Thursday, March 29, 2007

Art vs. Politics

Our vernissage was cut short last night by the arrival of the Socialists, who were having some sort of campaign meeting in the cinema. They set up this long table with pink buttons and rather uninteresting t-shirts sporting an outline of Segolene Royal's head (were they trying to copy the famous Hitchcock profile idea? Because what they drew was a blank). What was most interesting to me was the way the painting on the wall matched the pastel colors of the political paraphernalia on the table.

The whole dynamic between the two groups (us and them) reminded me of my high school days, when the Debate Team or Current Events club would take over the theater where we were rehearsing, and I would look at the other kids and wonder why on earth any teenager would choose to spend their time in such a dry preoccupation.

Now I'm an adult and I watch people involved in politics and I still wonder.

I don't vote in France and I don't want to use this blog to discuss politics (you can find a bzillion blogs that do that), but what is it about political people that so rubs me the wrong way? I don't know, but there's something about those stickers and t-shirts and pamphlets that makes me want to run screaming. Perhaps it's the unswaying belief that they all seem to be infected with. I'm not good at unswaying belief; my tendency is to sway. And I have a hard time with the whole crowd thing, being a fan of anyone, unless they are doing something that seems really thrilling to watch, like singing or dancing or playing the accordion on one foot. Talking isn't enough, I want to see real talent! (OK, oratory is a talent, but can you dance to it?) To be honest, I only got interested in Bill Clinton when I found out he played the sax. (If only he'd done more of that and less of that silly cigar business and maybe our country wouldn't be in the hole it's in now...)

Same Paintings, Different Walls

Last night I had something called a vernissage, or art opening, at a gallery space in a cinema near Montparnasse (see my website for details of the show). Vernissage means, literally, varnishing, which is what painters in the past were purported to be doing right before their work was shown in public. I'm exhibiting with five other artists in the space and, from a purely upper respiratory perspective, I was grateful that none of us were doing any varnishing at the last minute.

A funny thing happened on the way to the hanging (of the paintings, that is). I've been living with these paintings on my walls for months (the egg basket and the apple, that is), and I suddenly didn't want to part with them (is it possible to have separation anxiety from a painting?). It was a strange feeling to take them down and put them in a taxi to go across town and hang them in another place. My walls looked sad and empty without them, and I realized how attached I'd grown to these colors and images. They'd become as integral to my daily life as, say, the refrigerator. I immediately promised myself that I would paint some large colorful paintings right away to fill the spaces they left. But I know it won't be the same.

(OK, they'll only be gone for a week and a half. But that's a long time in artist years!)

(p.s. I know the lighting looks atrocious - it was actually better than it looks in the photo, which is not great - my excuse is that i was trying to take the pic while juggling a phone, a guest book, a conversation, and a plastic cupful of wine.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

(Some) Orchids Are Forever

This orchid was painted from the "faux" orchid that I bought three years ago when I needed plants in my studio but didn't have enough natural light to keep them alive (why I was in a studio without much natural light is a question that begs an answer, but let's shelve that topic for now). I'm happy to say that as both a beautiful and useful object, this plant has been an excellent value (38 euros at a local department store), considering that I never need to water it or give it food (though an occasional dusting is appreciated). It's already played a supporting roles in a few portraits, and now is coming into its own as a star player. And what a low-maintenance star! It never ages, never dies, never sags or looks the slightest bit different than the day I first met it. Expect to see more orchid paintings posted very soon on

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Today's Troubled Youth

Look what a few comic books and beanbag chairs can do to quell that adolescent angst! Why, they're like those sea lions on Pier 41 (43?) at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Now if only they could be kept on floating rafts somewhere until they become adults...

Two Girls Reading Comic Books

Comic books, or bandes dessinees, are a big business in France, as the crowded stands at the Salon du Livre could attest to. Seeing these girls (age 10? 11?) brought back memories of my own comic book heyday, when I would make regular timed visits to the local drugstore for the latest copy of Richie Rich, Betty and Veronica, and even, I'm embaressed to admit, Casper the Friendly Ghost (I thought he was, well, cute). By age 9 I think I had something close to 400 comic books collected, almost all of them pretty worthless. Nevertheless, I allowed myself to be deluded into thinking that this grand "collection" would make me a millionaire some day (obviously I was under the heady influence of Richie Rich). Unfortunately, my mother did not share in my prosperity visions and got rid of all the comic books in one fell swoop at a yard sale one weekend while I was visiting a friend (who lived in a teepee, but that's another story). Soon after that I swore off Richie Rich and his ilk in favor of Mad Magazine, and took to wearing a black leather newsboy cap and army fatigues, quoting Abbie Hoffman and giving cops the finger. Hopefully these little girls will channel their rebelliousness in other, more productive ways...

A Good Read

Yesterday I was invited by a writer friend to the Salon du Livre in Paris. I'd never been to the book fair here, but I have been to similar types of events, and thus was expecting to be handed lots of free stuff from smiling vendors (like what exactly? I don't know - candy bars in the shape of books or glossy literary magazines or something). Instead all I got was this "mini-livre" of my fundamental rights within the European Union, which I flipped through on the way home in the metro.

Hmmm, let's see...right to human dignity (that's the first one)...right to life (i.e., no death penalty or execution)... ban on slavery, torture, and inhuman treatment...freedom of press, freedom of religion...equal rights between women and men...access to health care and security...

You know, on second thought, I guess I'd rather have all those things than a bunch of free junk that I can't use.

Double Rainbow

This was taken after a day of rain and hail last week; if you squint, lean back, tilt your head to one side, and most of all use your imagination, you can see the second rainbow on the right.

I'm aware that this is not the best documentation of a double rainbow (what's more, water from the roof dripped onto the lens while I was taking the picture, making those pixelated ripples) but I decided to post the photo anyway. Blogging (and life) can't always be about perfection. Right?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Banana Republic?

OK, this is literally the SIXTH banana peel I have seen within the last week or so - what in heaven's name is going on around here? Is Jerry Lewis in town? Is there a whole underground slapstick culture that I'm not aware of? The weirdest thing is, I have never - never - seen anyone in Paris eating a banana in public (come to think of it, I don't see that many people eating them in private, either). It's rare to see people eating on the street here at all - except for the occasional baguette or sandwich - so this banana thing has really got me stumped.

When It Rains, It Hails!

Happy Spring Equinox! And yes, that is a whole bunch of hail in our rain gutter, collected from today's several hailstorms. If only I had some flavored syrup, I could open up a shaved ice business...

Monday, March 19, 2007

And One More Torn Poster...

....'cause I just think they're so darn cool. This is part of the "patina" of Paris that the photographer Robert Doisneau talked about (but I can't find the quote anywhere). It's very inspiring for me as a painter, thinking of how to treat a surface: what to hide, what to show.

I did find this quote, which seems appropriate for the whole idea of "accidental art" - that is, stumbling into visual pleasures in Paris (or anywhere):

"Chance is the one thing you can't buy. You have to pay for it and you have to pay for it with your life, spending a lot of time, you pay for it with time, not the wasting of time but the spending of time." Robert Doisneau

More Torn Poster Art

Here's a bigger view of the wall - I couldn't decide whether I like it better cropped, like in the last post, or big. So I'm just gonna go wild and post them both!

Some of My Favorite Art in Paris... accidental, like this wall of torn posters along the Canal St. Martin. I love how the original messages have started to dissolve into a larger visual pattern, of which words are just another decorative part. Not only that, but the cross-sectioned layers remind me of millefeuille pastry. Yum!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Apple of My Eye

I keep telling myself I'm done with painting apples but then I start another one. There's something compulsive going on here. My poor little model (the "real" apple in the middle) is now 4 weeks old and I think has given up on ever having a normal apple life. This one apple has suffered all manner of indignity - from rolling into the paint to falling on the floor to having its stem violently tugged at as I twirl it around to get the right light. Why not buy another apple, you might ask, and eat this one? Well, I have bought other ones, but you know how Picasso would just paint from one of his wives or mistresses at a time? That's kind of how I feel about this apple. It has all the right qualities of apple-ness that I'm looking for right now: fairly symmetrical, oval shape, touches of green and yellow, a nice stem that leans to one side. I'm afraid if I eat it (or throw it away - it's really beyond edibility right now) I will need it at some point for reference and will regret not having it. A photo is just not the same.

I might as well come and out and admit it here - I've formed an attachment to an apple!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Window in Normandy

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Peach (?) Blossoms in Normandy

Somebody stop me! I am in high spring fever mode. I am finding even the most mundane things full of beauty and meaning (when I was younger, it would be right about now that I would fall in love with the absolutely wrong person and not know it until many, many therapy sessions later).

But really, is there anything more beautiful than the first blossoms after winter? (even though some bloomed in January this year). But let's get specific (as Nathalie Goldberg says). Behold these blossoms on this tree! So pink! So delicate! Yet hearty in the winds! Is it a peach tree? (Do I need to take a class in horticulture?) Behold the branches! So tangled! What does it all mean? Ahhhhhhh......

This Tree Has Potential

Have you ever heard that before? "So-and-so has a lot of potential?" Have you ever heard it said (or thought it) about yourself? Do you ever feel like it's a subtle put-down of where you are in your life right now?

Yes, this tree has potential. But we know that we have to wait for the blossoms to sprout and the leaves to form. Meanwhile, the sun and the rain do their best to make the tree healthy and help it grow, and we admire the blue sky peeking through the skinny branches.

(OK, this is the last time I blog after a yoga class. I'm starting to sound like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Self-help book publishing, here I come!)

Signs of Spring!

They're everywhere! This was in the park near my apartment - is that a magnolia tree? I don't know, but it brought a song to my heart. (I like that blue stuff on the bottom, I think it's part of the children's castle, or could be a fence, I can't see anything through that thicket of branches!)

I'll Take the Bus!

Tell me, my avid, above-average readers, why is the bus my preferred mode of transportation in Paris?

1. It's clean.

2. It's above ground.

3. It can go pretty fast, if it's on a road with bus lanes (which the mayor of Paris, bless his voiture-hating heart, has added everywhere).

4. The bus driver is almost always friendly, and says "Bonjour" and sometimes even SMILES (SMILES!) when you walk onto the bus, which in itself makes taking the bus a happy event.

5. There are no rats.

6. You get to see the city, the in-between parts from your departure to your destination stop, that you would never see while riding the metro (unless you get off at the wrong stop).

7. There is usually not any vomit or urine anywhere.

8. You get to listen in on people's cell phone conversations (OK, I admit that this is not a "plus" of riding the bus. But I wanted to see if you were paying attention).

9. It's clean.

10. It often has more direct routes than the metro (for instance, from my house to the Marais).

11. Have I mentioned that it's clean?

12. OK - last reason. I like the colors: pale creamy green and silver. Very soothing, kind of like a big vehicular mint julep on a summer day...

(It's definitely past my bedtime).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Red Sky at Night...

....Sailor's Delight! And indeed, we are seeing sunny weather again, which is certainly delightful.

And Very Often...

...the people you are watching watch you back!

More People-Watching

(I decided that this guy was Umberto Eco.)

Friday, March 09, 2007

People-Watching Near Les Halles

It's been a long time since I've sat in a cafe by myself and just watched the world go by. I should do it more often. After all, Paris is made for people-watching.

(Language trivia for my non-french-speaking readers: Les Halles is, believe it or not, pronounced "Lay al." Just thought you should know that, if you ever need to talk about this blog posting - like, I don't know, in therapy or something)

Window Display on rue Quincampoix

I saw this the other day while on a little ad-hoc tour of galleries near the Pompidou Center in Paris. I have no idea what this store was selling, or even if it was a store. Maybe a frame shop? Hard to tell. The frames were in pretty rough condition. But i love the window display, a work of art in itself. For me, the most visually interesting things in Paris are often found outside the galleries...
(if you click on the picture you can see it larger, and notice how dirty the window is - which adds of course to the whole uncontrived "look")

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Wampoline Website Has a New Look for Spring!

As per usual, I am about a month behind schedule, but the good news is that my "new and improved" painting website is done and ready for viewing! Uh, well, I mean, not completely - there are still glitches here and there which need to be fixed, so don't have an apoplectic fit if some links don't work. "I'm on it" as they say - in my own meandering, bumbling way (and luckily my website is not responsible for something like planes taking off on time - whew!)

For those of you who know the site, it's basically Same Paintings, Different Day (different background and fonts), but there are some new categories, including, for the first time ever, abstract (see photo). Overall, I'm striving for a brighter, cleaner, simpler look, which brings together the various realms of my art (portrait, still life, abstract). Hopefully I've achieved this, but even if I haven't, it's gonna take some real motivation (like a cattle prod) to get me to go back in and work on it again.

(Just in case you missed the link up top there, it's Enjoy!)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

View From My Window

Our living room windows face southeast, but when I lean out a little and look to the left, I can see this building, which is facing almost due west - hence the setting sun reflects in its windows (I know, it's a bit complicated, you might need a compass and a map).

I've lived in many places in Paris, all different, but this is the first time I've lived without a view of living things on the ground (other than humans and dogs). No trees or gardens or even just a corner of grass somewhere (though we are planning to get more plants for the windowsill). For now, the sky is my sole reference to the living planet beyond these gray walls. I find it reassuring to say the least.