Monday, August 29, 2011

End of Summer Work fest.

Sorry I have been out of the loop but this is my busiest time of year.  I am a person who loves projects but I have maybe "chawed" off more than I can swallow this season.  Here is the line-up to do list before the first rains come. 
  • Paint the garden walls, 1/2 done...have to get some more paint at 89 euros a huge tin and 10 euros to mix the color...need a car for that one
  • Paint the driveway pillars...3/4 done, mixed the paint myself, found some weird yellow orange exterior paint in the archive and it looks great.
  • Paint the metal grill work in the windows traditional Nicoise blue, finished !!
  • Tint the wood rail above the grill in the windows.  Bought the dark tint. ...should be easy.  
  • Put protective varnish coat on the tinted wood after it's dry.  
  • Paint the trim on the house same as garden wall.  Need to cut back all the plants next to the wall first.  Will wait till the plumbago  is finished showing off it's dark violet clusters. 
  • Repaint the shutters which we had done 10 years ago but need it again.  They are antiques and you can't buy the old ones without nails, like ours so I really should do it.  I bought a nifty little sander.  But there are 14 shutters ( 7 windows) so this may have to be next year.
  • Finish putting protective varnish on garden steps.  ( one more coat and I'm done with this one)
  • Repot, fertilize and treat the plants that need it in both gardens.  Tend to the irises and move some of them around.  

Of course, summer is my busiest studio rental period too.  I have had some wonderful "guests" this year.  I wish many of them lived closer and weren't just passing through.  

 Now, however, I am getting itchy for my first vacation since the beginning of the year.  I am off to Croatia next week.  We all need to fill our tanks once in a while and I am running on empty.

I have kept in mind that I could be getting out of balance with all these "tasks" and so I have met up with new folks this year and had a lot of parties and fetes with friends since the season started. 

 I know that on my death bed I am not supposed to care about my shutters and painting the garden wall.... but I am still working on that one!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

All is Right with the World

Photo by Puckett

All is Right with the World

by David Puckett

Leonette showed me a tiny tree frog (Pacific Chorus)
sitting motionless on a honeysuckle leaf.
We have four hanging baskets, there is a tree frog in each one.
The stock market is plunging, the US credit rating is all to shit.

A few years ago we found a frog in the Sweet Alyssum basket and we
were sure it got in by mistake so we “rescued” it.
Next day, it was back or another just like it. 
A mini micro climate getting rain twice daily.
From a watering can.

In the evening a bat flits around the backyard and comes within a few
feet of our peering faces. 
A nighthawk peents in a twilit sky across a brilliant waxing moon.
London is rioting, gold is $1740 an ounce.

   ps.  I have a brother, my middle one, who writes poems from time to time and he as agreed to let me share some of them.   I jumped at the chance before he changed his mind.  He and his wife Leonette, live in Oregon.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Through a chain linked fence.

  I noticed in le Cannet looking for the vistas of some of Bonnard's paintings that almost all the stunning views that artists once saw are now blocked off by private residences and walls. Still I have found a few peek holes through the fences and over the backs of cars.  Here is my morning walk.

I go up the alley of Cypress sentinels,  to the Abbaye de Roseland.

Its not really an Abbey but was constructed piecemeal a-la-Hearst's Castle by a wealthy Nicoise family in the 20's.  

 Now the world has built condos around it so it is a bit less proud...but still appreciated enough to be lovingly restored by the city last year.  

The abbey is the last photo here that was not taken through a chain linked fence.  

I poked through a driveway for this one.

                                     THis landscape portrait was waiting around the bend.

The game is to find a freeze frame as in a film of the Riviera in the 20's ....

  But the Mediterranean views still  make it a breathtakingly beautiful place to be.

Pierre Bonnard: Le Cannet

Photo by

Yesterday I had the chance to visit le Cannet for the first time.  The occasion was to see the inaugural exhibition of the new Bonnard Museum, the first in the world dedicated to this well respected painter.

In the exhibition to my surprise and delight there were more than a handful of impressive works on loan from  the Phillips collection, Wash., the Tate, d'Orsay, the Metropolitan and other world class museums. The idea is that this museum will borrow treasured works during the tourist season and show their own, not insignificant, permanent collection the rest of the year.  This is great news for art lovers as regional museums are finding it more and more difficult to borrow and/ or buy any major works of significance in a market that has gone beyond reach.  

Photo by art archive

Bonnard is an artist whom I greatly admire for his mastery of color and composition.  I would say that as many recognized artists, his draughtsmanship and painting technique is not conventional, could even be said to be "bad".  He scrubs with the brush in tentative daubs and streaks, building layers consecutively with no apparent plan or idea.  It would seem that he didn't know what he was doing but, the paintings are well thought out.  There was sometimes ( but not always) great effort to keep the luminosity of the paint sometimes by using rag application instead of brushes, or thin paint in some areas where more light is needed, opaque in others.
This painting entitled Cote d'Azur above, does not translate on film or pixels, it has to be seen in order to see it's absolute mastery of luminosity and depth. It is borrowed from the Phillips Collection in Washington.

      The rag technique that Bonnard often used also created an unfocused appearance that adds to the dreamy complexity of many of the works in oils.  Bonnard's slow, application of color next to color or superimposed one on the other, forces the viewer to do the color mixing almost in the same skillful way as pointillism, used specifically for that effect.  The result is a sophisticated color mechanism which looks unplanned and deceptively unskilled but as Bonnard himself confessed: 'II faut mentir' (one must lie)."   

photo by Lessing 

To me Bonnard is the one of the few artists who skates on the verge of disaster by his balance of cool and warm colors.  Most amateurs want to put in all the colors and end by making a muddle , putting in equal amounts of colors in one canvas.  Bonnard has the ability like no other artist, to use warm and cool colors often in what seems like equal measure.  But he use this ability to advantage and we are seduced.

  In the three paintings from the show above, you don't see this phenomenon, as they are obviously tipped towards either cool or warm tones.   But look at this one below ( not in the show).   The intense saturation of the yellow speaks very loudly so you have the impression that warm and cool colors are used in equal measure.  If you look closely you can see that cool colors predominate with a pleasing result.

The new museum building in le Cannet is a mixture of an existing 1920's  house in the town center, next to the Hotel de Ville and a modern addition of an elevator , gift shop, student atelier and entry.  The melange seems to work well and the show is effectively laid out in three stages starting on the fifth floor and descending to a projection room with a film. 
 In addition there is a suggestion of a cultural walk to include views from specific painting sites and the site of the artist's home/ studio in Le Cannet ( which is not open to the public as it is still used by Bonnard's niece as a summer residence).  

The exhibition brings together around 60 works and is on until the 25th of September . If you can't be here, do take a look at the site and I think you will find some fascinating information about the artist.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Assumption Day: Nice

                  Assumption Day : Nice

A glimpse of cobalt sea.
Everywhere, brown hands clutch plump mats for  the pebble beach.
I am not seduced. 

 I am walking to buy a pot of paint..the color of my eyes.

On the Day of Assumption, my name day, the sun has no cover.
A rivulet of sweat runs down my spine.
My yellow sandals suck the pavement like gecko feet.

I am walking to buy a pot of paint the color of my eyes.

A man pees against the wall. 
I turn away.....but not for his sake.
It is his birthright, his privilege.
"Men have been doing it for centuries" he would surely say.

I am walking to buy a pot of paint the color of my eyes.

A Muslim girl covered to the ground in thick black
sports a magenta head scarf. A fashion statement?  The scarf shimmers in the bright sun. 
I hope she is nude underneath.  

The day is ochre and dense, but I am bringing back a pot of paint as cool and light as the bluest sea.

  It is not in fact the color of my eyes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Alsatian Restaurant: Nice

Alsatian Restaurant: Nice

  The woman across the way sits alone, bemused.

I eat carefully under her scrutiny.  Perhaps she observes as a poet.  I will be in her story.

I fold my arms just so at the wrist, a model of comportment.  I chew thoughtfully "comme une vache".  I am aware of the olive pit.  Is there a rule?

The choucroute arrives abruptly with a mound of naked white potatoes, sausages....fat pink dismembered digits.
The young man heaps the woman's plate... steaming cabbage, a ham hock, 2 enormous sausages , potatoes. 

Her eyes are points of concentration while she awaits his retreat.

Now she goes to work..smearing, cutting, chewing... slowly chewing.
 The smile is gone now. 
There is serious business at hand.

A tiny bit of mustard loges in the corner of her mouth.
I write in my little book.

Mary Payne

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Principle of emptiness

My continual job this summer is to clean out my studio and rid myself of things that I won't be needing and haven't used.  This is a painful process for an artist as everything speaks to us of an idea, a possible use.  I have already thrown out all the beautiful metal pieces I gathered on the beach! 

 My problem though is I always want to find a home for things that are still useful and that is more difficult in France where there is no " Salvation Army" etc.  I know where to take the clothes but the rest of the stuff.... well...  I don't even want to get started!

  But because I agree with Joseph Newton and other age old philosophers : you cant' move forward without stirring things up and moving things on I am inching forward with my project.

 Here is an excerpt from his book:

Have you got the habit of hoarding useless objects, thinking that one day, who knows when, you may need them?

Have you got the habit of accumulating money, and not spending it because you think that in the future you may be in want of it?

Have you got the habit of storing clothes, shoes, furniture, utensils and other home supplies that you haven’t used already for some time?

And inside yourself... Have you got the habit to keep reproaches, resentment, sadness, fears and more?

Don’t do it! You are going against your prosperity!

It is necessary to make room, to leave an empty space in order to allow new things to arrive to your life.

It is necessary that you get rid of all the useless things that are in you and in your life, in order to prosperity to arrive.
The force of this emptiness is one that will absorb and attract all that you wish.
As long as you are, materially or emotionally, holding old and useless feelings, you won’t have room for new opportunities.

Goods must circulate...
Clean your drawers, the wardrobes, the workshop, the garage...
Give away what you don’t use any longer...
The attitude of keeping a heap of useless stuff ties your life down.
It’s not the objects you keep that stagnate your life...
but rather the attitude of keeping...

When we keep in store, we consider the possibility of wanting, of penury...
We believe that tomorrow it may lack, and that we won’t be able to fulfill those necessities...
With that idea, you are sending two messages to your brain and to your life:
That you don’t trust tomorrow... and you think that the new and the better are not for you.

For this reason you cheer yourself up by storing old and useless stuff.

Get rid of what lost its color and brightness...
Let the new enter your home... and yourself.
May prosperity and peace reach you soon

Acknowledgment: Excerpt from Joseph Newton's Principle of Emptiness; inspirational images by Gregory Colbert and music "Where Dreams are Born" by John Williams.

Poulet Antiboise : past repast

I haven't talked about food for awhile but that doesn't mean that I haven't been eating very well in fact, as Monsieur's skills are picking up and he is the food shopper around our house.

   Today he made a simple delicious chicken dish.

 My gourmand husband already has the experience of eating discerningly on "the European tour" when he was learning about wine, but now he is catching up with his skills on the preparing end of things.     He would be the last to admit this and is ultra fussy about how he approaches and shops for a dish.  I would say this is proof enough that he has what it takes to be an excellent cook.

Poulet Antiboise sounds "anti something" but it really just means chicken from Antibes, the once sleepy little fishing village that is sleepy no longer!  This recipe,  originally from the renowned  food writer,  Elizabeth David,  was recently reviewed by the chef at Le Cafe Anglais in London :

 Leigh Rowley   :

Poulet Antiboise

THe  main ingredients for this dish are:

a really good chicken,
1 kg of onions.
150 ml olive oil
cayenne pepper ,
20 black olives
and a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

THe onions are peeled and sliced and put into a deep casserole with the olive oil , a bit of salt and a pinch of cayenne.  On top of the onions place a cleaned chicken seasoned with salt and pepper.   Cover and cook gently in the oven for an hour and a half. ( #5) The onions will MELT gradually almost to a puree.

When the chicken is done it is cut into pieces, some of the oil is drained off with a colander and the onions are decanted onto a large serving dish and sprinkled with olives and thyme.  Serve the chicken bathed with the sauce.  That's it!

My husband says the secret is not a secret.  It's in the quality of all ingredients and the type of onions.  He uses what is known here and aptly named the sweet onion (although neither Rowley nor David specify).  Monsieur gets the best ingredients if he has to go to several places!

Nowadays many ( Rowley included)  lament that it is not easy to find simple country restaurants in France of the quality that were easily found in the 1970's .  As my husband was coming to  FRance at that time, he feels the same way and I have seen the deterioration in the last 20 years myself!.    For that reason, really discerning eaters find solace in preparing FRench recipes at home.

  And that describes, my own food lover husband who I affectionately call Monsieur and mostly refuses to eat out.  

 I am trying to get Monsieur to cook more often.    If he gets more confident he might even invite you.   You must be warned though, if it does happen, lunch will be served after 2 PM.   It always takes longer than he expects.

 Perfectionism is a burden to all that strive for it, but I am glad there are some who still do.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Secret Garden

  Today, I want to admit something.  First of all my good intentions about the gym fell apart months ago and I now consider myself virtuous if I get out for a morning walk around 7:00 before the sun is already climbing with nimble step.

  I take a route down and around my house peeking in at people's gardens.....

This one is my favorite, a labor of love...

 It has been developing steadily over the last ten years or more, plant by plant, paving stone by

carefully placed paving stone. 

 It was nothing to begin with. ...just nothing special at all.

I believe it the work of one woman.  I believe she works by herself, mostly with small tools.  I waved to her one day and acknowledged her offering.

  I get who she is....  she is an artist with a canvas.  Now she has taken over the unused yards of the houses on either side of her.  One wonders if they made her pay or were just happy to see the fallow soil come alive again. 
 There are  grape vines and vegetables and places to sit.  There is variation of color and varieties of leaf structure.   There are fruit and olive and cypress trees, carefully spaced.   She has a real eye and way with it all.

 I so appreciate this woman and my early morning peek over her wall.  You can tell she just loves this bit of earth.



This summer, the  director/producer Ridley Scott launched a global filmmaker competition dubbed “Tell It Your Way” following his Cannes Lions award-winning short-film project:  “Parallel Lines.”

 The entrants were given freedom of expression and could choose any theme ; but there were two strict rules :

1. there had to be the exact six-line dialogue as it was in the Parallel Lines films.
2. And the entries could last no longer than three minutes.

I have found that It is sometimes more freeing to have constraints like these strict rules of the entries to the project.   I have found this out as an artist taking an art classes.   Of all the ideas that one could choose from, it helps to have the field narrowed with a theme of assignment.    Right away the focus is narrowed and easier to navigate.

Perhaps this is the message of  the years to come.  The  world as we have known it seems to be morphing into new territory and this will help us to think differently and adapt to some of the "alarming" shifts and changes that we see now daily.  

enjoy this film and thanks to my reporter in the field, Roge

Monday, August 1, 2011

Spanish Harlem Orchestra-La Salsa Dura

Last Friday I ventured out to the Nuits du Sud Music Festival held each summer in the  main square of the village of Vence..... (not to be confused with the over-commercialized St Paul de Vence).

Vence has a good venue for the concerts, with an intimate and a well appointed stage.... but next year I will check out both bands beforehand to see if the lead-in group is worth the wait.  Its a long night for 2 full length concerts and we weren't home till well past midnight.

 The first offering was a group from "down under" called Blue King Brown.  It consisted of quite accomplished individuals but that night playing for us as if they had had no rehearsal, no director, no sound check and no video playback to help them out .  This concert was a sound mix of rap, reggae, and rock.  Unfortunately, though, it's as if all the musicians were playing alone with no regard for the whole sound.

 When the saucy, prancing, Australian lead finally gave the players their solos in the last half hour, we found out that she is a fabulous conga drummer, much better than a singer / song-writer/ guitar player.
We found out that her two back up singers were more accomplished than she at singing but had been entirely drowned- out.  And we found out that all the musicians were good soloists... especially the percussionists.  Unfortunately, the bass guitar dominated throughout the Blue King Brown concert, the lyrics (when we could understand them)  were banal and uninspired, ( against government, war, poverty, etc  ), the volume was 'off the charts", and the lights and dry- ice gimmicks did nothing to hide the over-all lack of musicality.

 If you look on You -tube you will find some excerpts from Blue King Brown in which the lyrics are clear and one is given a better impression of this band.  Who knows what difficulties they may have had setting up in Vence?   But in general,  lead bands are not up to the standard of the main event and this one wasn't even close.

However, my friends,  my disappointment was entirely dispelled by the main act of the evening,The Spanish Harlem Orchestra, who gave us two hours of the most passion and exuberance that I have experienced coming from one group.  Their music is sublime.

 And the dancing of the three singers is so infectious that one starts bumping in one's chair. Not many listeners could remain still throughout. We were all doing some semblance of salsa in the aisles by the end of the evening!

   I am in love with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra's  love of what they do.  They are a group of very accomplished players with a maturity of musicianship and they exude the joy of their music.

  Just watch a few minutes of the video above (which does nothing to deliver the quality of the music played) and you will get some idea.  Suffice it to say their new album won a grammy and most of you already know this group so I don't need to go on and on.

Another fun aside to this festival is the restaurant or snack option for a meal before the concert.  We took the snack option with the new concept:  French Panini !

 For 7.50 euros we got a choice of Panini with fois gras, truffle cream, duck breast , vegetables or ham...five different combos,  all with grated cheese to hold the heated delicacy together.

 And with that for the "formule" we got a glass of white or rose champagne, soda or beer.

   You will smile or gag, one or the other.  We smiled as we sat munching on the roadside with our champagne perched on a bollard.

One of the ironies of France...  is epitomized by sitting on the ground as lady-like as possible, eating fois gras out of an Italian sandwich and drinking a glass of bubbly.