I am not a lipstick girl. I usually go for an enhanced au naturel look but there I was, barely installed in my little studio in the Marais district and I was out frantically scouting for the right shade of red lipstick I just had to have ASAP. I felt naked in Paris without it. Something was definitely missing from my arsenal and it boiled down to a glossy red tube of molded magic. The choices were numbing. Did I want a crimson or a pink-hued shade, or even one veering to the orange or browns? Did I want the creamy, glossy or matt finish? Did I want the round edged, pointy or liquid stick? It reminded me of an old (very old) MAD magazine cartoon about someone buying a pack of cigarettes only to be quizzed about brand, menthol or regular, filter or no filter, etc. etc. till the poor guy just went beserk and took off screaming down the street. I did end up with a lovely shade of red packaged in a very substantial black and gold housing. Now I was definitely ready for the vernissage (opening) of my group exhibition Dans le ventre des femmes at 59 Rivoli on Wednesday evening, October 3, 2012.
The turnout was gratifyingly huge, with each artist bringing in their own band of loyal followers. It was a wonderful success for Maia Brami who conceived the whole notion of the exhibition based on the uterus anthology she initiated and brought to publication. Considering I don’t live in Paris I was very moved and appreciative of the number of people who came specifically to see me and my work in person. I soon forgot the technological glitches that threatened to spoil my night and thrust myself into the moment, chatting with guests, meeting all the artists, and networking in the hopes of laying the groundwork for my next visit! It was a four-hour opening which seemed extreme to me but the stream of people just kept coming. The single visitor who probably travelled the farthest to attend was my sister Jeannette who arrived that morning from Australia for a conference in Paris (on left below, with yours truly on right).
*YOU CAN SEE A DETAILED IMAGE OF MY PAINTING HERE AND WATCH SOME OF THE DOCUMENTARY ON YOUTUBE
I almost forgot to include another very French presence at the opening – dogs! Since the French are very understanding about bringing their little pooches to restaurants it is really no surprise that they would be welcome in all sorts of cultural venues as well! And pourquoi pas?
A picture says a thousand words and these shoes I spotted in a Paris boutique spell French chic, style, ambiance and flair – qualities which are ostentatiously present in copious amounts in the City of Lights. I just spent the last three days on the outskirts of Paris in Ivry sur Seine taking part in this artist commune’s annual Portes Ouvertes (Open House). Over 200 artists opened their studios up to hundreds of visitors keen to take a peek at the behind-the-scenes process of creative output. The sun was shining down upon an untold number of paintings, etchings, sculptures, ceramics, and framed graffiti – all to the accompaniment of Brazilian guitars, Japanese drums and the strains of Vivaldi. It was quite a show. I have included a very few examples:
I was hosted in the atelier of textile artist Aurelia Bernard who was exhibiting the results of natural fabric tinting using avocado peels (which surprisingly gives a dusky rose color), carrot leaves and coffee grounds. I exhibited some of my newer mini Paris portraits which generated a lot of interest due to the epoxy varnish over my photorealist style. The result is jewel-like and at first glance gives the impression of glass or ceramic tile or enamel work. so I had to quickly brush up on some technical phrases in French! But all in all an exciting and worthwhile experience and I even got some commissions out of it!
Portrait by Lilianne Milgrom
I am sure I am not alone in struggling with the PR/selling/mouthpiece part of making art. It just doesn’t come naturally and I was decidedly out of my comfort zone having to spend 18 hours over three days shmoozing about my work while jet lagged and speaking French. But by the last day I was more confident and more motivated, perhaps as a result of the continuous refilling of my wine glass and the heady atmosphere of being immersed in such a vibrant artistic environment 🙂
This morning I moved to Paris proper, settled into a teeny tiny Paris studio and began installing my painting and documentary video in the next show (see previous post) opening on Wednesday October 3 at Galerie Rivoli 59.
It really sunk in that I was in Paris when my conversation with the exhibition’s organizer and artist extraordinaire Sebastien Lecca veered off into his latest venture producing Eiffel tower-shaped dildos…I think its going to be a huge hit! And I couldn’t take my eyes off graffiti artist BAUBO‘s finger armour rings. Check it out:
More details and images from the exhibition after Wednesday’s grand opening where they are expecting over 150 guests. For right now I have to sign out because I am ravenous and dying to dig into my crunchy warm baguette, creamy goat cheese, fresh strawberry jam and salad, to be followed by an individual tarte aux pommes. Chin!
My upcoming participation in the group show Dans le ventre des femmes (In the Belly of the Woman) in Paris this fall is another satisfying twist in the journey I undertook two years ago with Gustave Courbet’s notorious masterpiece l’Origine du monde which is housed at the d’Orsay Museum in Paris.
While undertaking the authorized copy of this painting, I was approached about writing a chapter for an anthology on the uterus. The resulting anthology includes musings by artists, poets and writers, both male and female and was recently published and launched by BSC Publishing in Paris. (For those of you interested in my chapter entitled I AM WOMAN I have pasted the English translation at the end of this blog entry).
After being hailed in literary circles, the book’s contributing artists will now be featured at the Rivoli 59 Gallery. I will be exhibiting a painting and a video documentary of my experience copying Courbet’s masterpiece. So SAVE THE DATE (Opening reception October 3, 2012) if you are lucky enough to find yourselves in Paris! And while you’re at it, I am also honored to be participating in an Open Studios (Portes Ouvertes) weekend September 28-30 in Ivry-sur-Seine, an outer suburb of Paris which boasts a concentration of over 130 artists in renovated factories and lofts. I will be showing at the MOLIERE commune. Definitely worth checking out, a weekend full of art, music and performance.
I Am Woman (Excerpt from Dans le Ventre des Femmes)
In my quest for the elusive essence of female sexuality and identity, I chose a path which led me back to the beginning of time. Back to the creation, the very origin of the world. In artistic terms that meant undertaking a profoundly personal dialogue with Gustave Courbet’s notorious masterpiece entitled ‘l’Origine du monde’ (The Origin of the World).
Courbet’s shocking depiction of an exposed vagina entitled The Origin of the World is still as thought-provoking and relevant today as it was when Courbet painted it in 1866. Till its public debut in Paris at the Musée d’Orsay in 1995, l’Origine du monde was held in various private collections. The painting’s enduring ability to provoke strong emotional response and heated academic debate, suggested it would make the ideal starting point for my journey of exploration and discovery. After jumping through various bureaucratic hoops, I obtained permission from the Musée d’Orsay to become the authorized copyist of this work. This decision turned out to be an enlightening experience.
Copying l’Origine du monde can be likened to a meditative experience, with a certain black triangle as one’s focal point, and the word vulva as one’s mantra. To identify the quintessential core of what defines a woman one must delve deeper than the study of her intimate physical attributes. I know this from experience. I spent six weeks scrutinizing every fold, crevice and pubic hair of a woman’s exposed genitals. The hours and days spent face à face with Courbet’s painting gave rise to a torrent of reflection and introspection, but ultimately confirmed what I already knew to be true. A vagina alone does not a woman make.
Courbet’s painting could hardly be more visually revealing. Yet if one takes the painting at face value alone, it does not reveal the full picture. The raw depiction of a disembodied vulva thrusts the most intimate of feminine possessions unabashedly into the public view. There is no question that it reveals the visible, external and erotic aspect of female sexuality in all its glory. But this painting transcends a one-dimensional interpretation. Despite or perhaps due to, the absence of facial reference, Courbet’s model differs from suggestive pornographic images which reduce women to superficial sex objects. The explicitly erotic l’Origine du monde presents Woman as an object of desire while simultaneously portraying her as goddess of Motherhood, Fertility and Creation. And in so doing, the artist has presented us with an unsettling and paradoxically complex image.
Courbet’s artistic mantra was realism. He claimed that “the essence of realism is the negation of the ideal.” Indeed, Courbet’s painting has spared us an idealized or romanticized female figure. He has painted Woman as Nature intended her to be. Moving past the painting’s sexual and erotic first impression, one is reminded that the anatomical function of the painting’s alluring focal point is to serve as gatekeeper to the true feminine core – the uterus. The uterus is not sexy. It is not erotic. It is not the stuff wet dreams are made of. It is a hidden, utilitarian organ, invisible to the naked eye. In our male-dominated society the vagina may be the focus of our collective tunnel vision; but it is the uterus which directly and uniquely connects every woman to the Origin and to the Creation of Man – past, present and future.
By the time I completed my intimate observation of l’Origine du monde, I had fully grasped that Courbet succeeded in capturing not only a woman’s physical attributes, but also what lies beyond the visible. The Origin of the World offers us a real woman, comfortable in her sexual prowess while basking in her unique role as custodian of the uterus and all that it signifies. It is this physical and spiritual duality which ultimately defines Woman.
Most artists I know are incredibly busy people. We don’t really have a choice. In order to keep our heads above water we need to enter shows, write statements, send press releases, keep our blogs and websites up to date, court potential collectors, network, answer endless emails, attend gallery openings, prepare artworks for shipping, and – I almost forgot – keep producing art! To relieve some of the stress I tend to doodle mindlessly, and some of these doodles on wood have turned into tiny (2.5″ x 5″) little jewels thanks to a combination of pen and ink, acrylic wash and collage (see two examples above and below). I have fallen in love with the look of resin-coated work and have covered these small works with a gorgeous thick layer of resin. A good demo link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRZL2PyJkbA.
With all these demands, deadlines and distracting doodles, its important to keep one’s sense of humor. A substantial part of my work does have a wry humorous edge to it. Take for example my plate set entitled ‘Eat Well, Exercise Regularly, Die Anyway’ (see detail below). It was inspired by a random email of witty jokes and riddles and was eventually transformed into an installation with two place settings. It has now been included in an upcoming coffee table book called HUMOR IN CRAFT which can be pre-ordered on Amazon now.
Speaking of a very different book, I am beyond thrilled that my essay ‘I AM WOMAN’ has been published in a French anthology entitled ‘Dans le ventre des femmes’, hard to translate – think about the expression ‘In the belly of the beast’ but replace ‘beast’ with ‘woman’. The anthology was the brainchild of Parisian author and poet Maia Brami, who persuaded fifty writers and artists (myself included) to contribute their personal views on the uterus. My text and included image were based on my amazing experience in Paris in 2010. For French speakers, the book is now available directly from the publisher’s website http://www.bscpublishing.com/index.php/notre-boutique-en-ligne. I am particularly honored to be part of this project because the introduction was penned by no other than Eve Ensler, creator of the Vagina Monologues a ground breaking production which caused a cultural tsunami in its time.
Seeing as I am on the subject of women’s intimate attributes, I recently completed a painting along those lines entitled ‘Gatekeeper’ (see below) which was a companion piece to Back View currently on show at the international exhibit Au Naturel : The Nude in the 21st century.
Our fascination with the human body and its ramifications in contemporary art and art history is the focus of a wonderfully erudite online publication called The Great Nude. I am the publication’s roving features writer and would love to share my recent article on nude art on the Israeli art scene entitled ‘The Holy Land laid bare’. For my readers, this new winter edition is FREE if you log in with the Username : Lilianne and Password : Milgrom. There’s tons of great content and well worth a visit to the site.
I am also hard at work on my solo exhibition later this year called ‘Chez mes amis’, a series of paintings based on my friends in Paris, and the objects that surround them and define them. Here is a preview glimpse at a still life which is part of the Chez Magdalena grouping:
With all this pressure is it any wonder I have just applied for an artist residency in a little village in France? The thought of being sent off to indulge in the luxury of creation, without any distractions and in the company of other kindred spirits is very appealing. Artist residencies are highly recommended not only for one’s creative development, but also works as a big plus on one’s bio. Another great resource for all types of residencies and grants is http://www.miraslist.com/. Keeping my fingers crossed – I will be notified in the coming weeks.