Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The "Loup": Mediterranean Sea Bass

Mediterranean Sea Bass

Ok, so it is not that I haven't been eating and eating well, as my husband is a foodie,  it is just that I haven't been reporting it lately.   

We had some lamb at Easter that left both of strangely disappointed.  I have to say strangely, because we are not professed vegetarians.  And it is not that it wasn't a great piece of meat from a great butcher.  It was disappointing perhaps because we have gotten away from eating meat... unconsciously.... by choosing to focus on all the amazing plant food around here.  There are Sicilian tomatoes that have taken our attention lately,  Tunisian oranges, and fresh asparagus from green to fat white ones which are a specialty item in the outdoor markets at the moment.  There are all kinds of interesting pulses, beans and lentils that are easy to prepare and easy to store when you don't feel like walking to the market.   

Yes, I have to say that the last two times that we ate meat, we were under-whelmed!

 But we never get tired of a great fish caught in the Mediterranean Sea, the big pond that is only a few yards away from our street.  
Today Monsieur and our friend who is visiting from London, made the pilgrimage on foot to the Cours Saleya to one of the fish stands to bring home a "Loup" or Mediterranean Sea Bass.  

I poached it in some court bouillon in a special  two burner pan that I have for the purpose, and flung it on the table.  I might have made a delicate mousseline to go with it but, truth be told, I have never taken to sauces as a way of cooking.  Yes, I appreciate them when done correctly, but somehow the fussing that it requires is not my metier.  I leave that to people who really love to cook instead of love to " prepare".  And I will say that the flesh of the Loup is so succulent and flavorful that it is not necessary to serve it with a sauce of any kind.  Anything other than a very delicate sauce would be a sacrilege.  

We ate outside on a sunny day which has just turned into a sprinkle of spring rain. The wine that Robert bought was a fabulous Louis Jadot 2002 Savigny Les Beaune for about 20 euros and K. regaled us with amazing stories of his days in the wine trade.  I wish I could write a blog just about that but I would be out of my element, truly.  He lived it, and suffice it to say, I have reaped the benefits of his knowledge.

  It just may be that one day this dish of fish will be too rare and too costly for most of our pocketbooks.  My advice is to savor it and enjoy it while you can still buy it,  fished from the sea, not farmed.  The meal without the wine was less than 40 euros for three people,  about 12 each.    We can't take our food for granted anymore, or anything for that matter.   Go for the good times, go for the memories, go for being together.  Go fishing.

TC Bank- Dream Rangers

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Swarm

Photo by bloodspot. Photo of the day

Yesterday as I was sitting in my room, rummaging through some notebooks with the window open,  a persistent bee came in and started investigating.  I think now that he was a scout because about an hour later I heard what was an unmistakable and exciting sound.... that of a hive in swarm.  

Ever since we have had this property we have known that we share it with a small colony of bees that live at the base of one of the olive trees on our hill above.  Every year around this time they send out their most experienced scouts to find a suitable place to split the hive, taking a new queen with them.   The scouts come back with their bee dance to try to convince the other scouts to go have a look.  When they all dance the most excitedly about a location, that's the one they will choose.

Luckily there are still a lot of wild spots in the surrounding neighborhoods near us.  If you see a swarm in a vulnerable spot and aren't sure that they can find a place in your neighborhood, the fire department usually know some bee keepers who will give them a home.  Make sure about this though, because the most tragic thing of all would be to eliminate them.

I have a soft spot for bee life and I don't use pesticides so as to protect this necessary helper in our food chain. Let's face it , without pollination, we would be eating grubs and grasses and not much else.  

But I also just have a thing about bees since my father raised bees when we were kids and taught us all about how to do it.  

  My dad ordered the queen in the mail surrounded by her attendants and just deposited her in the hive and let her get started laying.  The community of a hive and its sophisticated communication is awe inspiring and humbling.  

As a child, I got a lot of fun also out of opening my hand to an unsuspecting kid in the neighborhood and depositing a drone or male bee in the outstretched palm.  That was worth it every time for the loud and explosive reaction.  Of course, the drones can't sting.   I knew this, but the other kids wouldn't know the difference.  

I think it is great that our" ruche sauvage"  here in the olive tree keeps dividing and going forward . Wasn't it interesting that the bees swarmed on Easter, the Christian symbol for resurrection? 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Miró at the Maeght

I have been up to the Var and back on the train and now am busy shaping up the garden.   So the blog has taken a back seat for a while.

 It hasn't helped that I got a hold of an infection of the trachea...lord knows how, and I was quite resistant to going to the doc for two weeks, as I was afraid that he would propose antibiotics.  I am saving all of my antibiotic chits to cash in when I really need them.... which I hope is never.  

But due to the sane health-care system here in France, my doctor gave me a few anti-inflamatories for the throat and some cough medicine.  That plus the visit was 25 euros!!   And I am greatly improved in the last few days.

 My generalist  has a funky little office with some hard chairs , magazines and a tv mounted on the wall. He has no secretary and answers the phone himself when you are in consultation with him,  but he is just down the street and as far as I can tell from several visits now, quite competent.  A specialist will charge more here and some with fancy offices do.  My chiropractor is 45 euros and my dermatologist can be 60 euros if she does any threatments.  

 But even then, if you consider the treatment and equipment involved it is not expensive by American standards.  And this is not counting what is covered by insurance.   We all need a Dr Barzic within walking distance of our house whether we are on French health care or not. 

but I digress...

I would like to share a few pics of the Joan Miró exhibition that is going on at the  Foundation Maeght at Saint-Paul de Vence.   in conjunction with L'abstraction en Europe and Erik Deitman showings. 

   I am here to say that my husband owned some very credible Miró Lithographs when I met him.. over thirty years ago.  I was young and not yet started on a quest for art and felt a real sense of betrayal when I saw those Miro paintings.  The artist seemed to me at the time, to be doing work less credible than  my class of eight year olds.  

 I teased Monsieur about his taste, about the unmixed colors and the unsophisticated scratches that characterize most of the Spanish artist's work that I saw on the walls.  In the end he sold them all knowing I didn't like them much.

  Now having studied art for some 20 years I see how difficult it is to protect that innocent part of one's psyche , to use the first image without over-working it, to rely and depend on one's inner eye.  I now enjoy Miro's juvenile colors right- from -the- tube , his child-like scrawls and markings.

 So I quite happily engage with these pictures now.   There is a freshness to Miro' s conception and execution which characterizes a "free man".  I would love to feel this freedom when I am painting.   I get the feeling, Miró doesn't know self doubt and that makes his work joyful.

All photos by Mary Payne

I also appreciate, that when Miró conceives his installations, he makes or remakes all the stools, chairs and stands that he displays his sculptures on.  They are not just commercial furniture covered.  Notice that they are not really symmetrical.  They appear to have taken hours of preparation... perhaps rendered in wheat paste and paper strips after making the armatures. In fact I find these stands to be much more interesting than the objects placed on them.

Most of the artist's main sculptures are sprinkled around the grounds of the gallery as part of the permanent exhibition at the Maeght and before you label them as too shiny, too garish or too monstrous,  put a finger to your eye and eliminate them from the your sight and see how dull it looks with them gone.  They have been carefully chosen and placed and it is one of the reasons we all love these surrounding grounds.


                                              Two, three... more subdued Miró scuptures in the garden.

  One of Miro' s colorful sculptures( at the right peeking out)... as seen from an upstairs window.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Flower in the Crannied Wall....


                                            Photos by Leo Puckett of her hand raised tulips

I have not missed the spring excitement but have been hard at work on my little plot. The cherry and plum trees have passed from white mist to leaf. In my garden wild irises and tulips have been blooming as well as three kinds of lemon yellow weeds that are showing gloriously with the violet wild irises.  Now the Jasmine and specialty irises are about to surprise us with their scented offerings.

Three of the maples are in tender yellow gold leaf and the other two in burgundy foliage. With the warm weather in Nice, we have begun to water the garden again to keep the thirsty pom pom bushes going.

  There are riches to breathe in everywhere.

I downloaded these photos from my sister- in- law Leo's potted tulips years ago.  She lives in Oregon with my middle brother and keeps a splendid garden, indoors and out.  If you don't have a garden, it's time to stop by and buy yourself a blossom or two.   You can't not.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Erik Dietman Collection: Part 2

  I have to say that when I saw the brochure of the Erik Dietman Collection at the Maeght, I was determined to hate his work.

  One thing that irritates me is people with half baked ideas who find something and declare that it is art.  Duchamp got away with it because he was first, but now you really have to find a better punchline. The Erik Dietman I saw at the Foundation Maeght does not rely on found art or half baked ideas.  

His works are fiddlings ( this is not pejorative) of a different mind but all well presented and here all were rendered in noble materials :bronze, stone, pigments, paper.   In other words, he did not just rely on found art alone.  He saw a stone and took it one step further....or two steps or three!

 Who couldn't love the face of the Corsican philosopher above surrounded by his friends.

And such of who looks like a loaf of bread gone skewiffy with a few nipples added as eyes and a whistling mouth.    Another beside him looks like a fossilized duck.  Here is an artist enjoying himself....  A self taught artist who is just messing around and then has the boldness to say, yes, I have a statement to make here,  I'll bronze the lot.

This one is called Jesus Island and aside from the pleasing graphic quality with ink and charcoal it does look like someone is out there walking his dogs in a solitary wood of blobs and scratches.  The naive quality of a five year old in deep concentration is appealing.

We find his playfulness in many pieces by the titles he presents .  This sculpture is left to our imagination... simply called Korean Saw which is presumably the piece of hardware on the right which now comes to look like a porcupine sniffing the rump of another four titted creature.

   Here is a beautifully rendered marble serpent almost looking like an elaborate Easter bread with two heads.  I believe the name was " Swiss Thought."

                        Here is a mixed media work on paper that had a certain chaotic appeal.


 This offering was a skull on a saucer ! Gleeful.  Dietman did lots of skulls before all the young artists of today got on the bandwagon.   There are at least five more examples in the show of the theme of skulls; real or rendered in paint.

                                              This is Lawrence of Arabia writing home.  

                                               Eric Dietman installation in inner court.

According to what little I have learned about the Erik Dietman , he had a huge output in a myriad subjects, materials and techniques.  Missing from this exhibition are examples of his stained glass works, but there is enough here to chew on and want to know more.  I have left out many of the 50 works in this fine display; so go have a look if you are in the region.

  This from Berengo Fine Arts Gallery:

Erik Dietman
Erik Dietman was born in Jönköping, Sweden, in 1937. He studied at the academy of fine arts in Malmö but lived in France for most of his life; he died in Paris in 2002.

He was a member of the Fluxus movement, that asserted the intrinsic artistic quality of even the most common gesture, and claimed artistic creation should not be confined to the field of aesthetics, but be part of the flow of daily life, on behalf of an absolute conception of art.

Among the exhibits he took part in, let us mention: “Eloge de l’envie”, Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Nice (2001); “L’ami de personne”, a monumental sculpture at the Jardin des Tuileries, Paris (2000); “För fulla glas”, National Museum, Stockholm (1999); “Erik Dietman-Sculptor Classicus”, Musée d’Art Moderne, Saint Etienne (1997) and “Erik Dietman: Sans titre. Pas un mot. Silence”, Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris (1994).

His production is extremely vast, partly owing to his interest for in a great variety of materials and techniques; he was particularly fond of stained glass, in whose use of which he developed great skill.

Although he used traditional mediums media such as marble, stone, wood, bronze and paper, Dietman introduced themes into art that had themes never been addressed before.

Pataphysics, scatology and self-acknowledgedan awareness of the grotesque play an important role in the artist’s work, in which wordplay and double entendre meanings have always found a proper place and achieved their communicative end.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Foundation Maeght: Erik Dietman Collecion Part I

 Yesterday was the opening of an exhibition concerning early abstraction, mostly what we now call cubism.   On display are 80 works, drawings and sculptures and illustrated books from a private German collection which covers different facets of early European Abstractionism.

 And running together with the German collection is an exhibition of Erik Dietman.  Below is the official announcement from the Foundation Maeght website with some of the photos that I took yesterday.  Have a look...very interesting stuff.

Photo by Mary Payne
With this exhibition, The Maeght Foundation pays homage to Erik Dietman, who died in 2002. The exhibition was made possible by two donations to the Foundation’s collections. The first of these, Montant (1995) was donated by the artist’s wife, a Swedish collector, and the second, Bossuet enfant (2001) is the donation of a French collector. This exhibition Monomental from 9 April to 13 June 2011, presents about fifty works including sculptures, installations and drawings, an original programme which will be displayed in the Giacometti room. This is the perfect opportunity to discover Dietman’s universe; the Swedish artist born in Jönköping in 1937, lived most of his life in France. In his works he plays with language and introduces humour while working with a wide variety of materials.

Photo by Mary Payne

Dietman was immersed in the work of Marcel Duchamp and the Dada movement; he also went along with the movements of Fluxus and Nouveau Realisme (New Realism), although without ever joining them. His life and works are principally marked by his bohemian lifestyle and his attitude towards art which he and his circle of friends deliberately kept beyond the boundaries of convention. Dietman’s art was his way of life. He considered life and art to be intimately linked and made use of words, photographs, objects, drawings, paintings and sculptures to reinvent a language. Following his own incredibly poetic meandering, Dietman succeeds in breaking down clichés and preventing us from being trapped by what we see

Photo by mary Payne

His work, qualified as « Dietmanian », bears witness to his love of words and passion for play. This self-taught artist is unclassifiable and occupies a place apart in contemporary creation. His art is an exploration using drawing, sculpture, writing, and creating more or less rough assemblages of objects and materials. It attests to a nature which rebelled against any sort of established art form. Works on paper become pretexts to summon up images and writing; their incongruity purposefully illustrates a « migration art » exploiting all visual resources without making any distinction as to era, genre or style. Dietman beckons us to a walk with fantasy, an irreverent promenade through the history of 20th century art.

This first exhibition of Erik Dietman at the Maeght Foundation, gives the public the opportunity to discover an unusual artist who is recognized but sometimes misunderstood. The first work to arrive in the Maeght collection, Montant (1995) (Going up) is the starting point for the exhibition. The pun in the title is clear: the work which is monumental in size consists of a stone “going up” an iron step ladder. It was set up by the artist in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in1995, opposite the Colombe d’Or. 

Boussuet enfant               Photo: Mary Payne

With Bossuet enfant (2001), the artist pays homage to his friend Bernard Lamarche-Vadel a great admirer of Bossuet. This is one of Dietman’s rare works in wood, created at the end of his life. If the object was the starting point, this time it has been transformed by new technologies.

This exhibition comprises about 50 items by Dietman in celebration of his work. There are 2 large installations: La grande pierre et les amis de Pierre le Grand (1996, stone and bronze) – ( a pun on the name « Pierre » which also means « stone » in French) – and Préfiguration d’un pipe-line lingotique (1990, bronze and pipes) made from 44 elements.
" Prefiguration d'un pipeline lingotique "      Photo: Mary Payne
Photo by Mary Payne
Here a close up of the pipe-line, yes those are all real pipes in bronze blocks

 Other works in the exhibition include about twenty sculptures of various formats made of wood, marble, iron, stone and bronze etc. The public can thus appreciate this protean artist who works with a wide variety of materials; his creations often have titles with double meanings: Le Philosophe corse et ses amis (The Corsican Philosopher and friends) (1993)
The Corsican Philosopher and Friends    Photo by Mary Payne

, Dernière pétanque à Saint-Paul (Last boule game at St Paul) (1999), Objet contre toute religion (object against all religions) (1986), La pensée Suisse (Swiss thought) (1983) or Lawrence d’Arabie (Lawrence of Arabia) (1992).
Some 20 drawings of which 6 are large format (150 x 200cm) are also on show, attesting to the artist’s feverish production. Even if his work has been mainly interpreted as that of a sculptor, it is drawing which came first for Dietman (many early works in notebooks or as standalone drawings). He saw drawing as “exercise for the mind” or as “a daily jog”.
In this exhibition between poetry and humour, Dietman once again draws the public into his theatre of the absurd and paradoxical where life, art and language are mingled together.
Erik DIETMAN, Monomental – 9 April > 13 June 2010
Exhibition curator: Olivier KAEPPELIN 

Montant (Rising) photo by Claude Germain

Erik Dietman, Montant, 1995, Donation de Christina Hamrin & Claudine Papillon
© Courtesy Galerie Claudine Papillon, Adagp Paris 2011, Photo Claude Germain 


Fondation Maeght
623, chemin des Gardettes
06570 Saint-Paul de Vence, France
Tel : +33 (0)4 93 32 81 63
Fax : +33 (0)4 93 32 53 22

E-mail :

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Moscow Train from Nice?

New Moscow – Nice train departs on maiden journey
SEPTEMBER 24, 2010
A ceremony was held at Moscow’s Belorussky Station today to mark the launch of Moscow – Nice train №17/18. The train was seen off on its maiden journey by Federal Passenger Company General Director Mikhail Akulov, SNCF Europe and Asia Department Director Frédéric Pardé, and other officials.
“We place huge significance on developing international services, and are continually expanding our route network. This new train, which will link Moscow and Nice, is a result of successful work with our European colleagues. The train is departing on its first journey at 90% of capacity, which is a clear success. The train will pass through the territories of five countries, with a journey time of around 50 hours. By the end of 2011, we aim to cut the journey time to 36 hours”, Mikhail Akulov said.
Moscow – Nice train № 17/18 departed today at 16:17 from the Belorussky Station in Moscow, on the following route: Moscow – Vyazma – Smolensk – Orsha – Minsk – Brest – Terespol – Warsaw – Katowice – Zebrzydowice – Bohumin – Břeclav – Vienna – Linz – Innsbruck – Bolzano – Verona – Milan – Genoa – San Remo – Bordighera – Ventimiglia – Menton – Nice.
The train will arrive in Nice on Saturday 25 September at 19:12 (local time). It will depart on the first Nice – Moscow journey on 26 September.
he train has three deluxe carriages, six first-class carriages, and one second-class carriage. Between Moscow and Brest, the train has two restaurant carriages of the Federal Passenger Company’s Moscow subsidiary, and on the Warsaw – Nice – Warsaw part of the journey, the train has two restaurant carriages of the PKP Intercity company (Poland).
The restaurant carriages offer Russian and European cuisine, with menus provided in Russian and English. Restaurant staff speak Russian, Polish, and English.
Tickets are sold at standardized rates between any two stations and countries on the route.
Ticket prices for the whole Moscow – Nice journey range from 306 euros for second-class, up to 1200 euros for a deluxe-class compartment occupied by a single passenger. A flexible pricing system is in place for children up to 12, young people up to 26, and passengers over 60, as well as for groups of six or more passengers and travelling couples.
The ticket cost includes hand luggage of up to 35 kg for each adult ticket, and 15 kg per ticket for children under 12. Passengers of all ticket classes may bring small dogs and birds if they purchase all tickets in their compartment.
Carriage attendants serving on the Moscow – Nice train were selected on a competitive basis. They underwent a special program with training in French and English language proficiency, psychology, ethics, and passenger service culture.

  • Monday, April 4, 2011

    Six Square Meters on Earth: Walk-about

     Although it may not be the original intention, my interpretation of the Australian Aboriginal walk-about is to sing nature back into existence. 
     The Aboriginals go "walk-about " to hear the voice of nature: of rocks, trees, streams, bushes, birds and insects.  
    When I go walk-about with my lens I want to sing existence back into the old and neglected objects that I discover.  I want to give them a voice. I found all of these surfaces and settings within a few meters from each other in a sleepy French village.
    Please take an unhurried look and see if you can hear them sing. I have opened one up so you can better appreciate the textures.   Je crois qu'ils sont beau. 

    Little Birds: by Lewis Carroll

                                                     "Three little birds" by Cathy Nichols

    Little Birds

    Little Birds are dining
    Warily and well,
    Hid in mossy cell:
    Hid, I say, by waiters
    Gorgeous in their gaiters -
    I've a Tale to tell.

    Little Birds are feeding
    Justices with jam,
    Rich in frizzled ham:
    Rich, I say, in oysters
    Haunting shady cloisters -
    That is what I am.

    Little Birds are teaching
    Tigresses to smile,
    Innocent of guile:
    Smile, I say, not smirkle -
    Mouth a semicircle,
    That's the proper style!

    Little Birds are sleeping
    All among the pins,
    Where the loser wins:
    Where, I say, he sneezes
    When and how he pleases -
    So the Tale begins.

    Encaustic work by Cathy Nichols

    Little Birds are writing
    Interesting books,
    To be read by cooks:
    Read, I say, not roasted -
    Letterpress, when toasted,
    Loses its good looks.

    Little Birds are playing
    Bagpipes on the shore,
    Where the tourists snore:
    "Thanks!" they cry. "'Tis thrilling!
    Take, oh take this shilling!
    Let us have no more!"

    Little Birds are bathing
    Crocodiles in cream,
    Like a happy dream:
    Like, but not so lasting -
    Crocodiles, when fasting,
    Are not all they seem!

    Encaustic work by Cathy Nichols

    Little Birds are choking
    Baronets with bun,
    Taught to fire a gun:
    Taught, I say, to splinter
    Salmon in the winter -
    Merely for the fun.

    Little Birds are hiding
    Crimes in carpet-bags,
    Blessed by happy stags:
    Blessed, I say, though beaten -
    Since our friends are eaten
    When the memory flags.

    Little Birds are tasting
    Gratitude and gold,
    Pale with sudden cold:
    Pale, I say, and wrinkled -
    When the bells have tinkled,
    And the Tale is told.

    Lewis Carroll