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Posts tagged ‘Art’

More Paris Rainbows

Following up on yesterday’s post on Rue Dénoyez , I thought I would share a few more Paris Rainbows:















Paris, je t’aime…

No. 350: Paris Kitsch

I am a sucker for Paris Kitsch for no other reason than it brings color to this capital clothed in black. Sometimes you just need a little sparkle and boldness, and, maybe even some excessive garishness in this subdued city.  paris_kitch.jpg





No. 318-320: Henri Matisse, the Cut-outs, and the Chapelle du Rosaire


I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with Henri Matisse and his cut-outs at the Tate Modern in London a month ago. The expo, Matisse Cut-outs, ranks in the top-5 of my all time favorite expositions in the history of me. It was simply remarkable, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to see so many of his fanciful and inventive works all in one place.

Matisse came to this scissors and paper form of art late in life. It was a brave and radical departure from what was going on in the art world and the real world at the time. One critic described his new form of expression as “a pot of paint flung in the face of the public.”

At the time he started the cutout phase of his career, he was mostly confined to bed. Sheets of pre-painted paper in every color he could imagine, piled high in his bedroom were his palette. His many pairs of scissors were his only tools. Working from his bed, he cut the shapes and his glamorous assistants would move them around his bedroom walls. Together they would trim and slash the pieces until the picture he had in his mind was realized. I imagine the room in a shower of colored paper, trimmings flutter down and swirling around as the work emerged.

Working during the dark days of the WWII, Matisse sought to created a world in harmony and peace, and heartily embraced his carefree and colorful cutouts. He defied the Nazis and the blacked out windows with his outrageous colors and forms. Rotating, inverting and changing his art as he worked must have been quite liberating in a time of occupation and strife. As the war wore on, his extraordinary works became both grander and, at the same time, simpler. He produced an enormous body of work, both in number and size.

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in his bedroom studio in Vence, France and watch him work with those dazzling piles of paper, a cane tipped with charcoal to draw his visions, those hypnotizing gliding scissors, and a simple bamboo wand (and elegant assistants) to place them on the studio walls.



The Tate Modern expo is jammed-packed with so many of his famous pieces, but I was particularly taken with his blue nudes. It was striking to see all four of these joyful and seemingly effortless women in the same room at the same time, I was also caught by one of his most abstract works, The Snail, and the fascinating story of how it was recently and lovingly resorted by the museum.

A spiritual soul, his art wasn’t limited to wall cutouts, in his last years, at the age of 77, he began worked on the redesign of the small Dominican Chapel of the Rosary (Chapelle du Rosaire) on the hills above the Mediterranean at Vence, not far from Nice. The views of the sea from the chapel are stunning as is the chapel itself. Rising up from the rocky terrain, the blue and white tiles and the lofty cross, bejeweled with gilded fires and crescents, seem to rise out of nowhere. Matisse “wanted those entering the chapel to feel themselves purified and lightened of their burdens,” and that he has achieved. The chapel is his self-proclaimed chef-d’oeuvre. “It isn’t perfect, but it is my masterpiece…and the fruit of (my) whole working life,” he asserted. He was the architect, designer and artist from start to finish. Everything is Matisse’s work from the altar and furnishings to the liturgical items, and simplistic passion triumphs throughout. The stained-glass windows are of course breathtaking, especially in contrast to the stark white walls. First designed as cutouts, they are humble, yet dramatic, as are the priests’ vestments, still worn for mass today. A perfect study in how stripping away the details lead to the most pure expression, it is a colorful and calm escape. Simply exquisite.

Matisse Cut-outs, Tate Modern, London

ends 7 September 2014

Chapelle du Rosaire
466 av. Henri Matisse, F – 06140 Vence, France

Hours: Tue and Thu 10am-11.30am, 2pm-5.30pm;
Mon, Wed and Sat 2pm-5.30pm
closed Fri, Sun and Bank Holidays

No. 258-261: Monet, Giverny, “en plein air” and l’Orangerie


It is difficult not to develop an affinity for Claude Monet when you live in France, especially in Paris. One of my favorites of the Impressionist’s movement (along with Renoir, and Boudin, bien sûr), M. Monet’s works can be found in numerous museums in Paris, as well as at his beloved Giverny, where you can walk among his self-designed and hand-planted gardens that inspired so much of his work, and oggle at the reflections in the pond of his famous water lilies and Japanese footbridge.


Claude Monet was a man with a vision and visionary friends who rejected the old school approach to landscape painting and looked to nature herself as his teacher. He was a patience observer of the natural world, and found solace and pleasure in watching the play of light, timing and seasons on his subjects.

Supported by his parents, he attended the Le Havre School of the Arts and was befriended and mentored by Eugéne Boudin himself. It was Boudin who introduced him to the idea of painting “en plein air” (outdoor).


Every spring I steel myself to face the throngs of tourists who gather at Giverny, and every year despite the crowds, I’m always glad I’ve made the pilgrimage. Even with what seems like thousands of Russian voyagers snapping thousands of photos, Giverny still offers a flavorful feast for the senses.

His gardens at Giverny are like his paintings—gaily colored patches that are sometimes a bit muddled and cluttered, but at the same time perfectly composed. His estate is split into two gardens. The first is the walled garden laid out in stunning symmetrical flowerbeds with a splendid path running down the middle, sheltered with iron trellises and climbing blooms. The second garden is the water garden—home to the famous Japanese bridge and water-lilied pond reflecting the blue sky, white clouds, wisteria, and weeping willows that line the shore.

Monet spent more than 40 years planting and painting at Giverny. I find it fascinating to think about him and his family meticulously planting their gardens first – creating a tangible, living piece of art—while at the same time envisioning what he would produce on the canvas. I am enchanted by this man who essentially created his artwork twice—first shaping it in nature and then sitting among it and putting it forth on the canvas.

As fond as he was of painting his garden, pond, and water lilies, Monet was also inspired by the banks of Seine and frequently painted en plain air. He traveled throughout the Mediterranean and was especially inspired by Venice, and continued his outdoor works in London, but at Giverny, his famous paintings literally come to life. It’s pure magic.

If you don’t have enough time (or patience) to make the trip to Giverny in the spring or summer, I highly recommend stopping by l’Orangerie in Paris where you can see his famous nympheas (water lilies) in a gorgeous space built specifically for them blooming all year long.

monet_orangerie.jpg monet_orangerie2.jpg

Other places to see Monet in Paris:

The Musée d’Orsay and the Marmottan-Monet Museum which has a wonderful permanent Monet collection and is currently hosting what I have heard is an amazing expo: Les Impressionnistes en privé: Cent chefs-d’oeuvre de collections particulières. (The Impressionists in private: One hundred masterpieces from private collections.)



No. 183: Friendships, Mannequins and Some Parisian Inspiration


Not that my dear friend Suzanne Heintz needs any more publicity. She and her unusual family have finally gone viral over the last few weeks. But as I get her daily updates of who is featuring her story moment by moment (currently our Latin friends at BBC MUNDO), I got to thinking that this might be a story my readers would like.

It’s a story of friendship, faith, fate and a lot of stick-to-it-ness, with just a little bit of inspiration thrown in from this beautiful city I call home.



I met Suzanne nearly 30 years ago when we were working at the circulation desk at Norlin Library at the University of Colorado, Boulder. With Jeanne and Mary, we were four best friends, creative and funny, with the absolute belief that we could do anything we set our minds to. Nothing could stop the Four Musketeers. To this day, I think if you asked any of us, we would tell you without batting an eye, that working at Norlin Library was the best job we ever had. Those were the days of the Beautiful People of America (our tongue-in-cheek anti-sorority club), practical jokes, major crushes on our dishy coworker, John Duane, and keypunch computer cards.

circa 1992

circa 1992

After graduating from CU with Robert Redford in 1988, we all headed our separate ways, and tried to hang on to our devil-may-care attitude. I went on to study in Germany and Washington, D.C., married Superman, lived in Indonesia, moved back to Colorado to raise our girls, and eventually landed in Paris. Mary went on to New York and became an Emmy and DGA award-winning television Director and wonderful maman. Jeanne headed to the Peace Corps first and then onto Chile with her husband and daughter and eventually became a professor and Director of Political Science, at the Universidad de Concepción. And Suzie, well she went on to work in television and media as a Designer and Art Director.

The Beautiful People of America…later known as Beautiful People International

The Beautiful People of America…later known as Beautiful People International

We all had our outside passions and dreams, and for Suzie it was photography. After a straw-breaking confrontation with her mom about her continuing “spinsterhood”, she decided to combine her love affair with the camera with her outrage at being expected to conform to societal norms. For almost 14 years now, Suzanne has been “satirizing the idea of conforming to a universally accepted way of life, married life”, that is. As you can imagine, the energy of battling the “external pressures of culture, and the internal pressures” she put on herself “to fit into the expectations” of society, built up over time, and thus her defiant project: Life Once Removed  was born.



This is not just a project photographing her mannequin family in comedic real life situations, this is a photography project and performance art piece with teeth and a valid point. Just take a look at her short, Playing House, recently screened at the Women’s Film Festival in Denver.

I have been lucky enough to dip in and out of this art project over the years. Sometimes helping her stage and photograph her fabulous family Christmas cards, sometimes brainstorming the next great shoot, and most recently hosting her (and her inflexible family) in Paris for the family vacation of a lifetime.



This vacation was a real labor of love and a true test of our friendship. Let’s just say mannequin wrangling is NOT for the faint of heart.



It was two weeks of constant dragging, assembling, dressing, re-dressing, salvaging broken digits, murmuring from my frightened guardienne, arguing with the gendarmerie, and stealing secret footage when they looked the other way. It was hours of holding heavy light kits, managing wardrobe malfunctions, retrieving lost batteries, applying bright red lipstick and too much hairspray, and dazzling smiles. Our nights were filled with foot massages, good wine, tears, aching shoulders, late night soul baring, and booming disagreements, followed by hours of laughter and lots of fine dance music.

My Paris girlfriends stepped up to help my outlandish and unknown friend. From chauffeuring to snapping shots and learning new skills, to translating and dealing with some stubborn French authoritarians, to recruiting family members to help out and standing for hours in the freezing June rain, to all of the above at once, I will always remember how this group of women came through in a pinch to help another women realize her dream. Chapeau! Chère Nicola, Emily, Julie and Catherine…and, bien sûr, Superman and my girlfriends’ hubbys too.

Cafe Constant source:


And now after almost a decade and a half of doing the creative work, and nine months since our unusual visitors departed Paris, Suzie is finally having her moment in the sun. Hallelujah! It is so wonderful to see.

Chin Chin to you Suz! Thanks for reminding me that our devil-may-care ways of old are still the key to happiness and success, and that art is both important and hard.  But most importantly that it’s (also) kind of fun to do the impossible!*



Chapeau! Hats off! Congratulations! (and in my case, merci beaucoup mes amies!)

Chin Chin! Cheers!

gendarmerie: police

guardienne: caretaker (usually of an apartment building)

* it’s kind of fun to do the impossible! – Walt Disney


No. 180: Stravaganza: The Fine Art of Embroidery in Haute Couture

This morning I was thrilled to visit an atelier of another talented artisan, Fabienne Debastiani, at her purple digs in Paris.

Fabienne is a passionate creator of jewelry, costumes and haute couture. She began her career as a dancer and choreographer and her handcrafted designs are heavily influenced by the world of cabaret and Cancan. Her specialty is fine embroidery and her work is breathtaking. Like the flower artists at La Maison Légeron, Fabienne, seems to magically spin gilded thread, tiny beads and sparkling sequence into exquisite, wearable art.


She is another one of Frances treasured artists who is taking care of the details.

All her pieces are one-of-a-kind, and each one reflects her enthusiasm for her craft and for life. Somehow she has managed to continue to combine her love of this unique handcraft with her passion for dance. She choreographs and dances throughout Paris and Versailles and even found the time to choreograph and perform in the Cancan scenes in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. On top of that she has begun to hold embroidery workshops for the public sharing her joy of creating while helping to keep her craft alive. She is versatile and kind, and she moves through many different worlds, some days creating wedding gowns for real princesses, while on other days offering to repair this American’s treasured Siamese beaded clutch.


The unique artisans of this country continue to astound me and never let me forget how important art is to a culture…just one more thing I love about France.

No. 155: A Munchy, Crunchy Tower


Imagine how healthy we would be if this was our “food pyramid”…the edible Eiffel Tower…