I'm so pleased - L'Est éclair not only chose The Slightest Disturbance as the illustrating artwork in their article about our upcoming exhibition at the Jardin Botanique de Marnay-sur-Seine, but their journalist who attended the show also highlighted my permanent door installation in her follow-up review of the exhibition!
La Maison Verte
This is such a nice surprise - the Jardin Botanique (the Botanical Garden) of Marnay-sur-Seine, France, liked my greeting cards so much that they decided to purchase a bunch of them to sell in their gift shop! So there are now multiple locations where you can buy some of my reproductions in person - in downtown Leavenworth, KS, or in Marnay-sur-Seine, France!
Here are a few images from the La Mason Verte June 2016 Artists in Residence Exhibition I had in the Jardin Botanique de Marnay-sur-Seine. My exhibition was entitled Garden Lore. The door, obviously, is permanently installed, and was about 20 feet away from the display area I used for the rest of my pieces. Note how the garden staff tidied up the door's surrounding area for the exhibition and added a permanent sign with my details on it! Two of the photos below (the ones with a bit of an apricot tint) were taken by photographer Abril M. Barruecos.
On Day 24, we went to Paris! We had wanted to catch the 9:46am train, but when we got to the station it was canceled due to the strikes so we had to wait around for an hour to catch the 10:46am one. Due to all the transit and weather issues, we all decided to stay overnight - I was coming back the next day, Ariel was staying another, and Melanie for yet another! We arrived around noon, and the weather was cold with occasional bouts of rain. Melanie and Ariel had to go to a photo processing shop, so we decided to all meet up for drinks at 5pm. I wanted to just wander around a section of the city I'd read had interesting concept stores and a vegan burger bar, so I went there. It was nice to walk around a big city again - it made me nostalgic for when I lived in New York City - but the weather was irregular and the store prices were all very high, and the Airbnb I booked had a check-in at 3pm so I basically poked my head into a few shops, ate a very nice vegan burger and fries, and then tried to figure out where I was staying. I ended up getting a little lost but eventually found the place which while centrally located was itself on a mildly sketchy side street. While I waited for the hostess to come let me in, a guy who presumably lived in a complex next to her building yelled at me in French and seemed like he wanted to fight but I just answered that I didn't speak French and ignored him. He kept yelling and I got the sense it was quite nasty, but since I had no real reaction given that I wasn't actually sure what he was saying, he got bored and wandered off to engage a more responsive audience elsewhere. My hostess then came down and got me, and once in her apartment it was really airy and nice. I dropped off some of my stuff (I didn't need to schlep my toothbrush around for the evening) and went off to meet the other artists. Both their boyfriends happened to be able to be there as well, so it was a nice opportunity to get to know each other better.
The following day I decided to visit the Catacombs. I had been torn as to whether I wanted to commit to doing so, which meant I didn't buy tickets in advance. I therefore had to pay my penance, which was waiting in line for 2 hours. It was very interesting, though, once I got inside and after climbing down 130 stairs, walking the 1.2 miles of mine shaft and ossuary, and then climbing back up 83 stairs, I felt like I got a workout in! I then had lunch at a nearby restaurant, followed by a street crepe, and then I decided that I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower again so I rode the Metro over to it. The Eurocup 2016 is going on this month, and there were a ton of British and Polish fans milling about on the way to the tower. And then I saw - the tower itself had a big inflatable soccer ball hung inside to celebrate as well. After I walked to and from the tower I rode back to the Airbnb, picked up the rest of my stuff, and then went back to Marnay.
The next two days were entirely devoted to working in the studio.
Day 28 was the Fête de la Musique - an annual event celebrating music. I worked in the studio in the morning, but in the evening we all went over to the fête. I made popcorn on the cooktop then added some salt and brought this along with a bottle of wine; the popcorn was a huge hit. I'd previously tried some other dishes, but I now understood the French way of slowly picking at things over the course of several hours so bringing something that stays tasty and is easily sharable yet also not brought by others is the way to go. Ariel and her father Adrian played the guitar and sang a couple songs, and Erica sang a solo, a CAMAC artist did a poetry reading in Mandarin which was then laboriously translated into French by way of English, and a local resident named Cecil DJed. Group songs were also sung by a number of the townspeople, and there was a fair amount of dancing. A little girl gave me some leaves to put in my hair, which I did, and Patricia was so enamored of how it looked on me that she decided we'd all wear the leaves at our reception a few days later.
The next two days were again completely focused on studio work.
Then it was our exhibition day! It felt like it came so fast; I had been working on the door this whole time and we finally installed it the morning of the exhibition. It was nice to have it back in its home again. I spent the day hurrying up and waiting; getting my pieces ready to go but having to wait for the space they were to be installed in to clean up, for instance. Everyone (particularly Guillon, Patricia, and Kinga) was really kind in helping me set up. By 4pm, everything was installed and we all went back to gather the special leaves to put in our hair, clean up, and get dressed. The exhibition opened at 6pm, and Didiot gave a speech. It went well, and Mathilde even bought five of my greeting cards to frame and hang in her properties! I will make a separate post with images from the exhibition.
My seventh piece at La Maison Verte was my intervention in the garden - my conversion of the water-pump door into a piece of artwork. The door is 41x31x6" and is a mixed media installation including the original door materials, a poplar plank and back braces to replace the rotting base, 3P Quick Cure Clay, acrylics, screws, epoxy, and satin polyurethane. It's titled Genius loci. The piece is meant to be permanent, but of course the eye stalks and tentacles of the snail are relatively fragile so they may break if visitors to the garden are not gentle with it; that's in keeping with my overall message about the environment. Nature provides us with so many rewards but in turn requires some human consideration and restraint.
Below is documentation of the project from start to finish!
And finally, a panoramic view to finish the post off:
Speaking of all the upcoming exhibitions, I am also participating in a large group exhibition event in Saron-sur-Aube, France, on June 25th and 26th called Art & Jardins 2016. Here's the poster for that - see if you can spot my name!
Check this out - the local newspaper L'Est éclair wrote a short article about our upcoming exhibition in the Jardin Botanique de Marnay-sur-Seine and they chose a detail of one of my relief paintings to illustrate it! Journalists from the newspaper are also planning on attending tonight and doing a follow-up piece on the exhibition.
Here's my fifth piece! It's 3P Quick Cure Clay and acrylic on a 8x6" birch panel. It features one of two indistinguishable (apart from dissection) species - either Arion ater, the black slug, or Arion rufus, the red slug - enjoying one of the many rainy days we've had here in France. I'm titling it As Right as Rain.
My group exhibition in the Jardin Botanique de Marnay-sur-Seine is almost upon us - it will take place in the garden on Friday, June 24th, at 6pm. Patricia, Mathilde, and Didier have all assisted in putting together these materials advertising and discussing our work.
Day 14 was sunny again! I took a midday walk around the village to appreciate the weather, and as I was walking by a house, Erica (a transplant-turned-local orginally from Mexico) popped out to tell me about her bikes and how we at La Maison Verte should feel free to use them. I then decided to pretty much invite myself into her garden to see it as the glimpses from the exterior of it were enticing, and then once in her garden her husband Morgan proffered some wine, and lunch... before I knew it, I'd spent the whole afternoon there, and gotten to sample homemade yogurt and rhubarb crumble (as well as veggies and salad) to boot. Morgan then told me they were going to go wade around in some flooded road puddles later on and that I should come. To be honest, it didn't sound that appealing but when in France... I went. At first we were supposed to walk but then everyone decided to ride bikes. I am not great at riding bikes; I have one that I can just about get around on if I'm riding mostly flat streets, but it's a cushy bike that's been measured to my body, and I also haven't ridden on it for a few years now. The bikes that are here are of random heights, hard seats, narrow wheels, and the terrain is variable. I was not interested in riding a bike. I thought I'd just bow out gracefully from the puddle-wading, then, but Morgan decided I would ride sidesaddle on the back of his bike instead. It was hilariously awkward but moderately functional, so I just went with it. The flooded road had a series of "puddles" that escalated quickly into pools and then frankly effectively turned into a stream. We had a good time for a bit, but then the skies opened up and started raining hard. And lightning followed, which freaked everyone out because we were all in water, surrounded by metal bridges. So we all raced back. The rain started to turn into hail, then rain, then hail. It was a crazy but weirdly enjoyable end to the afternoon.
Day 15 was back to poor weather and I stayed inside working on artwork.
Day 16 Mathilde needed to go to Troyes to pick up some materials for the café she's constructing in the town (which will be the sole shop once it opens next year), so she brought us and Patricia along for the ride. Troyes has a number of medieval churches, a tool museum that Patricia really likes, and is generally a nice small city. We went to the biggest church, toured the tool museum, wandered about for a little while, and then all headed back. I wanted to explore it more so I decided to head back soon. Then I checked the weather forecast. The only probably nice day was the following day; all the rest of the days in the extended forecast projected a lot of rain.
So on Day 17, I worked in the morning but went in the afternoon back to Troyes just to wander around for myself. While at the train station, Mathilde was waiting to pick up some people from the other side of the tracks and we chatted across them talking about my visiting Troyes and my future plans for Paris until my train arrived. I got on, and saw her through the window signalling NO, GET OFF! I was so confused; I asked people on the train if this went to Troyes, and they said yes, but Mathilde was doing acrobatics on the other side viewable through the windows so I got back off, ran to the end of the train where there was a gap we could yell across, and she yelled, "That's not the train to Paris!" as the train made a noise that indicated it was about to leave. I yelled back, "I'm going to Troyes!" and ran back to try to get the last door on the train to open. I was in luck - I think perhaps the conductor saw the drama happening as I got a door open, stepped in, and the train immediately took off. Since I'd been so cooped up in Marnay, it was nice to get to explore a new city on my own (and pop into some actual shops!). Unfortunately, the prices on things here are really high. I kept seeing things for 30 euros that would probably go for around 5-10 dollars in the US.
Day 18 was rainy again, as predicted. Nonetheless, a British expat-turned-local named Andy had promised me he'd take me to a gorgeous botanical garden/greenhouse in a park in a town about an hour away called Sens, and we decided to go that afternoon. Melanie joined us. When we got to the park, there was about a fifteen minute walk inside to get to the greenhouses, and Andy was worried they'd be shut due to the weather (there was already some flooding in the park) but we figured we'd see when we got there. Along the way, we got to see some white swans, geese, ducks, and then a black swan. The black swan was such a character. He knew he was beautiful, and wanted to be appreciated. Once he saw us, he swam back and forth on a patch of stream like it was a catwalk, and he'd slow down and pirouette when he came to where we were to turn around. We enjoyed the show for a while, and then tried to leave, but he moved the show up along with us like he didn't want us to go - but still with the overall affectation that he was deigning to display for us. It was hilarious. Melanie and I had to use the toilet, though, so we eventually left him and made our way to the WC. I believe this was my first squatty potty. I know I've seen them before, but I think I've never had the courage to use one until now. They're actually quite easy to use, luckily! Then we went into the greenhouses which were thankfully open. They were really, really well put together. There was an outdoor cactus and succulent section, a semi-tropical outdoor garden, an indoor cactus and succulent section, and a winding indoor tropical section. I'd be happy to have the whole greenhouse transported to my house. I knew more about all the plants than Andy and Melanie, so I told them trivia and then spotted some Mimosa pudica. Neither of them had encountered the plant before (which I thought a little odd of Andy since it's a moderately common European houseplant) so they were thrilled to experience its sensitivity. On the way back, Andy took a detour and showed us two local dolmens (one up close and the other from afar) dating back to the early Neolithic period. They're like mini-Stonehenges, and it was really interesting to get to see them. He also drove us past a menhir, which is a monolith from the same era. This whole afternoon was a pretty much ideal excursion to my taste, so I was pretty satiated with my somewhat more eventful week and returned to the studio feeling much less cooped up.
Day 19 was entirely a studio day. I sculpted with QCC on the door, which I'd finished preparing a few days earlier after finally getting Leo to fix the bottom of it, getting Kinga to loan me her scrapers, and after spending a long, hot afternoon myself scraping all the old paint off the door.
Day 20 was also committed to artwork.
Day 21 I mostly worked in my studio, but in the evening we took a quick trip over to the neighboring town of Saron-sur-Aube where we'd be participating in the Art & Jardins 2016 festival exhibition and sale. We got to see some of the sites some other artists would be exhibiting in, and then got to visit the house we were displaying in so we could discuss who wanted what space and how we planned to exhibit. I brought quite a large stack of my greeting cards with me since I knew I'd be participating in this, so hopefully they sell well!
Day 22 was another studio day.
Day 23 was primarily another studio day, but at 8pm we all went over to Mathilde's house for apéritifs and entrées (the latter of which, in French, means appetizer and not the main course) with many of the core group of friends (Erica, Guillon, Abril, Leo, Kinga, Patricia) and some new faces as well. It was a lot of fun, and I learned I like prosecco!
Here's my fourth piece! It's titled Floating and is 3P Quick Cure Clay and acrylic on a 16x12" birch panel. The whole thing is super shiny because I used a gloss varnish to seal and protect it, but I managed to get some images that aren't quite so glare-filled. I also ended up gloss varnishing The Slightest Disturbance as well.
Day 9 was supposed to be Paris day, but after we woke up early and drove to Provins to catch the train in, it turned out that the train strikes canceled the train and the next one wouldn't be for three hours. It was also pouring out. So Paula canceled her doctor's appointments and I took a nap back at the house. Paula and Adrian later went to pick up their daughter, Ariel, at the airport and said the weather was awful and there was a truck that went off the road into a ditch. We later heard the Louvre and several other major institutions closed and were moving storage from basements. So I went back to working in the studio! I did get to meet Ariel that afternoon, which was lovely, and then even later that evening our final new resident, Melanie, arrived. She'd gotten stuck in all of the train strike problems.
Day 10 I just kept trucking in the studio. It was still raining. I really can't emphasize the rain enough. Lots and lots of rain. It has been reported to be the rainiest May in France in a century.
Day 11 was a Saturday, so we went to the market in Nogent, and they were having a rose exhibition in the upstairs part. It wasn't quite as wet out but it was enough so that it was about half the size of the previous week's market. When we got back, I walked through the garden again and proposed my permanent intervention/installation idea to Patricia and Didier (the director of the Jardin Botanique). They had asked me to consider doing one (or several) permanent alterations - either painting the bell-shaped cement pillars in the garden, doing murals on some exposed, irregularly shaped walls, or something else. I had been mulling it over for a few days as none of their suggested options felt right for my delicate type of artwork. I kept gravitating toward this small door surrounded by a wall of ivy - it felt intimate and its size and shape are more to my taste - plus it was made of wood so I could use the QCC on it if I wanted. I explained that I wanted to sculpt/paint something on this door, and they agreed. I had imagined awkwardly trying to do it onsite whenever the weather permitted, but Guillon, one of the workers at the garden, suggested he just take it off and bring it over. That actually sounded like a much better idea! Once he delivered it, he said Didier wanted Leo to fix the bottom of the door (which had rotten away a bit and was not structurally sound anymore) first. I also needed to scrape off all the old paint as it was flaking away, so I needed to borrow paint scrapers. I took a walk to CAMAC and had a great discussion with a creative writer and artist from Germany (though originally Taiwanese). She had some amazing flipbooks she'd made, and had some really interesting insights into her practice.
Day 12 was brocante (flea market/boot sale) day in a semi-nearby town (it was about a 45 minute drive, I think?). This day was thankfully not raining, so the brocante was actually on! I did learn that it was not as big as it was supposed to be because some vendors were still concerned it might rain... but it was huge, nonetheless. I was frankly unprepared for the scale of the thing; it just kept going on and on and on. For about ten or twelve city blocks, I'd guess? Most of the stuff on offer was pretty worn and/or not to my taste, but I did find a ridiculously loud, thin coat that I bought for myself and a very stern woman/cork bottle stopper. In the evening I tried to hunt down Leo to ask him about the door (and the scrapers) but I couldn't find him. I left a message with his mother that I was looking for him.
Day 13 it was actually sunny! I walked around again - out to the storks, to recycle glass bottles from the house, through the garden - and just generally appreciated the better weather.
Sometimes I get asked about how I went about making a piece, and I've been trying (and mostly forgetting!) to document my processes a little more. I did remember to take this photo of the frog prior to painting the piece but after curing the 3P Quick Cure Clay onto the birch panel. As you can see, I sculpted very light bas relief for the parts of the frog rising up out from the water apart from the eyes, which are in a comparatively higher relief, though both are dwarfed by the grass protrusions.
On Day 4, Kinga stopped by with a heat gun that works very well, so I was able to continue to begin a couple pieces of artwork! I took another walk through the Jardin Botanique and then worked in my studio until evening. We had been invited to an annual neighborhood event starting at 7:30pm - the fête des voisins, known in the US as a block party. Neighbors in the vicinity brought potluck dishes and beverages and we all doused ourselves in mosquito repellent and had a convivial gathering until the streetlights went out at 11pm. I brought broccoli fritters and wine, but people didn't start eating until at least a half an hour after the start so my fritters cooled and weren't so tasty. Other people made great food, though! I also got to know a little bit better the villagers, though I am definitely hampered by my lack of French. I had thought that most French would understand Spanish, as that's been my experience previously, but at least in this region if they know a second language at all it's a little English. Which is of course welcome, but I am feeling the language barrier strongly compared to my travels in other countries.
Day 5 was market day in Nogent-sur-Seine, the nearby town with the train station and grocery stores. Paula and Adrian were nice enough to let me tag along (and to wait for me since I was much slower given the newness of everything). Market day is like a farmer's market plus a pop-up dollar store; I bought a new cardigan which has already proven to be a great purchase given this unseasonably cold and rainy weather, and I also bought some fresh produce and some desserts from the boulangerie (bakery) nearby. They also drove me to the grocery store to get a few more staples; I then led four store clerks and a helpful English-speaking customer in a quixotic quest to find me popcorn kernels. Apparently that's a really strange request; they sell buckets of carmel corn in the front of the store, but people don't make their own! I personally really prefer very lightly flavored popcorn - just a little salt, usually - and everywhere else I've been that's an easy accommodation but apparently not here! When I got back from shopping I was pretty exhausted. I may have still had a little jet lag, plus I didn't get enough sleep the previous night. Either way, I slept for the next few hours and then puttered around in the studio for the rest of the evening.
Day 6, Sunday, is brocante day in France. Every Sunday during the summer a different town or two holds a brocante (basically a flea market or boot sale). A large number of the locals go to these regularly; apparently it's the only way to buy dishes/bikes/easels if you're trying to save money. I was warned that they're not worthwhile if it's raining, but Adrian and Paula wanted to go despite the weather so I tagged along. It was enjoyable to see one, but the rain did deter most of the vendors from even attending and those that did quickly covered up (or just packed away) their goods right when we arrived as the rain picked up. So it was mostly a soggy bust. When we got back, more studio time! The rain is annoying for excursions, but great for my studio practice...
Day 7 was Monday, a day when pretty much everything including the Jardin Botanique is closed in France. It was also still raining. I took a walk around the village despite the rain as I was feeling cooped up. After visiting the storks and the town center, I inveigled my way into CAMAC, the other artist residency. I explored the gallery (and saw an interesting sculpture of an elongated soccer ball which I enjoyed) and the studio of one of the artists, and then as I was heading back out that artist, Augustine, actually spotted me and invited me into his room. He was leaving the next day (he was a May resident), so I was fortunate to get to see and discuss his artwork with him before he left. While discussing his work, he asked me what I planned to work on and I brought up 3P Quick Cure Clay. He was really interested, so I invited him back to my studio then and there since he was leaving the next day. We acquired another interested artist-turned-temporary-CAMAC-cook, Sasha, and set off for my studio. I showed QCC to them, and they both marveled at it - in fact, Augustine was super excited and interested in it and wanted some for himself. I told him to give me his contact details and I'd pass along the website where he could buy it. Augustine was also particularly enthusiastic about the two works-in-progress I had, which was very heartening. Particularly since these type of heavy relief pieces are somewhat new to me, I'm not 100% certain of what I'm doing so hearing positive feedback was really nice. They also gave me some constructive criticism, which I later incorporated into the piece and agree that it was helpful.
Day 8, Tuesday, was still very rainy. I had breakfast and then spent most of the late morning and early afternoon planning what I wanted to do/see in Paris on Thursday, because Paula had to go into Paris that day for a doctor's appointment and so it would be a cheap and guided way to ease into visiting the city to go with her. It is supposed to rain on Thursday, so though my first desire is to see the Jardin des Plantes and associated zoo, I decided to stick to more indoorsy activities. I've already made the rounds of the tourist destinations (the Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Cœur, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, and so on) so I'd like to get a more local taste. I'm planning on hitting up some local markets and concept stores, and also hope to acquire more socks. I only brought five pairs, and given the weather and the fact that Europeans eschew dryers, it's a bit of a problem. After making all my plans, I realized I'd pushed lunch until very late and was starving. I popped downstairs to urgently make food... and the gas was finished. No more cooktop for me. I walked over to the Jardin to ask if they could kindly switch the gas over, but when they came it turned out the other one was also empty and no one had bothered to refill it. I was not amused, as I was at this point in full-on hangry mode. Finally it turned out that the electric plate on the cooktop was still functioning, so I used that and satiated myself. Then Patricia and I consulted on when I could go to the grocery store tomorrow, but it turned out that tomorrow was inconvenient for her so it would be better to go that evening. So we went out to get more groceries (and stopped at a local hardware store to get spray varnish for me as well; I can never bring it because it's an aerosol) and while out she invited me over to dinner. She also invited Andy, a British transplant to Marnay, and we had a very enjoyable evening - to the point where we outlasted the streetlights and Andy had to drive me the few blocks home because without the lights it was pitch black outside!
On Day 2, Patricia very kindly took me on a tour of the Jardin Botanique de Marnay in the morning. For such a small town (Marnay has 247 residents), the garden is surprisingly large - 2 hectares - and contains a wider variety of plants than I would've guessed, as well as a small greenhouse. It really is quite beautiful. She also took me on a tour of the village, which is so tiny that it has no shops at all. A woman drives a van through every day except Wednesday to sell bread - a mobile bakery - but otherwise all shops are to be found in neighboring towns. The local attractions are the Jardin and CAMAC, which is another artist residency. It's an older, much more expensive, fancier (i.e. residents have private bathrooms and are provided food) residency; from both a fiscal as well as a focal matter point of view, I'm pleased with La Maison Verte.
That evening was Paula's residency exhibition, despite it being Wednesday and not the final Friday of the month. (I inquired as to why, and was told the garden's director had another obligation on Friday so it was moved.) Paula is a Professor Emeritus from the University of Mississippi and does a wide range of work in a variety of media, with figurative gestural work being the main focus though other subjects are also explored. The event was nicely populated, and I met many of the other people who make up the main group of friends and neighbors involved in La Maison Verte. Unlike many rural towns, a large portion of the residents here are actually international transplants, which I found really interesting.
On Day 3, I took another trip to the Jardin Botanique and also make a trip down the road to see a stork nest that Paula and Adrian had told me about. Then it started raining, so I broke for lunch and then started some work. I'm using 3P Quick Cure Clay on this residency, so I put a a little down and went to cure it... and I killed my heat gun. Every other electronic I've ever used internationally has worked just fine with a standard adapter, but apparently my heat gun required a voltage converter as well. Since I didn't use one, I fried it. I panicked a bit, as I really need a heat gun ASAP in order to progress artistically with what I'd like to do on this residency and am not even sure where to acquire one around here, but after talking with some of the locals, it appears that one of the other people who helps run the residency, Kinga, has two heat guns herself and will lend me one. And this new one will natively function with the outlets, so I shouldn't have any problems. Fingers crossed!