|Payne Art and Paris Dreams||
I checked out "Paris Was Ours - Thirty-two Writers Reflect on the City of Light" by Penelope Rowlands (and 32 writers) from the library the other day. I couldn't put it down, reading it cover to cover - that is, until the last chapter. At that point I had to stop. I couldn't read the the last story, whatever that may be. I had to stop and reflect on what SHOULD have been the last chapter; My contribution to the reflections on the City of Light.
I'm very aware of being one of "les etrangers" in Paris. Mostly from my college experience living near the American University in the 7th., hanging with other students from all over the world, each of us bringing a part of our country and ourselves to our collective group. I ran around Paris feeling like I knew the city like the back of my hand (with my trusty Paris Par Arrondissement in the palm of my hand), but, at that tender age, never realizing the depths and layers of history the city had to offer.
After college, many years later, I began to immerse myself in french history. I read every history book I could find at the library, read Proust and Zola and Maupassant and everyone I could get my hands on. I studied the minds of Voltaire and Rousseau, read and re-read countless biographies, and know Napoleon as if I served in his Grand Armee. And then I turned my attention towards the Americans who loved Paris. I read Hemingway, Henry Miller, Edith Wharton, and yes, I even READ Gertrude Stein, among many others.
I became an endless bore to my family and friends spouting french phrases, facts, and generally claiming everything great in America is French in origin. But mostly I dreamed of becoming French. I collected all the (what I refer to as) "how-to" books. I looked for my "Inner French Girl" and tried to become "Impossibly French"
I walked through "Lost Paris" , "Quiet Corners of Paris" and "Literary Paris". When reading "Paris Was Ours" today I saw myself in every author's chapter. I had LIVED every one of those chapters. And the thing the authors had in common were that they are all etrangers seduced by the city of light. It's really true that once you've been to Paris you can't go home again. Paris changes a person. I've accepted the fact that I will never truly be a French woman, much less a Parisian, no matter how well I speak the language or if I own a pied a terre in the Marais. But I'm willing to be myself in Paris. Because that's where I left myself years ago when I was a college student. I will live in Paris again. Because now is the time for me to write my own chapter on being seduced by the city of light. Stay tuned.....
The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California has an exhibit this summer called Surface Truths: Abstract Painting in the Sixties. Since I have recently been painting abstract pieces myself I decided to visit the exhibition at the Norton Simon this past weekend. Prior to visiting the exhibition I spent several days thinking about the shifts that art has gone through, particularly since Impressionism shocked the world in the late 19th century, and wondering how did we go from the bold painterly brushstrokes of implied form that we see in Impressionism to the cold and linear approach used by artists such as Frank Stella and Robert Irwin Maybe studying Surface Truths in person will help me understand.
Upon entering the exhibit I immediately felt a cold shoulder and distance from the works of art. There were no crowds of people, no tourists with cameras, no students with notebooks. If anyone cares about these significant works of art, is it only because the critics told us we can move away from the aesthetic of recognized figures and forms?
In Tolstoy's essay on art written in 1896 he states that art must create a specific emotional link between the artist and the audience. Thus only REAL art unites people through visual means and communication of such art. But I wonder, If the artisit is sincere in the creation of his art, will society accept and revere what the artist produces?
So I started searching for my personal, emotional link to this exhibit.
I tried to see the color as a sensual experience. In fact, up close and personal these works of art did exude what I would imagine would be the personality of the artist. This soothing piece is titled Adriatic, done in 1968 by Helen Frankenthaler. Her use of acrylics thinned with water acted like a wash over the canvas giving it mood, atmosphere and movement.
This painting, by Thomas Downing in 1966, produced a very strong reaction in me. I was craving Dots Cupcakes!
But upon study and reflection I was thrilled to see, not only the pencil lines on the canvas, but the occasional drip of paint which made me feel that maybe I was watching the artist at work. I don't know if these drips of paint were accidents, but it made the painting feel more painterly to me, rather than seeming like a marketing package for cupcakes.
In Tolstoy's essay he also said that "art in our society has been so perverted that not only has bad art come to be considered good, but even the very percepton of what art really is has been lost".
If perception is fleeting, shouldn't we all take time to look at art and figure out what makes it meaningful for each of us in our own personal way? Next time you race through the modern art museum laughing at what you perceive as ridiculous or unimaginative, stop and see if anything connects with you. Maybe connect with color or form or movement or anything that might touch you. Then, in your own way, you will understand.
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I believe everyone is an artist. If you appreciate beauty, love, life, food, art, friends....the list goes on....you too can be an artist.