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)