Saturday, December 29, 2007

Brooklyn made jewelery



Randi Mates is an up and coming jewelry designer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her company is called Aesa, a Greek word whose meaning can refer to hope; a personification of a destiny; or an ancient Greek muse who inspires, delights, protects and accompanies you on your path.

Her recent collections seem to fit exactly into these ideas. There is something romantic, ancient, modern, delicate yet strong about her designs. Using mostly sterling silver and 14 or 18 karat gold, her inspiration and aesthetic suggests a direct influence of the natural world with such motifs as leaf like patterns, geological structures or aquatic plants. In her Fall 2007 collection these structural components where offset by super delicate chain links, whether for long necklaces or dangly earrings. In the Spring 2008 collection the strong, Brooklyn girl seems to be more present. The chains are sturdier, the silver maybe more tarnished for a sexy, yet solid appeal. At heart though is a handmade approach to the jewelry and a real uniqueness in the contrasts of her interests that produces beautiful and eventually classic pieces you will keep in your collection for a lifetime.


Items are available at select stores in New York and hopefully soon in Paris. Check the website for details, www.aesajewelry.com

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas in La Jolla











With a warm, Santa Ana wind coming through and bright, sunny days, Christmas seems to be about what is always is here, gorgeous. Coming here from cold, gray Paris makes all sense of holidays disappear and interest in sunbathing takes over! There have been super low tides hitting around 3pm making for extended walks on the beach. I never remember seeing star fish like this in tide pools growing up, so I was totally excited about that. The rocks, many unacustomed to being so revealed with the low tides, look like mummified seals or some prehistoric beast. Huge amounts of mussles and clams and sea anenomies were covering the tide pools as well. I went crazy with the camera and here is a taste of LJ in winter...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sound Waves



On view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla, CA, www.mcasd.org is the exhibition, "Sound Waves: The art of sampling," a group show of artists for whom music and sound play an integral role in their visual art making process. More than just music and
sound, the subtitle of sampling is important here because most of these
artists work with the notion of dj samples, mixing, recycling, and borrowing and relate them to ideas of seeing, form, and aesthetics, rather than straightforward music references. Artists I was expecting to see included Christian Marclay, Dave Muller and Steven Vitellio, who are most frequently represented in this area of contemporary art, as well as the French artist, Celeste Boursier-Mougenot whose large installation piece of the inflatable pools with resonating dishes, a piece which I had seen several years ago at Barbara Gladstone and enjoyed. But there were several artists I was not famililar with whose work was particularly interesting- a fantastic 16mm film of inked notes by the LA based artist Steven Roden, a weird boite -en valise-type piece (although it's actually a music case), by Helen Cohen, of a teenagers black lit room with rock posters, bed and furniture, and "Sonic Fabric," by Alyce Santoro, which resembles a boat sail and is made from recycled, prerecorded audio tapes and thread.
Also of note were the works by Dario Robleto, whose meticulously crafted and composed work is always a layered composition of recycled and recontextulized imagery and materials.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Miranda July at Colette




A few weeks ago I stumbled across the website for Miranda July, www.mirandajuly.com, the writer and performance artist probably best known for the indie film "Me You and Everyone We Know," which she wrote and starred in. It was a lucky stumble because it announced a reading she would be giving at Colette, the ultra-hip (although way over hyped), concept store, www.colette.fr. I had bought her book of short stories,"No one Belongs Here More than You," over the summer in the US and loved reading just a couple a night before going to sleep. I love her mix of humor, honesty, oddness and darkness. So it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to see her read in person, but unfortunately it was a little disappointing. The reading took place on the lower level of the store and throughout the reading the cafe guys were washing dishes and preparing drinks, people were talking on cell phones and you could hear the high heeled ladies above clanking along the aluminum staircase. She read two stories and a French version was also read, which was cool, but then there didn;t seem to be any plan and it fell apart. Rather then try to open a question and answer session and/or signing, the event kind of just ended and Miranda went to talk to friends. Oh well, her writing is a treat and so I'll take it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cartier Foundation





Lee Bul and Robert Adams, the two exhibitions on view now at the Cartier Foundation, www.fondation.cartier.com on Boulevard Raspail, are complete contrasts in style and medium, but they work well together on some level and it’s definitely worth a stop by the museum.

On the main floor are the seductive, glittery, gorgeous sculptures by the Korean artist, Lee Bul. Lee Bul has been exhibiting regularly since the mid 1980s, doing performance and collaborative based work that involved a lot of costume and set design, as well as sculpture and installation. The exhibition titled “On Every Shadow,” at the Cartier Foundation consists of about twelve large sculptures made primarily with crystals, aluminum and resin. Some of the work is suspended from the ceiling while others are set on the floor, which has been covered in a mirrored surface to allow the work to reflect and resonate throughout the space. Set in the beautiful glass box building by Jean Nouvel, these works are like shimmering jewels with a dark edge. In one sculpture, a clear resin rock formation, lies a body (fake), of a man wearing sunglasses-like a modern day cave man, while in another, a sublime pool of black ink sits in a tub surrounded by small, white mountains. It feels like the fjords in Norway surrounded by oil. This museum works best when the work presented looks good with lots of natural light and open space. As you walk through the space, with the reflected floor, the glass paned walls and the surrounding garden, there is a sense of vertigo- a sensation of being both in and outside at the same time, which is a welcome experience in wintery, gray Paris. Sadly there are no photos allowed indoors so the image is my attempt to photograph from outside.

Downstairs, in the “proper” white walled gallery space is a large exhibition titled “On the Edge,” by the American photographer Robert Adams. Adams has been working since the 1960s, documenting land and space in the American West. His work is classical, formal and simple, but in a very poetic way similar to photographers like Steven Shore or more recently, Tim Davis. But Adams is even more refined, more documentation for documentation’s sake. Like Al Gore, he was way ahead of the world in pointing out the harm being done to the earth by all the development and deforestation. His work has captured early housing developments across the west, desert landscapes in phases of destruction as well as documenting details of leaves and trees. This exhibition brings together a series of landscape images of the Pacific Ocean and the deforestation that borders the ocean in British Columbia. He states that if you stand on the shore and look east, you see the massive forest which is becoming less dense and less massive day by day thanks to the lumber industry. Trees that once stood for 500-1000 years are now cut down for wood chips after 35-50 years. If you turn and face west you behold the vast Pacific Ocean, not immune to its own destruction, but also seemingly filled with hope, change, infinitude. All of the images are 8x10” and in black and white. This is an exhibition for contemplation and serious reflection.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Interview with Barbara Kurdziel, Plagg Paris





This is the first in a series of interviews I hope to do with designers, boutique owners and other interesting characters here in Paris or elsewhere around the globe.

Barbara Kurdziel at Plagg is a real inspiration for me and my future fantasies of opening up my own space. After my initial visit with this store as I mentioned before, I became semi-obsessed with tracking other designers from Scandinavia. On Friday of last week we met in her boutique and had a fun and fruitful dialogue about the boutique and her vision.

Deux Frontières: When did you open the boutique?
Barbara Kurdziel: August 2006-- so it’s been a year and a half already.

DF: Are all of the designers in the boutique Scandinavian?
BK: Yes. They come from Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and there is a Japanese and Norweigan design team who live in London.

DF: How did you get interested in Scandinavian fashion and design and what is it that particularly attracts you to it?
BK: Although I am Polish by birth my parents moved to Sweden when I was a child. I grew up in the city of Malmö and so the influence of Scandinavian culture and design has always been a part of my life. I have friends who are designers and I like the style of Scandinavia so it was a natural choice to focus on this for the boutique. Paris has fantastic style with a culture very steeped in fashion, but I found that a lot of the stores had a similar look. I felt that there would be a need and an interest in presenting something new and a bit different. Of course there are risks involved with this and it takes time for some people to get familiar and comfortable with some of the designers that I show.

DF: Tell me how you ended up in Paris.
BK: I had traveled a lot in France and studied in Grenoble for a time. I moved to Paris about eight years ago and took a job with H&M but after a awhile I decided to leave and start the boutique. I love Paris and consider this to be home now though I regularly go back to Sweden to visit for family and work.

DF: In your opinion, do you think there is a particular style or look with Scandinavian fashion design?
BK: Yes, I do. I think there is a different approach to fashion there, part of which is rooted in the climate and land. It is a sensible and functional approach combined with an eccentric, creative spirit. I think there is maybe more of an open spirit there. It is not too serious. The history of design, art, and fashion is more recent and fresh and so there are less pressures, traditions and references, which allows a freedom in which designers can create.

DF: In my opinion you work like an art curator here. There is a very creative sensibility to the designers you have selected and they way things work together. Do you rotate some designers while continuing to work with others long term? Tell me about some of the designers on view here now.
BK: Yes. There are some designers I have worked with since the beginning and will continue to work with, such as Ivana Helsinki and Best Behavior. Ivana Helsinki is Finnish (lives in Helsinki), and works both as a fashion designer, visual artist and performer. She has been working for many years but continues to produce on a smaller scale, which she seems to prefer. There is a strong visual and artistic influence which comes across in her designs. Best Behavior are from Denmark. They are a growing company and I am working as their agent here in Paris to get them in other boutiques. Another longer-term designer I plan to work with is Swedish designer Camilla Norback whose label, ecoluxury, combines just that: a sensible approach to materials and process of fabrication with sophisticated, elegant designs. Some other designers I have in stock for the Autumn/Winter 2007 line include Izaak (Denmark), Eluise (Denmark), Dagmar (Sweden), and Gudrun & Gudrun from the Faroe Islands (see earlier blog).

DF: Where/how do you do your research and how do you come to a decision to present someone’s line in the boutique?
BK: Because I work basically seven days of the week right now it is difficult to get out and see things, but I attend some fashion shows when I can. I make lots of store and designer/atelier visits when I am traveling in Sweden and Denmark-particularly Denmark which has a very strong fashion scene right now. My friends who are still living in Scandinavia will send me information and tell me about people to look out for. I like to have relationships with the designers I work with. Also of course I think of my clients- what they might be interested in and what their needs are and then I will make decisions based on this.

DF: For the boutique, was it not even a question to seek out a space in the Marais? And would you consider doing a boutique online?

BK: It wasn’t only the Marais where I was interested in having a boutique. I really considered the area of Canal St. Martin in the 10th, but this beautiful space was available (amazing garden included), and the foot traffic and attention towards rue Charlot confirmed the choice to settle here. As for an online boutique, perhaps in the future but no plans as yet.

For more information submit a comment or see these links below:
www.plagg.com
www.ivanahelsinki.com
www.camillanorrback.com
www.eluise.dk
www.izaak.dk
www.bestbehavior.dk
www.houseofdagmar.se

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Rue Charlot



Five Independent Designers: Rue Charlot- From top to bottom
You know that the Marais is filled with too many great looking boutiques, so here is a list to narrow in on some unique, chic, younger designers giving it a go on their own…

Emilie Casiez
is a young, Parisian designer and artist whose intimate boutique features simple items such as t-shirts and loose fitting off-the shoulder sweaters with black printed designs of people, buildings, swirls of clouds or stars that she has originally drawn herself. They are kind of cutesy, almost Japanese-esque, making it no surprise she sells in several stores there. She also designs casual but sexy, strappy dresses and shirts. There is also a line for men, of t-shirts, tops and sweaters. She tweaks certain classic styles to make them hipper, funkier and more original. www.emiliecasiez.com/
57, rue Charlot.


Vincent Jalbert and Yves Andrieux
are fashion designers and stylists who have a small boutique specializing in transforming old fabrics, primarily former military uniforms in wool and linen into beautifully tailored jackets, skirts and pants, for men and women, as well as bags and pillows. The fabrics take on their semi worn texture but they are in perfect condition and flatter the couture-like designs that come mainly in muted tones of brown, blues and greens. Military-chic could be appropriate, but its not a hard look rather the cuts are quite feminine for the women and classic for men. They also source other vintage fabrics, including plaids and patterns. The prices are somewhat expensive but you know that they will last a long time in your closet because the fabrics are so solid and they are very well structured.
55, rue Charlot

Pauline Pin, www.paulinepin.com is a great source for bags. As we all know there is a huge purse frenzy around the world right now, but most of these seem to run upwards of $500. It’s kind of insane and a bit annoying for some of us on a milder budget, but even if you aren’t counting dimes, you’ll want to check out Pauline Pin. Her handmade, unique designs are all made in Paris. Leather is a prime material for the sleek clutches, mid-sized, semi-slouchy shoulder bags and weekend totes. Colors range from standard shades of black, dark green and red as well as metallic gold, silver and bronze. Also available are hand printed fabrics with stripes or flowers, some with a waxed coating to make them waterproof, an excellent concept not only for travel but for the frequent rainy day. The boutique also features handmade jewelry from designer Diane de Navacelle. 51, rue Charlot

Now that you have loaded up on purses and clothes, the only thing missing is of course, the shoes. Check out Cindy Glass. Cindy Glass is a fun, quirky, sexy shoe designer who recently opened up a boutique in Paris. Other outlets include Lebanon and the UK. A majority of the shoes take a form similar to the classic pump with a heel not too high so that you can walk comfortably, but this is where the traditional ends. The fabrics and colors make the shoes very one of a kind. The new collection features tartan plaids, cut-out hearts, polka dots, images of pin-up girls. In addition, there is a nice selection of knee-high boots in leather, some with a leg-warmer like look around the calves, or cream colored patented leather. Also on sale are a small selection of purses and t-shirts. The online boutique will be opening in January 2008 if you can’t make up your mind at the moment. www.cindyglass.net.
47, rue Charlot


Dominique Picquier
is a boutique specializing in hand printed textiles made in France, in a tradition that comes from Lyon. The mostly cotton, linen and silk based fabrics have names such as Ginko, Vanilla (the plant), Marguerite (French for Daisy). They are beautiful nature-inspired patterns and abstractions of leaves, flowers, branches and rocks in a variety of soft palette colors. At the store or online, www.dominiquepicquier.com, you can buy lengths of fabric, order coverings for furniture, or any of their fabulous accessories which include wallets, purses, both clutch and with handles and sturdier tote bags which are great for travel. www.dominiquepicquier.com
10, rue Charlot

Monday, December 3, 2007

Wooly Wooly




After my recent discovery of Scandinavian fashion design at Plagg boutique in the Marais, I was doing a little Internet surfing and came across the site of Gudrun & Gudrun, www.gudrunoggudrun.com Set on the remote Faroe Islands, which are located in the far North Atlantic Ocean between Norway and Iceland, Gudrun & Gudrun is a knit based design company owned and operated by two Faroese women, Gu∂run Ludvig and Gu∂run Rógvadótti. These two innovative women create designs that are inspired by the myth and history of these misty lands as well as a dedication to its traditional knitting techniques and materials. But don’t imagine those bulky, cable knit sweaters, rather Gudrun & Gudrun’s Fall 2007 line showed sexy, sleek, totally contemporary styles that look good on the streets of Paris or New York, while always maintaining an interest in serving their local clientele.

An island that boasts more sheep then humans, knitting was and remains a fundamental and practical method of keeping warm. As their website explains, when the Vikings came to the Faroe Islands a thousand years ago, sheep were set free to roam the lands and have been there ever since adapting to the rough terrain and weather. Obviously there is a huge respect for the sheep and the women of Gudrun & Gudrun have developed their products with a sustainable approach to this history. Skins and wool are taken from the sheep farms that are for food production, and they also developed a fish leather from fish skins for a line of jewelry- the fish skins also being a waste product in the fishing industry. The wool used in the clothing is either untreated or colored with natural dyes.

As the demand increased for their original designs, the women expanded production levels by employing women from Jordan, a country that has a long-standing tradition with knitting as well. They state on their website that they are proud to know every knitter by name and that this is an essential component to their work and company ethic. In October a knitting workshop took place in Jordan in which about 40 women attended. This type of collaboration is an ideal of globalism and though it would be amazing to have a company like this in all the department stores around the world, the beauty of this group is very much in its small, accessible and grounded nature.

Take a look online: www.gudrunoggudrun.com

Friday, November 30, 2007

Discovered



Margo Milin: Margo Milin is a designer of women’s clothes whose tiny boutique is located at 1, rue Charles Francois Dupuis in the 3rd arrondissement. Her designs spin off of classic blouses, sweaters and tops, giving them a more stylish cut, very feminine, but not overly designed. The clothes are well structured and can be worn dressed up for a dinner party, job interview or made casual for Saturday shopping depending on how you pair them. Cotton, wool and silk are dominant fabrics with solid colors in gray, blue, black, white. There are also tunics, jackets and larger wool coats that fit like a robe, wrapping around the body with a belt to close. The scooped, backless shirt is super sexy for those not needing to wear a bras and the thin, silk semi-wrap dress looks ideal for summertime or a warm, winter getaway. An online boutique opens soon. www.margomilin.com

Plagg: Plagg, a slang term in Swedish for clothes, is a gem of a boutique at 41, rue Charlot in the Marais. The store specializes in Scandinavian clothing designers, which for me was a new discovery. Mostly I am familiar with Scandinavian design for objects and home décor, or the cutesy Marrikmekko, but here there are some fantastic, unique, affordable and flattering things to be had by designers such as Ivana Helsinki and Best Behavior. For the autumn/winter 2007 they have sexy and funky sweaters and knit-based items, voluminous, deconstructed jackets and a great pair of purple ankle boots to brighten up the winter.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Marché des Enfants Rouge





The Marché des Enfants Rouge is a fantastic covered market off of rue de Bretagne in the 3rd Arrondissement. Apparently this is one of the oldest covered markets in the city, established in the 1770s. Prior to that it served as an orphanage for young children, which is kind of strange, but that is where the name comes from. In any case, I love this market because beyond the typical fish, flowers wine and vegetables, are small vendors serving authentic, delicious Japanese, Moroccan, West African and Greek food, as well as crepes and sandwiches a la Bretagne, in Northern France. Tables and chairs line the hallways making for a perfect stop in between all that shopping and gallery hopping in the Marais. In the winter the tables are kept warm through heaters and sheets of plastic protecting them from the chilly air, however the plate of warm couscous with lamb or merguez or the steaming bowls of Japanese noodles will also keep you toasty. Also onsite is an indoor restaurant that serves organic dishes. Have yet to try this one, but can’t wait.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cracked Kettle




Calling out all beer lovers! The Cracked Kettle was a pure find in Amsterdam. A dark, wood shelved store which is located in the middle of a tiny street near Spuistraat and Singel is an amazing source of beer goodness. Stacked shelves hold bottles of all shapes and sizes and are arranged by country, with the main emphasis on Europe: Dutch, Belgian, German, Scottish, UK, Scandinavian, Trappist, and then a small selection of elsewhere including the US, African and Eastern Europe. All the beers are from Microbreweries, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbrewery
and all styles and methods (ales, brown beers, lagers, stouts, wheat, blondes, etc.)

Sorry for the bad pictures, I was in a hurry. But check out the website, www.crackedkettle.com for fun tidbits of information, suggestions, ratings and what's best, they ship anywhere! Perfect holiday gift perhpas...

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Dammer

I love Amsterdam. It is a city tucked into a big village. There is something accessible about they city as well, except that language of course, and it is just a totally different vibe from Paris. Even in the boutiques and restaurants there is something functional but funky.. very much their design approach I think. I could spend all day going from cafe to cafe ( not coffeeshops people), sipping tea, which always comes with a little cookie, reading and people watching. The weather is ideal for that.
I have a ridiculous theory for comparing Paris and Amsterdam and it is summed up in its pastries:
In Paris we have the exquisite boulangeries filled with delicate; flaky Napoleoans, the charmed macaroons in a variety of soft pastel colors, or the layered cream filled objects that you feel almost guilty destroying with a fork (is this why french women stay so thin?), whereas in Amsterdam the pastries are dense, cakey, treats one of which you could subsist on for a week, or the stroopwaffel with its waffle biscuts filled with caramel, which are, appropriately the ultimate munchy treat. Well, it is not the most profound of theories, but it came to me as i cruised along the canals checking out all the great shops and funky design objects.
Here a few great places to look at, with more to follow
www.kitchkitchen.nl
www.raakamsterdam
www.kauppa.nl
www.urbanpicnic.net
www.whatscooking.nl
www.universeonatshirt.com

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

(Not So) Lucky Strike

Well I didn’t want to whine about la greve, the huge, country-wide metro and rail strike that has paralyzed most of Paris this past week. It seemed too easy, too typical and since I do work from home I didn’t have to be anywhere particular, until yesterday, for my first job interview in France. Walking an hour and half to check out the big photography fair, Paris Photo last week was fun. I just popped on the ipod and set out. But when you need to wear heels and look fresh at the end of that 1½ hours, then the novelty has worn off. I managed pretty well, leaving 2 hours before the appointment and broke up the walk, doing 25 minutes to St. Lazare and taking the only metro, number 14, that is working semi-normally, to Chatalet, and then hoofed it another 30+ minutes to the rendevous. I felt a little like Melanie Griffiths in “Working Girl,” with my walking boots on, heels in the bag. I did a quick change in the café around the corner, slipping on the Prada heels and some lipstick and made my way for an on time arrival.
It wasn’t too dramatic really. Tomorrow however, the real test will be made when I get to lug baggage to Gare du Nord and just hope that my Thalys train to Amsterdam will even be leaving to take me out of this stalemate city. Hope the next post is about bicycles and canals as opposed to French politics!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Martha Rosler's Library




The Martha Rosler Library has arrived in Paris at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art www.inha.fr in the 2nd arrondissement. This fantastic exhibition/installation of the artist Martha Rosler’s personal library, was conceived with the help of e-flux the online network for disseminating information about contemporary art. Most prominently e-flux is known for its email mailings wherein at least 3-5 emails a day arrive in your inbox bearing news/openings/prizes from around the globe.

I had read about this project when it opened in New York in late 2005. Somehow I missed it and totally regretted it. I read about its movement to Germany and then alas, a surprise e-flux came in a couple of weeks ago announcing its arrival in Paris. The library consists of nearly 7800 volumes all from Rosler’s collection, mostly in English, and includes catalogues, essays, documentation in subjects ranging from art, theory, women’s studies, science, politics, revolution, poetry and fiction. When I arrived yesterday NPR was playing on a radio and there were a few people sifting through the stacks or sitting at a table in one of the many chairs provided, and that, essentially is the point of the installation. It’s a chance to hang out, browse an incredible diversity of books, listen to the radio and read. It also serves as a reminder to those who are more used to reading/studying/researching etc., on the Internet, to recall a time of discourse, physical research and the power of printed text. The installation has a comfortable, local library feel as well housed within the beautiful stone building, which also holds classes and research facilities for University students.

Martha Rosler is an artist who lives and worked in Brooklyn, New York. She emerged onto the contemporary art scene in the 1970s, as a pioneering feminist artist, for the most part, but not entirely. Some early, well-known works were photo collages that mixed scenes of the Vietnam War in modern settings of domestic bliss. Picture an image form Life Magazine, of soldiers in full combat with guns in shooting position superimposed into a perfectly suburban living room; or a perfectly manicured woman pulling back the drapes in her home only to reveal a black and white image of the Vietnamese jungle and bloody scenes of war. They were haunting. Rosler has always maintained a body of work that deals with text and image, pop culture and the underbelly of war, poverty, and struggle.

For Americans and Anglo’s in Paris who love to read I recommend checking out Martha Rosler’s Library. It is a unique opportunity to explore not only the mind of this great artist, but scan through numerous books, many of which you may not have heard of before and which could open up new areas of interest.

Martha Rosler’s Library, November 14-January 20, 2008
INHA, 2, rue Vivienne, 75002

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gustave Courbet

“Since I must always be an exception to the general rule in everything and everywhere, I am going to pursue my destiny.” Gustave Courbet, November 30, 1837.

Realizing that this imminent grève, (strike), by all metro and rail workers scheduled to hit France late Tuesday night might cause some transportation conflicts (understatement of the year), I decided to take a late afternoon trip to Grand Palais http://www.rmn.fr/gngp-gb/to visit the much discussed Gustave Courbet exhibition.

It was a bit chilly and nearing dusk when I made my way over. After a gruff encounter with the guard who decided to interrogate me like I just robbed a candy store rather than mistakenly walking up the stairs to enter the museum (having missed the queue which was tucked back behind a temporary trailer), I waited in a ten-minute line and headed, finally, indoors.

The exhibition is nicely installed with a suite of several rooms on the ground and second floors of the museum. Self-portraits, portraits, countryside and landscapes dominate the exhibition. Courbet was a realist painter who occasionally painted provocatively and often, he did not. He is beloved for his grand ego, radical polictics, and his bold nod to history painting such as “In the Artists Studio,” or “The Burial at Ornans,” a painting that was in fact rejected from the Salon of 1855. Courbet, notably offended by this dismissal, decided to rent a space nearby the salon, hang the gigantic painting and charge admission. The text says that this gesture liberated artists from tradition…I’d like to see this as a first gesture towards the development of the alternative art space.

Not surprisingly the most trafficked room seem to be the ‘Nude Room,’ a likely reason for Courbet’s lasting fame. (Just a hunch that is was not the series of waves crashing on the shore works in the previous room). Lushly painted, voluptuous nudes in quite suggestive poses are accompanied by a suite of 1850s-60s photographs of similar scenes. The highlight of course, is “The Origin of the World,” and it was funny to watch the general response to people looking at it. Most didn’t move in for a closer inspection of paint application as they may have done say with the earlier landscape paintings. Instead I was jostled by several gentlemen as they maneuvered their way in to view the peek-a-boo boxes on the wall, behind which held small pornographic photographs taken in the late 1800s. Maybe that was a more comfortable viewing method for people.

In any event, after that the rest of the show seemed less exciting. Maybe Courbet was less excited too. Large scenes of hunting chases set in a winter landscape with animals that looked a little cartoony, in my opinion, and a bit disappointing. In his last years he spent time in prison for his support of the Paris Commune and an order he made to destroy the Vendome column for its representation of the former Napoleon regime. Courbet’s last works, many done from prison, were appropriately nature-morte with large apples, pears and the like in degrees of decomposition. In general though, Courbet took risks that clearly helped pave the way for Cezanne, Manet and the Impressionist painters who followed closely on his heels and he died a hero and as a symbol of French pride and history.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ceramics Class




Today was the first day of ceramics class. Last month over some wine, a good friend, W, and I decided we needed a course in which to channel some unused creative energy, or something, and molding clay seemed just the thing. Aside from a semester in ceramics in graduate school and early childhood attempts with play-doh, my knowledge was limited. After a search on google we came up with a few options. Just like goldilocks, the first was too small and filled with too much earthenware, the second was just way too far out the city, and the third, the Association des Arts et Techniques Ceramiques, seemed just the place. Led by two, young aspiring ceramic artists, Christophe and Gregoire, the studio has space for about ten people at a time and offers morning/afternoon and evening classes in wheel, hand building and glazes. We decided on the wheel and literally dug right in, preparing our balls of clay to turn into fabulous bowls or maybe a six-piece saki set.
Well, in reality, I spent about 2 hours just trying to center the clay and kept muttering this must be a metaphor for my life right now. We kept up with joking encouragments such as, "find the zen," "keep the zen," and hopefully, after our three-month course, we'll find some!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Le Laboratoire





On October 19th a new contemporary cultural space opened in Paris, seemingly without much notice. The brainchild of an American scientist and novelist, David Edwards, Le Laboratoire, www.lelaboratoire.org, is a meeting point for artists and scientists to share thoughts, ideas, visions, and see what happens as a result. Two leading figures in these respective fields, who in all likelihood have never met and may not know each other’s work, come together to explore concepts and “push the limits of understanding,” as the mission statement declares. The production is (more or less) spontaneous, unknown and attempts to lay new groundwork. It’s a tricky concept to pull off, which why the name of the space, le laboratoire, is a good one, because in actuality the work developed is truly experimental.

The space itself is still partly under construction, which may explain the lack of crowds and publicity thus far. It is located in the 1st arrondisement, near the Louvre, http://www.louvre.fr/, and the Ministry of Culture, on the ground floor of a larger, more traditional looking building. The façade is all glass with shades of gray and black paint and white neon signage. Set into part of the façade is a ‘theatre optique,’ or optical theater in which a niche has been carved between the glass façade and the interior to display video work. On view now is a video by the artist Patrick Sorin as well as a video that presents David Edwards describing his vision for the space and how the project developed.

The interior of the museum is still somewhat raw but it will be slick and industrial-like, with metal, cement and glass as the dominant materials. You enter into the main exhibition area down a short staircase. The space has essentially been gutted out leaving a wide-open, column-filled area for the artist to manipulate. For the current exhibition the floors have been painted in different colors and sheetrocked, movable walls have been propped up, onto which the paintings are hung and which also form a corridor that leads to other work. At the back of the exhibition space, through large glass walls you can get a glimpse into what will eventually be office space, a gift shop and perhaps a café.

The inaugural exhibitions have been in the making for over a year. The main space presents the work created from a collaboration by the French artist Fabrice Hyber and Robert Langer, a leading scientist at MIT for stem cell research. The two met for only one week, at MIT last January, although they remained in contact throughout the whole experiment. From their meetings it was decided that they would focus their project on the experience of a stem cell transforming into a neuron. Hyber took all of the scientific data and information gleaned from their encounter, continued his own research and from this developed a series of paintings, sculptures and installation work. Hyber subtitled the project “food for thought,” and several of the works, such as a figure constructed out of fruits and vegetables or the two vats of champagne with fruits in the process of fermentation, deal explicitly with this theme of transformation, decomposition and bodily function. There are several large paintings that look like studies form a notebook with words, formulas, numbers and charts, and an inflatable sculpture that resembles an esophagus. The whole experience is part funhouse for science and part artist’s studio. Disordered/ordered chaos runs through the whole of it, and it works under the pretext of being a laboratory, a reflection of thought and spontaneity.

In a smaller space set right next to the entrance, (which I think is temporary), is an exhibition titled Bel-Air, and it is the result of a collaboration between David Edwards, and the French designer Matthew Lehanneur. Using research and observations of NASA scientists, the two artists created a type of air filter that is part design object, part environmental gadget. The artists learned that early on many astronauts had returned from space flights with high levels of toxic chemicals in their systems due to the synthetic materials of the spacecraft. NASA scientists soon began studying certain types of plants that were said to act as natural filters, absorbing and metabolizing the gases to help combat this effect. Edwards and Lehanneur take this concept into the contemporary home of today, a space that is also filled with synthetic objects and materials and they have created a small, pod-like structure that houses a small plant. The pod is white with a clear top and it rests on the floor. The filter supposedly passes dirty air past the surfaces of the plants, thereby strengthening the capacity of the plants to absorb the toxins and rendering the plant “more intelligent,” i.e. able to ward off a higher amount of the gases. If all this is true, which it seems to be, Bel-Air is a truly innovative concept housed in a chic design object. The exhibition seems to succeed a bit more than the other in part because the two were coming from a shared interest and a more collaborative working process.

It will be interesting to see how Le Laboratoire develops in the coming months. Being privately funded allows for flexibility and real experimentation. The program has an ambitious agenda that should make for an exciting addition to the Paris art scene.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Salon des Livres



A Salon des Livres took place this weekend in a nightclub along the Quai Valmy in the 10th Arr. It was a small gathering (not a fair), of about 20-30 small press publishers coming primarily from France, England, German or United States.The setting was perfect-intimate, sort of grungy and totally independent.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Musee D'Orsay




It had been a long while since I lasted visited this museum, www.musee-orsay.fr/ but I immediately remember why I consider it one of my favorites. I love the interior layout of the place- the rooms gliding into one another on various levels and the center sculpture court. The museum doesn’t have any ‘blockbuster’ show right now and so mid-day on a Wednesday I breezed right in.

I made my way first to the drawings of Odilon Redon, an artist I always liked but never focused much attention on. It’s a small show of about 30-40 works, tucked into a back gallery in the museum, so for the first 5 minutes I was literally alone in the space, an experience I don’t recall ever having at a major museum. Redon is a curious artist, totally steeped in Romantic, surrealist, dreamy, nightmare world, much like Edgar Allen Poe, for whom he did a few book covers. Some of these images from the 1870s were as bizarre and out there as anything today. I kept thinking about that weird 1980s English film “Time Bandits,” which forever gives me the creeps for some reason, but in a good way.

Next, onto viewing some of the collection, particularly the Manet’s which I recall from my semester abroad here as being excellent. No let down there. Manet is absolutely amazing. To look at “Olympia,” http://jssgallery.org/other_artists/Manet/Olympia.htm, granted one of the most reproduced images, still inspires something. I mean she is sexy and totally arousing, even today when you open any fashion magazine and see any number of nude bodies. An article in the New York Times Magazine recently deemed her to be the first contemporary fashion model. There she is, looking out at us, totally nude save for the subtle highlights of the necklace or her shoes, objects we focus on and which become fetishistic for the viewer, a perfect vision for current fashion advertising.

Finally, the museum’s attempt to throw in contemporary art in a project titled “Correspondences,” is a good effort, but not all that exciting. A contemporary artist is invited to select a work in the collection that they relate to/are inspired by, etc. Janis Kounellis selected a painting by Millet, i.e Arte Povera meets somber realism. On the other side is Odile Redon and Emmanuelle Saulnier, a French artist whose sculpture of stones atop water glasses is nice and moody and makes for a nice installation, but not really much else.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Henri + Jacqueline

Chez Henri et Jacqueline:

It was a cold, damp day that could only call to mind the winter months that sat looming in the all to near future. I usually regard our loft-like space as a positive thing, but when it’s cold and gray outside, it can be just as cold inside. So I sat downstairs trying to write, shivering in a wool sweater and wool scarf because I refused to turn on the heat before November 1st. Lunchtime rolls around and M descends from his much more cozy, upstairs studio, wondering what we should eat. Ignoring my budgetary crunch and the fact that we had just done a huge grocery shopping yesterday, I subtly suggested we go visit Jacqueline and Henri. The thought of spending the next hour or so in that warm, aromatic space, sipping a glass of red wine and no doubt feasting on the heavy, Norman fare sounded ideal and I wondered what the menu might be today. I could see M’s eyes light up and I knew his Mediterranean blood was just has unhappy as my southern California blood in this sudden change of weather. “Yes, he said, lets do it.”

“Chez Henri et Jacqueline”, is an affectionate name that we invented one afternoon for the little restaurant that thankfully sits about 100 feet from our front door. It’s truly the French version of the mom n’ pop diner. Floral curtains adorn the windows, paper tablecloths and tiny fake potted plants and posters of some “tourist destinations” in the Norman countryside decorate the interior. I love every inch of it, but particularly I adore Henri and Jacqueline, whose names are not at all Henri and Jacqueline. She, who by fortuitous timing we learned recently is normally called Nicole, is of a bit more stern façade, suggesting perhaps a slight familial connection to the German neighbor to the north, he of ample build and literally possessing a Santa Claus smile. If he is not cooking in the tiny kitchen (the restaurant boosts just 20 seats), then he is outside chatting with the neighbors. I remember clearly when he finally began to recognize me and would start talking about this and that with me as I passed by on the way home. M would laugh as I walked in and gleefully retold my encounter with Henri, like I had maybe, at last become a local.

We walked quickly over, we are always the last lunchtime diners at 2:30, but they welcomed us with warmth and kindness and I knew that we’d made the right choice. The menu du jour typically consists an appetizer of salad, rillets or foie gras, followed by offerings from the Meat family; filet de bouef for the simple minded (aka me), andouilette or boudin noir. If the Menu is not grabbing me there is always the option of taking the “lighter” fare by selecting one of the many options of galettes, large wheat crepes filled with numerous choices from spinach and ground beef to eggs, cheese and ham. Today, M and I both settled on the menu, with all thoughts of a quick, lighter lunch out the window. We started with the rillets du saumon, which could roughly be described as a gratin of salmon. Sounds weird, tastes great with a piece of fresh baguette and red wine. I tried to pace myself for what was to follow, although of course with the quick French exchange, I was not entirely sure what I was about to eat. What arrived can only be described as potato heaven. Two slices of roast beef sat seductively besides two versions of potato I had never tried before, likely because they would be treated like terrorist suspects at JFK by the ever health conscious/weight wary American public. Well, ‘when in Rome’, I thought and dug in. One version was a half of twice-baked potato cooked with cheese and little nuggets of bacon, and I am pretty sure a kilo of butter, perhaps cream. The other was a gratin which included sautéed potatoes, zucchini and onions, which were then (I am assuming because modesty prohibits me asking), baked together with again, a bit of hard cheese and butter…yum. I had to force myself to stop because I had a flash of me eating the last bite and keeling over sideways like some mafia figure after a feasting on lasagna made by one of his enemies.

Henri soon approached asking with a sly smile whether we’d take the tarte-de-pomme. On our last visit to H+J’s they offered the tart and as I spooned the last bite into my mouth Henri asked if I liked it. Non, I said, c’etait horrible (trying to be funny in French). He laughed, made some joke to M and then brought out another slice! We soon learned that Monsieur had once been a baker (boulanger) and he had a passion for tarts. Me too, I thought, having a sudden vision of becoming the wife of a baker/restaurateur in a small French village. We decided to get two slices of tart to go, god forbid we give a flat no thank you, and as we left, Henri mentioned that if we ever wanted a nice Norman Calvados to sip on, he has some special bottles for sale. Oh, I thought, we’ve made it. Maybe this winter won’t be bad after all.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Back in Paris

After a busy two weeks in New York, which included eating every meal out, I was happily back in Paris and ready to do some major food shopping yesterday. With the damp, grey blanket that covered the city it was the perfect day to do so as well. A bit jet-lagged I had forgotten the Sunday morning madness that ensues in the marché as people clamor to get their things before its early 1pm closing. “Brace yourself,” I told M as we barreled into the crowds and side stepped out way through and waited our turn in the interminable queues. Following the market it was a stop at the boulangerie. M suggested the one closest to our house, which normally I say yes, fine, but, (gasp), I said no, no, let’s go to the one up and over which has the best bread…M looked at me and I semi-panicked…am I becoming un peu française? By insisting we go out of our way with heavy bags in order to get the right baguette, in fact I think that might be the case.

Well, it turned out to be the right choice, because as we ambled over and out of our way, we passed by our favorite Greek market/restaurant and decided that we had to at least go in for olives which we forgot to buy at the store. This little eatery was a regular stop for me when I first arrived but lately I had unintentionally by-passed it , buying the bland, commercial versions of eggplant caviar at the supermarket to save money. Mistake. If not for anything but Dakis’s (not his real name), charm and subtle, dark humor, it’s worth the extra 5 euros to go there.

Dakis is a flirt and unassuming comedian I have decided, but his mumbled, heavily accented French is so hard for me to understand that I end up missing most of what he says, so with M with me this time, I had a good translator. As we entered the store and said “Bonjour,” he looked at M suspiciously and said (fully knowing) “are you two together?” M says (somewhat old-manish), “yes for a long time.” “Oh,” Dakis deadpans, “but weren’t you in here with a brunette last week?” Then, later when he rings us up at the counter, I comment on the flyers for Greek language courses, something I say, I attempted to take in college but it never stuck. “Well,” he grumbles, no trace of smile or irony, “take a few—in 2018 Greek will be the language spoken by all in the European Union.” Well, maybe you have to be there to get it, but even if you don’t, the food he has is amazing.

Some of the items for sale, fresh hummus, tzatziki and taramas (2-3 types), can be bought by the kilo; at least ten different olives are available, fresh, not in cans, (I always get the standard black Greek because he says they are the best), golf ball sized meatballs and eggplant and feta balls (for lack of a good translation), and of course grape leaves. For dessert he has at least five types of homemade Baklava and my new favorite, loukoumathes, the honey, nutty, sticky candies dusted with powdered sugar. Plus, he seems to always throw in a bag of pita bread with any order as well.

Prouduits de la Mediterranee, Traiteur Grec, rue Moines, 17th.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

NYC at night




NYC at Night- view from the not-so-posh, Skyline Hotel. I can't seem to upload these as a page element...just as a post.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Slice of Life




This little park tucked into the triangle intersection of 14th street 9th Avenue essentially sums up what I love and hate about NYC. This totally awkward zone was not only redesigned to help traffic flow but the additional 20 feet leftover was turned into a little space for people to sit in despite the constant traffic around them. This intersection was always a site of mass chaos congestion. It was too big and it was not a straight 90 degree turn which I think threw people off. Cars had to veer left to make the diagonal onto Hudson and/or go left onto 14th street while there was a sliver of the lane that allowed cars to go uptown as well. In brief, I used to navigate this intersection on a daily basis when I rode by bike to work. If I timed it right with lights and cars I sailed on through and if I didn’t, I saw flashes of my life slide by on the back of bus that was narrowing in on me and the truck in front of me, while horns blared.

I have always liked the quirkiness of this intersection that allows for the mini westside flatiron building but I can’t say I liked enough to want to sit inside of it while I sipped my coffee and read the paper. Like the streets and sidewalks in New York aren’t busy enough, but the number of outdoor café’s continues to increase and people wait for a seat which serves massive bus fumes along with their steaks and beer. I am among them at times. Yesterday I sat outdoors for lunch and between the barking west village dog, the thumping trucks and the roar of the subway just below us, my friend and I were shouting at each other half the time. It is funny and it is sad. As New York becomes more and more user friendly, these little pockets of “outdoor space” keep appearing, but the reality of this space tucked in between uptown and downtown traffic is depressing to me as well. How sad that this is what we are left with. Thanks in part to the ridiculous surge of ugly high rise condos there are no more open spaces. Smoking may be illegal in every bar and restaurant but you can still get your carbon monoxide high at your local outdoor cafe. Bon appetit.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NYC

It feels good to be back in NYC. Being here for the 10 days is ideal because it allows me to love what I love about this city and then before it starts to get crazy, I'll be back in Paris. So far, the weather is beautiful and our moderate-flea baggy hotel is working out fine. The energy and frenzy of the city is comforting. It is reassuring to know that this dynamic is always around, always happening. I feel right now like it;s seeing an old boyfriend, I love it, loved being here, but I know my time is over here and I am happy to have moved on.
For the next few days will be commenting on any new and exciting places/people/things that happening.

Friday, October 12, 2007

So Vintage

So Vintage-soooo good
16, rue des Moines
17 arrondisement

Housed inside a tiny, unassuming storefront on the rue des Moines, there is no awning and no sign, is So Vintage, a true mecca of vintage fashion. Paris is full of some of the best vintage stores I have seen with prices that are generally better than New York, but none-the-less, expensive, particularly if you do the euro-dollar exchange. What’s more, typically part of the bargain of scoring a great, one of a kind Pucci dress is the particularly pungent smell of clothes that have been sitting in some dank basement or god knows where and the first week of new ownership the item sits at the dry cleaner, waiting for a slight facelift.

So Vintage is not super vintage in the sense of finding anything pre-1970s, but why it rocks so much is that it has managed to find rarely, if ever been worn Yves St. Laurent, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Thierry Mugler, Rykiel, etc. Always on hand is a huge rack of mostly sweaters and funky tops at 30 Euros each and another with dresses, skirts, sweater dresses, and tops at 50 Euros. I scored a never been worn, Balenciaga, navyblue silk shift dress on this rack last week. I felt like I was on candid camera and was waiting for someone to pop out and say “gotch ya!” Another item that grabbed me was a deep purple, silk YSL tunic with slightly chunky gold buttons on the sleeves. 30 Euros.

For men, well, I haven’t looked that much yet because I had to get out of there before I spent any more money on my part time budget, but someone is getting a 10 Euro Thierry Mugler tie for Christmas…maybe two of them.

So Vintage is just a nice, low-key store filled with some rare, funky finds. What’s more, there is another store at 50 Legendre, also in the 17th and another in the 19th, which is reportedly 3 floors. You’ll have to ask for the location. I was scared to ask.
There is no website.

tasty delights





For the past four weeks along a short stretch of Avenue de Clichy were dozens of little food shops celebrating the month long ritual of Ramadan. Every day they had a large assortment of cakes, breads, candies which are associated with the ritual that involves not eating all day and then feasting at night. In fact one of our favorite little Indian restaurants, non-Muslim I am quite sure, stayed open all night for those that practiced because they are good clientele.

God bless the woman who have been at home baking like mad to keep up with the supply of delicious desserts. Many of them are made with honey, nuts, philo dough to give a salty-sugary combination which I love. Another new favorite is the spongy like circular bread, like a thicker crepe, which is delicious plain or with jam. I just read that Ramadan ended today, I think I am going to miss having my newly discovered treats available at all times of the day.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Quai Branly & Palais de Tokyo





Art Reviews:

The massive Musée de Quai Branly sits across the Seine from the edgy Palais de Tokyo, which is oddly housed in the neo-classical, temple like building that is also home to the Musée d’Art Moderne. A short bridge across the river links these two institutions which can make for a worthwhile, if not convenient, few hours of exhibition viewing.

On view at the Palais de Tokyo is “The Third Mind,” an exhibition conceived by the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. Lately the expectation for disappointment fills my mind when I walk into most exhibitions these days, but happily “The Third Mind” did not let me down. It’s a smart exhibition that includes work by thirty-one artists. The show is well installed with each room showing 2-4 artists giving a smaller dialogue among a few works as well as with the theme of the exhibition as a whole.

The exhibition takes its inspiration from a quote by Napoleon Hill, who was essentially an early 20th century motivational speaker, “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible force which may be likened to a third mind,” which at one time inspired William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin to name one of their collaborations “The Third Mind.” On view is a series of these collages, which as the brochure for the show indicates, was a collaboration that explored the “cut-up,” a method in which they cut up words and images and rearranged them randomly to allow for new connections to emerge. Other highlights in the exhibition are a selection of “Screen Tests” by Andy Warhol, which include Marcel Duchamp, Susan Sontag and Allan Ginsburg among others, the moody, black and white paintings of Jay de Feo and the aluminum screen prints of Cady Noland representing newspaper images and text about the life of William Randolph Hearst as well as the assassination of President Lincoln. My favorite room however is Paul Thek, an artist’s, artist who has been somewhat overlooked until recently, and Emma Kunz, a Swiss woman born in the late 19th century who worked as a spiritual healer and who made incredible colored pencil on graph paper drawings that relate with her research into mysticism and are said to be codes for healing practice. Their work looks great together. This is what helps make “The Third Mind” a success; the mix of styles and artists represented. There is no specific aesthetic agenda being played out and some of the selections surprise at first but then seem to fall into place.

Across the river at the controversial Quai Branly is an exhibition titled “Diaspora,” organized by the French filmmaker Claire Denis. I remember seeing my first Claire Denis film, “Chocolat,” in my high school French class, and I was captivated, so I was curious to see her vision translated into the visual arts. “Diaspora” focuses on the African Diaspora, as the brochure says, “portraying it not as a loss of identity but on the contrary, as a source of enrichment through contact with new identities.” All of the work was made specifically for this exhibition.

Like most of Quai Branly, I walked through the exhibition feeling like I was high and looking for the VIP room in some disco. The dark, moody lighting interspersed with black lights and spotlights makes for a constant eye readjustment, and I felt like I continuously had my hand out towards the wall in case I ran into something. Each installation is essentially housed in a black geodesic like dome that you enter and pass through. Sound and video take center stage. The Egyptian artist Yousry Nasrallah’s film “The bottom of the lake,” with its 5 screens showing the sea, a boy swimming through underwater, rocky like environments was beautiful, poignant and meditative. Contrary to that was Caroline Cartier’s installation titled “Goguma,” in which you walk into one room of cinderblocks, a TV that is showing snowy fuzz and a wall of speakers with voices surrounding you. It gave a sensation of claustrophobia and fear, like either you have walked into some underground hideout or a prison cell. A highlight in the show is John Galliano’s installation of 4 gowns that are said to represent the influences of Africa on western haute couture. They are beautiful and eerie, made with beads, alligator skin, fur and lovely printed textiles.

The exhibition tends to feel a bit lost however. There is a quality of the show feeling like a high production value cultural theme park as you walk into each room for its message to hit you. There is no cohesion to the works and no connection among them but that they were made for this show. It’s unfortunate because it is an important, untouched subject that deserves proper viewing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Books for Thought



I love reading The Guardian because as a former New Yorker I am pretty New York Times centric and so when I occasionally shell out the 3.80 Euros for the weekend edition of the Guardian it is always a breath of fresh air and new perspective. For instance, two really interesting articles from the Saturday, October 6th edition in the Book Review:

Under ‘Biography and Memoir’: “The Original Bridget Jones,” (a descriptive I can’t stand because I only saw the movie which was a disgrace to anything resembling feminism and courage), is the biography of Katherine Whitehorn, titled “Selective Memory.”

Katherine Whitehorn was a lifelong journalist at a time when many women were shoved in the background and not allowed the real opportunities they are more often allowed now. She was a rebel, leaving school early, and in the 1950s hitchhiking around Europe and road tripping across America with boyfriends, when in the early1960s she began to accumulate several columns for writing, one of the first, for the Observer, where she wrote for many years, was about Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique.”

On the opposite page sits ‘a life in writing,’ an interview with former nun turned writer Karen Armstrong, who, as the header describes, “has dedicated her life to the study of humanity’s search for God.” She entered the convent at 17 full of hope and conviction and left at 24 filled with frustration and disillusionment at which point, thank God, she began writing. Her life of isolation that was to be in the convent is now spent in her home where she basically translates and explains religious texts and history, one of the most important titled “The History of God, A Short History of Islam and The Battle for God,” which since 9/11 has thrown her into the limelight as it provides a reading and understanding of a religion that most in the West fear without knowing and perhaps fear knowing because of the current trend to think of it is as the enemy.
In the Muslim world she is revered for helping to spread understanding of their religion, which is not based in fanaticism and hatred; she was recently given an award from President Mubarak of Egypt. And in the West she is revered because she provides a voice of reason on the subject of Islam, among so many talking heads and so much anger. She will have a post at Harvard this fall. Her newest book is titled “The Bible: the Biography,” in which she explores such themes as the “role of myth in articulating religious and spiritual truth as opposed to factual truth.”

Monday, October 8, 2007

Les Mecs du Marché





Les “Mecs” du Marché*

Housed in a very unassuming, dare I say ugly, 1970s-esqe building is the delightful Marché de Batignolles. The Marché is located about one block (I know that this term is not used in French-speak, but I have yet to find a better descriptive), from our apartment and it is where I met my met my first three friends in Paris: Monsieur vin, Monsieur fromage et Monsieur legumes, aka, “Les Mecs”. The marché is a great addition to the neighborhood. Rather than having to go to several different locations to get food, and/or settling for the Monoprix (well, yes, I love monoprix too, but that is another story), the marché holds a dozen different vendors for cheese, produce, meats, fish as well as Lebanese and Italian food products, all under one roof.

From the beginning, my several-visits a week to the marché were a source of enjoyment and diversion. My boyfriend (who I refer to as M) would offer to come with me, but I almost preferred to go alone. Of course because it is not that big, you have to select your vendors and stick with them. I couldn’t imagine having bought vegetables from one vendor and then the next day going to another. I felt too guilty and like I was cheating on them or something, so since day one, I was committed. I would do my shopping with Monsieurs vin, fromage et legumes and have brief conversations with each of them, not only to practice my French, but because they had suddenly become familiar and friendly faces. Plus, I secretly needed people to talk to besides M.

When I went grocery shopping in New York I would typically have my ipod on as I zoned out down the way-too crowded aisles at the Chelsea Whole Foods Market, but here in France food shopping is an experience in which you can ask opinions and advice about a certain tomato or goat cheese, or ask what is of the season and the answer is not only sincere, but at least five minutes long and containing some reference to origin. I came to love these exchanges and grasped for new vocabulary in order to discuss the ripeness, texture and smell of various food items. Soon Mr. Wine was asking me what I was planning to cook for dinner so he could suggest an appropriate wine. “Spicy Italian” I would say, thinking that the truth, pasta and canned tomato sauce, might be a turn off and sever our new relationship for good. I love talking with the wine guy because in fact one of my objectives while in Paris is to learn about French wines, beyond drinking them. When I first mentioned that I wanted to learn about grape characteristics, le vrai terroire of a certain chateau, etc., he didn’t dismiss me as some silly American with false hopes of understanding the legions of history involved with French wines but rather, he graciously provided relevant and interesting information. And so I slowly began working from one end of the store towards the other (by region), and having a nice little lesson in French to go with it. Granted I only understood about 40% of what was being said at first, either due to my poor French or because I was always trying to think of what I would say at the end of his sentence, but I learned, and I felt for a moment like I was talking with a friend, having a nice, relaxed conversation.

My relationship with Monsieur legumes was typically more formal at first. As he stood holding court behind the large array of fruits and veggies, I would get nervous trying to come up with the proper names of certain produce I didn’t know and which were not within an arms reach. But soon we eased into friendly familiarity too. I would ask about a certain vegetable I had not seen before. “Comment on prepare cette legume?” and he would give a precise description for preparation and other items to go along with it. He would soon indicate that the figs were particularly not-to-be missed right now and probably could leave the peaches to rest. Produce can often be a hard thing to let someone else select. I would not necessarily trust the man at the local Bodega in NYC for instance, but here, if I want an avocado ready in 2 days, he actually selects one that is good to go two days hence.

Monsieur fromage is a tall, thin man with tattoos on his arms. He is utterly professional and courteous, but I have seen him taking breaks around the marché, laughing it up with his friends. Through him we discovered the most amazing cheese that I could literally eat every day. Le Broucarou cheese is a medium hard, white cheese with a nutty, honey-esque flavor and M and I have discussed the idea of moving to Broucarou (if it’s a real place) and becoming cheese makers. His generous tastings, despite the line of people waiting, have allowed my knowledge of cheese to developed exponentially, not only making it a fun process to identify and determine the weeks selection, a good thing, but has also contributed to making my jeans tighter, which is not a good thing.

Thanks to les mecs du marché I was able to establish an immediate sense of place in Paris. There is something comforting for me about food shopping, but when it’s combined with professional, gracious people who give you the best recommendations and think to ask how your trip was to the States, it makes for the feeling of having settled into a bit of familiarity and a sense of home.

Go visit the marché des batignolles, located at 96 bis rue, lemercier, on the corner of rue brochant and rue lemercier. It is open Tuesday-Sunday 8-8, closed between1-4 for lunch. http://paris.17.evous.fr/Marche-des-Batignolles,501.html


** Mecs can be defined in English as “dudes.”

Thursday, October 4, 2007

La tuile à loup




Ceramic-madness
La Tuile à loup, www.latuilealoup is a delightful little ‘boutique unique’ located slightly off the beaten path in the 5th arrondisement. For anyone with even a minor attraction to handmade ceramics, this is a must-stop shop. Many years ago my francophile mom, who is mad for all things handmade and French, discovered La Tuile à loup and for years since our family has listened to the details about her annual pilgrimages to this Mecca of French artisan crafts. Alas, this week I made my first visit.
The main thrust of the store is artisan pottery, in all its French historical glory; Standard items such as plates, cups and bowls are evidently on hand as are spice containers, egg cups, terrines and just fabulous creations that are simply for viewing pleasure. The owner hand selects, with true passion and loving detail I might add, the work that fills the boutique. Some artisans may be working in a traditional style like the classic French countryside look of the Savoy, with its brighter colors and cute floral or animal motifs (see photo), and others are truly contemporary such as the Provencal artisans who make hand built, purposefully imperfectly shaped dishes with simple off-white glazes and black, calligraphic like markings. One my personal favorites is the ‘poterie utlitaire de la Puisaye’ (functional pottery from Puisaye), with its earthy, darker toned glazes that have a rough hewn, utilitarian look. I have a Puisaye pitcher that is used to hold a plant. I love it.

Not to be neglected is the wonderful selection of baskets, textiles and wood items also on display. Who can’t have enough sturdy French linen dishtowels or colorful cotton tablecloths from Provence? Here you can find the real deal on these items, not some bad, tourist knock-off. The boutique only has quality work which is steeped in tradition.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Velib, Je t'aime



The world looks so much better when riding a bicycle.

Today I finally hopped on one of the Velib Bicycles http://www.velib.paris.fr that are everywhere in Paris and I am as happy as a freshly baked pain au chocolat. I don't know what took me so long. I eyed them (the bikes) endlessly and kept thinking of an excursion for which the bike would be perfect to use, and at long last today was the day.

I missed my regular bike adventures in Manhattan which provided an excellent source of stress relief, yelling at clueless pedestrians and sending certain hand gestures to taxi drivers who take pleasure in nearly running over cyclists. But here in Paris, I will try to maintain my decorum and from what I can see the drivers here are slightly more relaxed then in NYC.

The introduction of these magical bikes is really the best policy that the government of Paris has put through in ages and all mayors around the world should get over here to learn more. (in fact I did see that Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley has already done so). Late summer fleets of bikes were stationed in strategic locations around the city, with the simple idea that you can take the bike and return at any other location around Paris for a small fee. You can buy a year pass online which gives you quick access to a bike with a card or you can buy a pass directly, onsite, from the machine, which has instructions in French, English and Spanish (how progressive is that), for one week or one day. 1 Euro per day. The bike comes equipped with a lock, basket, and a bell. Hello. I am in heaven.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Galleries to visit-3rd arr.



Following up from my earlier post---

Recommended Gallery Visits in the 3rd Arrondisement:

Jon Pylypchuk- Ghislaine Hussenot- www.galeriehussenot.com
Jon Pylypchuk is a Canadian artist and one of the original members of the Royal Art Lodge collective. Quirky, assemblage, creatures made from scraps of carpet, wood and other debris, who assume situations of that are at once, crude, lethargic and yet highly animated. Also on view are several works on paper using the same collage elements of paper, glitter, scraps of wood and cloth onto which he writes brief, poetic phrases that evoke sentiments that range from lonely tristesse to dark morbidity.

Enoc Perez-Galerie Nathalie Obadia-www.galerieobadia.com
An exhibition titled Faraway displays several new paintings and works on paper by the New York City based artist. Beautiful yet distant images suggestive of his native Puerto Rico include modernist hotels by the beach or still life paintings of bottles of rum, lemons and glasses. The artist selects his images through both personal and found postcards and photographs. Through a complex process of drawing and repeated layering of color made through a frottage-like or rubbing method, the paintings take on a faded-nostalgic quality, like traces of a not-to-distant past.

Yto Barrada- Galerie Polaris-www.galeriepolaris.com
A series of photos and a film by this Moroccan born photographer based on a body of work begun in the late 1990s. Images of sites near the cost in Tangiers which are in the midst of construction. These soon to be developed areas look out towards the straits of Gibraltar and their Spanish neighbor. Barrada’s point being that, unless the new generation of citizens takes action, Tangier will soon be the new Costa del Sol- a mass of cheap building development for tourist pleasure and the slow destruction of the soul of Tangier.

Gregor Hildebrandt- Galerie Almine Rech-www.galeriealminerech.com
This was my first encounter with this Berlin based artist’s work and I was really into it. He uses old cassette tapes as his central medium and source of inspiration. It may be more literal as in a wall sculpture of stacked cassettes that reflects a minimalist spirit or the work might be more poetic, using the title of the song as the springboard for large paintings that use the tape in thick, black, vinyl like layers.

From the Audible to the Visible, curated by Peter Coffin-
Galerie Frank Elbaz- www.galeriefrankelbaz.com
A selection of twenty contemporary artists whose selected work for the exhibition uses or makes reference to music in some form or another. Works vary in style and include drawings, photos, sculptures, installation, video and painting.

Sarkozy initiative



http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article2554290.ece
I thought this article was both interesting and positive for the art world in France. Certain people will kill me for giving kudos to Sarkozy, but it's a smart move by his government to announce this new plan just a few weeks before the FIAC Art Fair (www.fiacparis.com) that opens on the 18th of this month. A fair amount of tourists flock to Paris each year for their cultural consumption, but they are not going to the contemporary galleries. Some museums are trying to expand their contemporary exhibitions, and the Palais de Tokyo is a great space, but the majority of tourists and I think locals, head to the Louvre, the Musee D'Orsay, the Rodin Museum and the Picasso Museum. They are lovely places and I don't blame them- but it would be a bonus for Paris especially, to have a more developed and exciting contemporary art scene. If there was more of an incentive to buy here, you might see more inspiration on the part of museums and galleries to show artists beyond the normal roster of French “art stars” and/or their secondary market works of artists who have a main gallery elsewhere. Perhaps international art magazines might start to pay more attention to what’s going on here. There is some great talent but without an expansion on some level, the contemporary French art scene will continue to be provincial.
On a side note, I hope that Sarkozy will also be aware that in order for sales to rise, the art has to be good and that most of the interesting and talked about artists right now working in France, were not born here. I hope he remembers that diversity is essential for market expansion and for a smart, critically relevant art.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Vide Grenier


This weekend our neighborhood hosted its annual Vide Grenier, which basically translates as “empty the attic,” otherwise known as “yard sale,” or for the city folks like us, “stoop sale.” Anyone could participate and hundreds did. About 4 blocks along both sides of the street and the perimeter along half of the Parc de Batignolles was filled with people selling their junk, which others of course, love to buy. Dishes, jewelry, jackets and clothes that look like they haven’t been worn in decades, baby toys, lamps, loads of books, records and magazines and the random knick-knacks such as wooden French flag posts that you know you don’t need but somehow decide are essential in the study. Normally I love going to flea markets or the country brocant, but I was a bit tired on Sunday from a long night of red wine and whiskey in the Marais. However, M loves these things so I downed my coffee and we headed out. Once you get into the jostling rhythm of bodies and get your focus, hours seem to fly by like you are at the movies. We went out for about 2 hours, broke for lunch and a run by the atm as M found an outrageous deal on a professional camera, lens and case, and then we went back in for another round. I had to back out after about 1 ½ hours but M continued for more. We came out with some great, non-essential items like my new green, resin ring, a magazine rack, 6 new glasses, a 1970s blue ceramic vase and way too many books, including one titled “So you want to change your life,” which presumably was not helpful since it was being sold for 20 cents but we’ll see what we can make of it.



Friday, September 28, 2007

Boutiques-17th

Boutique: Désordre Urbain,
96, rue Nollet,

Désordre Urbain is a small boutique on rue Nollet. Inconspicuous on the outside, the “boutique and atelier decoration,” presents creative household items and personal accessory pieces from a variety of European designers. For the table anything from the white ceramic assiette “slice” or “plate slice” designed by the ever amazing Atypyk, www.atypyk.com, to colorful ceramic egg cups, and thin, elegant diagonal glass vases. Bright, graphic fabrics adorn pillows, aprons, tablecloths and small change purses. For the walls there is requisite display of wall stickers (a very popular item throughout Paris at the moment), but here clever versions such as large keys, an old fashioned telephone or mobiles are for sale along with flowers and tree branches, they also have little mirrors that read “fucking princess” and “welcome to my boudoir,” and would make a great gift for a friend. Creative and affordable lighting options are on display. Two particular favorites are the Lampe “Ascidie,” whose organic form constructed in white rolled paper suggests some ocean dwelling sea anemone, and the more modern Lampe Tabouret “Nomade,” which is simply a gray, cement cinder block with a light bulb placed on the lower edge. It’s sort of a reconstruction-minimalist piece that would fit in almost any home. Thankfully all of these items can be seen and purchased on their detailed website, www.desordreurbain.fr. The site is all in French but it is relatively easy to navigate.

Side note: the Atypyk site is not to be missed. I could spend hours just looking and laughing and loving everything they offer, from the wooden crucifix that serves as a door stopper to the bearskin as doormat to the rolls of shut-up tape. They are truly revolutionary.


Yoming
95, rue Nollet
Yoming was one of the first shops that grabbed my attention and shot a little spark of inspiration for Deux Frontieres, as well as for my own attempts at creating things. (Yes, you’ll soon be lucky enough to view the development of these projects and I will also be seeking your help on technical issues).
But back to Yoming)…
The owner of the boutique is a designer, primarily furniture but also fashion and household objects. The front part of the store displays some of his fantastic variations on lighting and furniture. Hanging in the window display is his take on a contemporary chandelier in which red and blue cables intertwine like a falling coils with a simple, bare bulb tucked inside. The Dada Chair is in fact a stool shrunk down Alice-in-Wonderland style. On each tiny piece are written French words such as “cul” “hop” or “la” in black text. The stools can be bought individually but the idea is to have a set to give a complete, silly French phrase such as “pose ton cul” (sit your ass down). A popular piece is the Strapbands Chair in which the seat and back of a simple, wooden dining chair have been replaced with woven bands of cream, brown and green canvas army belts with metal clasps. The canvas belts are thick and soft enough to make this chair not only original but also very comfortable. On the fashion front there are ideal overnight tote bags in sturdy cotton fabrics suggestive of vintage army uniforms in green and beige and the more unique, for lack of a better word, jumpers which are actually vintage hospital gowns (unused), which were once made in course linen and with full coverage. Here the gowns are first dyed in colors of rose, red, blue, etc. and then minimally, if at all, altered and are made to be worn as a long shirt with jeans or perhaps as mini dress with a belt and boots. The concept is truly unique and practical. Little knick-knack items such a buttons that read 'Made in Batignolles' for the lover of the 17th like me, and selection of minimalist designed silver jewelry for men or women. www.yoming.fr