13 December, 2011

Paris from the vantage point of a worn green lawn chair
Parisians use the Tuileries like a backyard
for barefoot picnics and lazy afternoon sunbaths. 

I enjoyed the graceful, hollow-eyed dancers
of Mary Laurencin's canvases in the Orangerie. 

13 November, 2011

How Antibes Weathered the Storm

When the wind kicked up I walked down to the end of the street to greet the waves and my heart beat a little faster with each step closer to the sea. The old town is protected by ramparts, a good twenty feet tall in some sections, which wave crests surpassed pattering on restaurant terraces and the medieval facades. A wave could swallow me up in one lick, I thought, but I couldn’t pry my eyes off the violent sea. In a knee-length coat that caught gusts of wind I had to fight to hold my ground. With a strong enough umbrella I’m sure I could have traveled like Mary Poppins.
After a night of interrupted dreams when shutters hammer on windows, trees do backbends, and power lines are plucked like harp strings, things were relatively calm. With seaside roads closed by a layer of seaweed and branches, traffic stacked up on accessible roads. The weather continued in a pattern raging through the night but was well-mannered enough to abate come morning the whole week through.

The Cote d’Azur greeted by full November sun for the weekend began to assess damages. The beaches in Cannes and Juan les Pins got off easy ankle deep in sea weed. The restaurants that line the thin strip of beach operated unaffectedly serving full houses of sunglass clad clientele.

The beach in Antibes, however, more closely resembled a beaver dam, the sand hidden underneath branches. Trunks crowned by root canopies and logs as wide as car tires were stripped of their bark by the washing machine tumbling of the ocean. Many beachcombers walked back with arm-fulls of wood, some to feed fireplaces, others for artistic endeavors.

Amidst the carnage of the storm a faerie of driftwood forts has been erected that I’ve been to visit every day since discovering. I asked a brown headed ten year old on his hand and knees if I could enter. When he nodded yes I ducked inside and took a seat on a log. His mother explained, “We spent about two hours yesterday building the structure. When we came back this morning only a few of the logs had fallen.“ Her son continued to fence in a front yard burying the spear tips of snapped branches to stand perpendicular in the sand. Another little person was decorating a found playhouse with bits of plastic. “This is the kitchen,” he said as he gave me the tour.

I intend on making my own contribution to this collective work of art as the weeks wear on. Like all things ephemeral, there is a magic to not knowing how long the forts on the Pointeil beach will remain intact. It will undoubtedly take months to clear the debris.

27 July, 2011

Madame Grès - Musée Bourdelle, Paris

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06 July, 2011

Luxembourg Garden Beehives

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14 June, 2011

10 June, 2011

The Bataille des Fleurs Parade

Life on the Cote d’Azur breeds finicky habitants accustomed to warmth and sun in year round doses. The appearance of several clouds or a kicking up of the wind is reason enough to denounce the weather and call off beach plans saying, “Il fait pas beau.” But despite the rain a crowd had amassed in the main square with appendages that spilled out onto the cobblestone streets of Antibes.

Under awnings and umbrellas they awaited the Bataille des Fleurs, a parade that arrives in June like a right of passage into summer. Girls in lace up leather boots kicked in time with a marching band lead by Mickey and Minnie mouse in wedding white. At the head of the procession a brass section of aging Italian men in pink polka-dotted bikinis flirted with onlookers. Clowns and elephants rudely fashioned from carpets of flowers were pulled behind tractors. From these floats frilly-petalled carnations were showered on the crowd. A whole bouquet of roses that I caught by their thorny stems gave me a sense of why it’s called a battle of flowers.

My ear to eat smile outlasted the procession that wound its way down to the port where millionaires dock their yachts as I walked home with an armful of flowers like a pageant winner.

04 March, 2011

houston's menil

In a residential neighborhood of wood frame houses and gnarled oaks stands the Menil Foundation. After leaving World War II France for Houston, comforts of the oil industry afforded John and Dominique de Menil to champion the arts nurturing a collection from the 1940’s to 70’s that would become their gift to the city. The museum opened in the 1987 was to be a place to contemplate art and cycle installations where “…works would appear, disappear, and reappear like actors on a stage. Each time they would be seen with a fresh eye,” because, Dominique de Menil said, “Habit blunts vision.”

Entering the museum I gravitate toward right wing dedicated to the Surrealists. More than a handful of Magritte’s canvases hang alongside works from Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, and Man Ray. Even a still life personage arranged by Archimboldo is tucked away in a room of Surrealist paraphernalia like taxidermy birds and Katchina dolls. Inspired by the unity of opposites curio mingles with natural history.

 Outside the museum at dusk a camp of bats was circling on the February night I found myself there.

01 February, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Book Review

Like so many other child protagonists who find themselves orphaned (James from James and the Giant Peach, the Baudelaire children in An Unfortunate Series of Events) Hugo has been entrusted to a cold extended family member. From his uncle he learns the art of winding the clocks encrusted in the walls of the Paris Gare de l’Ouest train station (where the Montparnasse tower now stands). When his caretaker fails to return to their bird’s nest hovel in the station, Hugo begins to tend to the winding. He hopes that nobody will notice anything has changed preferring the life he knows to the possibility of being uprooted again.

In the mean time he is determined to repair an automaton that he was able to salvage from the debris of the museum fire, the very machine his father was working on the night of his death. Hugo believes that the robot, poised with pen in hand, when mended will deliver a posthumous message from his father. Throughout the years he has filled the pages of his journal with notes and diagrams, observations and knowledge passed down from father to son, which he puts to practice working on the reparations.

Resorting to petty thievery he keeps himself fed on croissants swiped from the station café and pockets mechanical toys to amass the parts he needs to restore the automaton. Caught red handed, the shopkeeper seizes his journal and forces Hugo to repay his debt by tending the toyshop. From here the story unfolds as the shopkeeper’s niece Isabella becomes his friend and accomplice.