What planet am I on?

This last Sunday was extraordinary in terms of experiences that would be hard to find or recreate outside of Paris. Beginning with a breakfast straight from my childhood – fresh buttered baguette dipped into a huge bowl of cafe au lait. (I will get back to the calorie counting and limited cholesterol diet when I get back!) Next on the agenda was a serious attack on my meagre choice of clothes (after all, I only brought five pairs of boots with me!) to find an outfit that would not embarass me at the very exclusive, invitation-only, unveiling of next season’s Dior menswear collection. I was quite happy with what I came up with…. 

Being at the Dior fashion show was a real trip. The hype and buzz were palpable. Hundreds of people gathered to see what the House of Dior would come out with which will influence global fashion trends and trickle down to the ‘masses’  in watered-down versions. There were scores of photographers, TV crews, gay designers, models, fashion buyers, and even some real live famous people like Karl Largerfeld and Kanye West! The chief createur had designed the runway with a sort of horse dressage feel with the audience sitting in raised seats around the runway circle. Music blaring, the thin, rather sick-looking male models with hairstyles that needed serious hair product to produce, came striding out in some of the most gorgeous clothes I have ever seen men wear. I must admit I was sceptical about just how innovative one can be with men’s suits,  jackets, coats and pants. But it was thrilling and required real talent and vision to produce the whole collection.      

While in Paris I was very determined to also do some watercolors but did not want to do the usual gorgeous Paris scenes which have been done to death. I had the idea at the fashion show to do a small series on the people watching the show, rather than the models. Here is one example so far.

 In the evening I was invited to an art opening at a private apartment in Montmatre. It was quite an evening, the hostess being Grace Tashima who regularly opens her gorgeous Parisian apartment to all manner of artists, wannabe artists, writers,  mathematics professors, art critics, photographers, and moi!  There was a very interesting photographer/dancer couple, David and Marie. Marie kept insisting that David photograph the two of us as bookends with various guests sandwiched in between. Here we are with Grace sandwiched in the middle on her famous red couch.

The evening ended up with a date to rendez-vous with Grace, an invitation to a private soiree where an opera singer will sing several cantatas and a very interesting conversation with the featured artist Christian Gorget about the cathartic nature of creating art. So yes, as my son Anton asked me, What Planet Am I On?

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How much can one person cram into two weeks? Plenty.

Impossible to sum up the incredibly rich, stimulating, creative and exciting time I have been having so far in Paris. So lets just take the last 24 hours as an example. But first just a few photos to set the stage….

OK. So now you get the picture  – no pun intended! Yesterday morning I turned up for ‘work’ at the Musee d’Orsay from 9:30 to 1:00 (I am going to be posting a separate blog detailing a very interesting art project I will be working on during the remainder of my stay. Essentially I have been authorized to be an official copiste at the Musee d’Orsay, hopefully capturing on video some of my painting as a type of performance piece). Following an intense painting session at the museum,a delicious lunch and coffee. I am not a coffee drinker, but the coffee here sure beats Starbucks! Then off to make my first ever prints from the copper engravings I have been working on. Just love the results and the impression the copper plate makes in the paper.

After a quick dinner of goat cheese, baguette, and  radishes I popped over to another artist’s studio to meet her artist’s group for some champagne and dessert. Painters, photographers, sculptors, print-makers.  Back to my own freezing loft to finish off a quick study of a striking looking woman who works at the museum and matches her outfits to her red and black striped hair.

Today I met some friends at the Grand Palais to see one of the most spectacular installations I have ever seen by Christian Boltonski. More coffee and then rush off to attend an opening of an exhibition by artist Gilles Hirzel at the Assemblee Nationale. Very chi-chi – had to be on the ‘list’ to get in. Very powerful works on canvas made from found materials. Don’t sit back yet. As evening settled in I was invited to yet another opening in the very chic Faubourg Saint-Honore. Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana and Dior stores rubbing shoulders with exclusive book stores and galleries and restaurants…Then a taste of Paris commuter traffic as I got a hair-raising ride back home. This weekend, I have an invitation to the unveiling of the next season’s Dior Menswear collection, another gallery opening and a dinner party. So sorry you can’t all join me! And oh yes, I did have to get a beret, didn’t I?

Reporting in from (a very cold) Paris!

Four days into my six week stay in Paris and all I can say is mon dieu! I am extremely fortunate to be staying in an artist loft in Ivry sur Seine thanks to the generosity of artist/healer/psychotherpist Magdalena Groszek. My first impression of the huge warehouse/converted loft was WOW! Every corner reveals a beautiful tableau of objets d’art and effortless scenes that say “Yes, you are in France!”

Despite the bitter cold, there is something to be said for the greyness that seems to envelop Paris like a second skin during the winter. However, having said that, this is the coldest winter spell in about fifty years, and it is hard to heat up a warehouse. Thank God I brought my fur hat and coat….

One of the most exciting and rewarding things that I have experienced here is the open exchange of ideas amongst the artists and musicians I have met so far. I have been invited to about five artist studios, two of whom live in the communal complex I live in. Check out Francoise Toulouse and Yael Braverman. The three of us are going to an opening I was invited to which will exhibit Argentinian artists working in Paris. Tomorrow I am off to the Musee Rodin (one of the cornerstones of work I wish to pursue on Feminine Sexuality and Aging), and Thursday I will be off to the Musee d’Orsay to hopefully see Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde. I can’t wait to visit the innumerable contemporary galleries but I need to be extremely picky in order to protect the timeI have to actually create.  So far I have filmed two very interesting video interviews on my Flip camera, completed two small paintings (just to get the juices flowing), and decided this morning that I will try to keep a sketch journal of the wonderful people I am meeting and drew my first subject this afternoon. (Photos of works in progress to come in the next blog entry I hope).

Despite the fact that my French is not too shabby, it is still a stretch trying to keep up with the conversations that flow around the wine and cheese on subjects as diverse as existentialism, art, love, life, and what is truly important in life….! But every day comes with major and minor lessons in cultural differences. For example, being discretely told by a friend that requesting milk in one’s cafe is a big no-no after breakfast hours. Espresso is de rigueur! Going to the supermarket today I was also surprised and delighted by the lack of calorie content listings on the delectible patisseries! Finally one more lesson anyone visiting Paris should know – when biting into a delicious galette pastry, beware of the hidden feve (a small plastic figurine about an inch tall) hidden inside the galette. Apparently it is good luck to be the one to bite into the slice which contains this hard inedible object hidden inside. I am certainly lucky because I did not break a tooth when I unknowingly bit into my tiny alien creature! A bientot mes amis!!