After putting in a good six hours in the studio here in Dinan as artist-in-residence at La Grande Vigne I need a break. Despite the intermittent rain and hail, I headed off to the old city center to see if the hat maker was in. The boutique caught my eye several days ago but I had yet to find it open. Every store seems to have on its own hours and days and it’s been hit or miss for the most part. I turn right at the clock tower, down a little alleyway and voilà! Danielle – or DD of Dinan – is everything I hoped she would be. A true artiste – quirky, creative, and slightly folle.
Place any scrap of fabric in Danielle’s hands and she will create a chapeau worthy of the Mad Hatter.
Danielle turns vintage hats, scarves, scraps of embroidery and left over fabric and felt from her clothing line into phenomenal creations that are a mix of Doctor Seuss, samurai hairstyles, Napoleonic fashion and medieval head coverings. She also uses meters of fabric in her flowing unstructured coats. I wanted to buy the coat she was wearing but she had just made it that day and she couldn’t give it up. And by the way, Danielle gives all her hats names…
The (reasonable) prices for her creations appear on price tags cut in the shape of a star. She explains that her mother gave birth to her at home in a little town called L’Etoile Plaisante (literally, The Star Jokes!)
We click instantly and spend the next hour talking art and playing dress up with her impossibly imaginative hats. I want one!
You can find Danielle’s boutique at 21 bis passage de la tour de l’horloge, Dinan.
This cute little house – “La Vignette” – is my home in Dinan, France for the month of February. It accommodates the artist-in-residence selected by Les Amis de la Grande Vigne under the auspices of the Yvonne Jean-Haffen Museum. La Vignette is situated at the base of the large property that belonged to celebrated painter Yvonne Jean-Haffen. The late artist bequeathed her home to the city of Dinan in Brittany as a museum, and the little house at its base as a residence for visiting artists. Eleven artists are selected annually and offered the exclusive use of La Vignette for one month. I am this month’s fortunate recipient.
The medieval town of Dinan is beyond picturesque: Ramparts, aqueduct, cobblestoned streets, river port, ancient churches and clock towers, quaint houses….the question is not whether one can find inspiration here but rather, what to select as a focus of one’s work.
And of course, it doesn’t take very long to figure out what famous food specialty originates in this area….
Between tasting various crêpes (citron, nutella, caramel, sucre, beurre) I have been working on an interesting direction involving portraits of local factory workers. More on that when the work develops further but in the meantime I can’t resist painting a few watercolors of some beautiful architectural details about town.
At about 4 PM on Sunday, February 8th, people began to fill the chapel of Saint Germain des Pres for the official VIP opening and reception for The Bridge/Le Pont exhibition. The challenges of installing the show (as I mentioned in my previous blog) were behind us and the Big Reveal was upon us.
There was a buzz of excitement in the air along with a tantalizing mix of languages as the guest list reflected the multi-cultural nature of the exhibition itself. It was a very successful evening – lots of great feedback, stimulating conversation, press interest and most importantly, general support for the mission of fostering communication and respect between different cultures, faiths and creeds.
The Deputy Director of UNICEF opened the program and once my part of the official ceremony was behind me (the speech I gave in French went off as smoothly as can be expected) I was able to relax and enjoy the canapes and drinks provided by ‘Madame Chef’ catering. This was a wonderful start to the long journey ahead for the 47 paintings – Cairo, London, Barcelona, Rome and the United States have yet to host this traveling show. Bon voyage!
You know the phrase ‘the show must go on’? Well, curating is all about ‘the show must go up’. Here I am in Paris with the two-person CARAVAN team to install The Bridge exhibition in an ancient chapel inside the most historic church in Paris – Saint Germain des Pres. This is the church’s first foray into exhibiting art on this scale (47 original paintings). There are many limitations accompanying such a venue not the least of which is the prohibition to touch or attach anything to the walls. This calls for major creative problem solving.
I love curating but it is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Like most things worth doing, curating a show involves lots of hard work and you have to be prepared to be a jack-of-all-trades.
Four days later, the show is up and we are now taking care of the many small details in anticipation of the official VIP opening on February 8th. Some of the hung works are pictured below:
It’s been an incredibly rewarding, challenging and tiring time. And obviously I did not accomplish this gargantuan task alone – our team consisted of Paul-Gordon Chandler, founder of CARAVAN and CARAVAN’s Program and Development Associate, Claire Marie Pearman, both of whom worked tirelessly, fighting colds and physical exhaustion due to climbing up and down ladders and filling sandbags. It was a pleasure and an honor working with them!
There’s still one more task a curator has to take on…
The exhibition will travel to Cairo, London, Rome, Barcelona and the United States.