class area, with not a whole lot going on....
Now it is a mixture of trendy restaurants and cafés, equally trendy tech start ups, cheap clothing manufacturers, African hair and wig shops, galleries and the city's sanctioned red light district.  Prostitutes lined the narrow streets beckoning from almost every doorway, which didn't ease my sense of disquiet each time I got lost trying to find her apartment on Rue Sainte-Foy. It was a frustrating experience as I circled endlessly between Rue du Caire, Passage du Caire, Rue Alexandrie, and Rue d'Aboukir, and so
 contrary to my usually razor sharp navigational skills. It threw me for a loop. 
View from my window Rue Daval  Crayon Drawing 1985

I reacquainted myself with the city, walking by the Louvre and through the Tuileries Gardens in the chilly rain, avoiding the métro
 I went to the Marché Montorgueil
I walked across Pont Louis Phillipe, past the café Nina and I had gone to back in 1983, where the same bottles were in the window 33 years later...though the café's name had changed
Café Alphonso  Colored Pencil Drawing 1984
I crossed the Seine several times
I stood in line among hordes of other visitors, to see the Bonnard exhibit at the Musée D'Orsay.  It was an hour and a half wait in the cold and damp

and totally worth it
then I treated myself to lunch at the museum's restaurant,
listed as an historic monument this was the former restaurant of the Hôtel d'Orsay and is just as magnificent as it was when it opened in 1900. 
I felt like an adult
I walked over to Sennelier, to see if I could afford to buy a watercolor brush or two....
I couldn't

And found myself wandering by my old stomping ground the Beaux Artes, still under construction 39 years later
The Stravinsky Fountain created in 1983 by sculptors Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle

I met my artist friend Bernard for lunch at Beaubourg, we hadn't seen each other in 30 years
it was like no time had passed
but obviously it had
his hair was white, and mine was on its way (but still tied back)
I window shopped, taking it all in
and walked until my feet were dead, wondering if I would want to live here again....

but I never made it to the Eiffel Tower

Friday, November 27, 2015


La Fin 
est juste 
Le Début
 the end is just the beginning 
Part 1
La Maison Schlitenea
(my oil painting detail)
After my trip with Niki and my time in France almost over, I headed south via bus--train--bus again to visit my friends Albanne and Richard
her beautiful house is located in the heart of the French Basque Country and she has opened it up as a B&B to the pilgrims who flock to the area starting their journey of self discovery to Santiago de Compostela
the nearest village is Ainhice-Mongelos

in every view, my pals...bresbis (sheep)

There was lots of hiking, foraging, cooking, looking, eating, french immersion, talking and discovering 
my room
Painting by Edith Chapelle (Albanne's Maman)

 Le vrai Gâteau Basque, from Barbier Millox, a must!
Wild "Pottok", little horse in Basque, are considered one of the oldest strains of horses in existence, dating back as far as 40,000 years. These two just appeared out of the gloom!

The Camino Frances is the most popular of all the Camino routes to Santiago de Compostela in Northwest Spain.  This route starts in St Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees and finishes about 780km later in Santiago. 
I met bunches of pèlerins (pilgrims) on the train ride down
and saw them trudging, and freezing up the Valcarlos Route: 1st stage: St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles, Spain (35 kilometers)
it was sunny when we started...... grateful we were car pèlerins and not on foot
The 11th century monastery at Roncesvalles, was once one of the wealthiest on the entire route and  famous for the treatment which pilgrims received here. A 12th century poem sings the praises of the monastery´s legendary hospitality:
The door lies open to all, to sick and strong,
Not only to Catholics but to pagans too
Jews, heretics,
idlers, vagabonds,
In short, to good and bad, sacred and profane.

The monastery records from as late as the 17th century speak of up to 25,000 meals being served to hungry pilgrims in a year´s time, with the number reaching as high as 30,000 in some years. The numbers of pilgrims passing through Roncesvalles currently rivals that of the pilgrimage´s original golden age: in Holy Years as many as 200,000 pass through Roncesvalles on the way to the Apostles´ tomb in Compostela.
The monastery´s church, which was rebuilt in 1400 following a fire that destroyed the original, is considered to be one of the earliest examples of Gothic architecture in Spain. 
(taken from Pilgrim Pathways)

Just outside the walls of the monastery, stands a small Romanesque hermitage and a quadrangular crypt which marks the spot where Roland, the protagonist of The Song of Roland, the famous epic medieval French chanson du geste, is said to have died.

the resul
La Maison Schlitenea 
my finished oil painting commission

Merci Albanne et Richard! 
Part 2