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.

Mass Mutual Convention Center

P1070708hanging Drawing 2.14Three men hanging my drawing… now that is a first.  I have hung shows on my own, with friends, and even had very generous gallery helpers in the past, but this was a new experience.  I started out in the midst of the gang, doing my part, but very quickly discovered that these guys were better on their own.  So I stood back and just directed – ‘please don’t leave a gap,’ ‘please redo this one, it’s sticking out’ – that kind of thing.  Amazing.  And don’t get me started on the benefits of an electronic lift.  I am not going back to ladders, ever.  As soon as I finish this blog, I am looking at Craig’s List for my own crane.  Finally.

Rainy January Day

Apparently there is a strategy to blogging effectively, and I probably should do some research to inform myself.  But here it is a rainy, gray, somewhat sleep inducing January day when I would have preferred to be out walking at the Knightville Dam or the Northampton Reservoir, but was delayed by a series of unfortunate small, mundane life events.  So this blog will be my journey outward for this Saturday.  Untutored but hopefully satisfying.

The day began with a somewhat disconcerting chirping bleep at regular intervals from 3AM on.  Of course, it was the new hardwired smoke detector outside my bedroom door.  In my sleep sodden state I first dismantled the free standing carbon monoxide detector, hoping to solve the problem quickly and return to bed.  It was not in fact that simple, and the beeping continued until the time I emerged from a far away bedroom, figured out online how to turn off the correct circuit breaker, take a hardwired thingie apart, find what kind of batteries it needed and replace them.  Before going to the hardware store, however, to buy new perfect batteries to avoid a replay of the middle of the night issue, I decided to also remove the sump pump which had broken recently and bring it to the hardware store for a replacement model.  My friend Dan sweetly and generously dismantled the sump pump, and we brought the wet rusted thing to the bathroom to make sure it was broken.  In that process a plant managed to fall over on the floor, and the bathmat in the bath was soiled with sump pump juice and oil, now needing to be replaced.  I cleaned up the mess.

We went to the hardware store, found the correct sump pump, bought batteries, returned home to find that we needed a large wrench to take apart the old sump pump before attaching the new one.  Dan was about to go to find a larger wrench but came out to the driveway where his car had a flat tire.  He replaced the tire in the snow, I put the new batteries in the smoke detectors, turned on the electricity, went to open my window shade which seemed stuck in the down position, it unwound in my hands, cutting a finger and blood managed to leak over the whiteness of the shade.  Red blood on white snow.

Okay, I say.  There is a lesson here.  It is definitely not a good day to take any risks, for one.  A drive anywhere would be tempting fate.  I will not leave the house, at least until a reading of Linda McCullough Moore’s short story pulls me to a local venue.  But, I ask, is there some message when days like this occur?  Should we take heed?

In the meantime… I have a huge 22 foot drawing going up at the Mass Mutual Convention Center in Springfield Ma in a couple weeks and dropped it off yesterday.  My studio in an old mill in Holyoke was closed down in December after my being there for 25 years, so I will be looking for new space in the Northampton area this spring.  And, most exciting,  I am off to a writing residency at La Napoule on the Mediterranean near Cannes in France for the month of March.  It’s at a castle right on the water.  I am thrilled.  I guess there have to be rainy days like this to let the other days feel like magic.  Uh oh… is that a chirping sound I hear coming out of ….