Monthly Archives: March 2014

Leaving La Napoule

panorama-la-napoule-rocks-reducedVilla-Marguerite-2014Sad, sad. An ending of a quite spectacular residency. The artist group has become ‘family,’ and last night partied the night away in a celebration of our month here at La Napoule. Everyone has finally finished presenting his or her work to the group, always after a huge French meal offered by the lovely chef and all around housekeeper, Lise. Once dinner was over and we plopped ourselves down on the huge green couches in the Villa Marguerite, it was a challenge to remain awake for the slideshows and talks, but aside from the contest of who could put the most folks asleep the quickest, it was a treat to see and discuss each other’s artwork. For those of us writers, part of the challenge became finding a way to describe our work for people who didn’t understand our language. Also a lovely experience… how does one tell a story knowing that the listener has minimal English? With Carmen, the Romanian, we listened to her poems in the Romanian language just for the sound, the music, and she attempted to translate into English, which gave us simply a taste, un gout, of the possibilities.

As for the proletarian yacht, it launched successfully, leaving its berth, not the accurate nautical term I am sure, between other large yachts and managed a spin around the marina, parking here and there to make a statement. The three sailors, yachtsmen, drank wine in wineglasses and spread cheer as they maneuvered the wooden platform, more like a raft than a boat, through the choppy water and carried messages of international cooperation, with their flags from all our various home countries. Given the scene in the world as we end our residency, this may be the best spot to be for glasnost and cooperation. I have been keeping track of the Ukrainian situation, especially since our Russian artist, Tatiana, lives near the area of conflict.

I, also, had my moments of great elation. My graphic storybook is going great guns and is exciting for me, albeit it won’t be a best seller given the subject matter… growing up with a Holocaust survivor mom who becomes mentally ill. But, hey, lots of graphic books are about hard stuff, right? And I came up with an outline for my next real book, similar in fact to the graphic book, but more research oriented about the legacy of mental illness on the ensuing generation. Not a ton has been written about that, as compared with children of alcoholics, etc. I also managed a couple quick trips to Menton to do archival family research, since my father lived there at the end of his life. Lots of time weaving my way around the maze of winding streets in the old city trying to find a specific house, and also dealing with various town officials. I don’t think they enjoyed my less than impressive French…

As for the found object part of my work… I managed to create a scroll of our adventures here at La Napoule, which I will share at open studios tonight, and wrote a long short story related to the history of the chateau and its owners. This one is an homage to Molière and a farce, and, most importantly, it’s fiction.

What will I take from this time? Something about beauty, something about the cumulative value of having day after day open and free for making art, contemplating, imagining, and, perhaps most surprisingly, something about the amazing changes that can happen, like chemistry, when you gather together nine completely disparate people and ask them to live for a month as a group. Assumptions are challenged, connections are made, irritations come and go, but something is created that has its own form, larger and more profound than the nine individual parts.

I will leave this place with rich memories and the sense that when I look back at my time here at La Napoule, it too will remain almost a fiction, like in a dream.

(The image below is from Salle Ecole de Nice at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art at Nice, France)

At Chateau La Napoule

Chateau and Alps

Chateau and Alps

Arrival at La Napoule residency next to Cannes in France. I had already spent four days with my cousins in Paris, also meeting with some folks about possible future projects in France for me. So far just thinking.

So I arrive by plane in Nice and then to La Napoule, a medieval chateau that was refurbished completely by an American family, Henry and Marie Clews, in the early 20th century. Henry was a sculptor and Marie a singer with architectural chops who directed the renewal. As you can see by the photos, it is beyond belief gorgeous. The artists stay in the Villa Marguerite next door to the chateau, facing the Mediterranean Sea. Yes.

This is clearly the most beautiful residency I have ever attended, and the group turns out to be varied and sympa, French for sympathetique, I think. There is a Russian, a Romanian, a Spaniard, a Canadian, three from the U.S., and an Italian. Mostly visual artists, but a poet and I fill the writing category. I will actually work in both media. A choreographer from San Francisco is due to arrive today to finish the group of nine.

The group almost immediately leans in the direction of trash art, or more politely put, found object art created in situ (on site). An idea emerges… let’s make a boat, a socio-economic commentary on the yachts surrounding us at all the docks on the ocean. A proletarian boat, but it has to be seaworthy and travel at least long enough to deposit some of us on a neighboring quai. Should it be a catamaran for stability, or a canoe shape? A group enterprise. And the found object/trash angle seems quite hip.

The Romanian poet comes bearing gifts from her country. I am very moved… there is a flag, a red and white beaded bracelet for each of us representing the spring flowers and the light, or spirit; there is a glass orb containing various beautiful colored pieces of glass inside, and most impressively, there is a real egg for Easter hand painted… absolutely gorgeous and fragile. And Carmen offers us each a book of her poems in Romanian and French. Amazing. We will all wear the red and white bracelets as our symbol of unity.

I had imagined working on a small graphic story book about my mother, and also divorce. Maybe two separate stories. And I had brought images from early paintings that express some feeling about particular moments with my mom. And in the marriage. But the trash angle begins to influence me, and I think perhaps I need to find something here, something found, with which to create work. Will it come to be? Like the proletarian boat, I would like to believe so.