Les rencontres fortuites

March 7th

” The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay, I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café”–Oscar Hammerstein II

Today is my favorite day in Paris so far! Nothing can better describe my day more than “full of chance encounters”. It was raining on and off the whole day. After morning class, I went to see a temporary art show about the early career of the Renaissance painter Tintoret at the Musée du Luxembourg. Since there is no permanent exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg, I was fortunate enough to be in Paris and near the museum on the first day of this well-curated exhibition about a true Italian master. FullSizeRender 5.jpgFullSizeRender 4.jpg

My favorite works in the exhibition

After this fortunate encounter, I headed to the Latin Quarter. I originally planned to have a light lunch at the Shakepeare & Company Café after browsing through the collection at the famous bookstore Shakespeare & Company. Yet, as I got off the métro at Saint-Michel square, I was immediately engrossed by the numerous bookstores in the region. I wandered freely among the shelves, looking for a familiar or interesting title that catches my eye. I especially liked the second-hand book section because there particularly, I felt like a true wanderer and traveller: I was looking for something I don’t know yet, a familiar name, a beautifully adored cover, but even more so for a sense of personal connection with the stranger who owned and loved the same books I now enjoy .It is because of the possibility of these unexpected yet pleasant encounters with people and things in a foreign land and the incredible bliss I feel when such encounters happen that I long passionately for solo journeys to unknown places.

Over the days, I have gradually become better at the practice of becoming a “true Parisian” not just a “rushed visitor”. After picking up a few old books, I decided to sit down for at the Shakepeare & Company Café for some afternoon tea and leisure reading. Even on a rainy afternoon, the outside seats truly offers the most pleasant experience and the best scenery. Sitting under the shelter of huge outdoor umbrellas, casually sipping tea and reading a good book, I can see the famous Notre-Dame de Paris when I raise my gaze from the book from time to time. It is truly an inspiring and refreshing leisure unique to Paris! No wonder so many elite writers, philosophers, artists came to live in Paris to find novel ideas!FullSizeRender 5.jpgFullSizeRender 6.jpg

tea at Shakepeare & Company Café

Afterwards, I visited two churches really close to each other but of very different styles: Église Saint-Sevérin and Église Saint Julien le pauvreIMG_6486.JPG

One of the many stunning stained glasses at Eglise Saint-Sevérin

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The more tranquil and modest Église Saint Julien le pauvre

After all these days in Paris, I have found my self much more comfortable with the local lifestyle and much more closer to my ideal of wandering solo traveller looking for adventures, surprises, and exciting encounters!

Summer

First day and Ava DuVernay!?

Today is my second full day at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s been great so far. Not only have I met a ton of people in the museum’s education department who are super passionate about art, I’ve also been able to clean up and update the Teen Program’s Digital Artizens website. The site is a collection of intersectional feminist art, thoughts, and writing, all by teenagers! As a teenage activist and art lover, this is an exciting project for me to take on.

Yesterday after Intersextions, a paid internship at the museum for LGBTQ+ teens, all of the teen staff went to a special preview of Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle In Time at the Lincoln Center! Ava DuVernay is a black female director who is known for directing Selma and The Thirteenth, both serious movies about black identity and civil rights in America. A Wrinkle In Time however is a children’s fantasy movie, starring a black girl as the main character! After the film, Ava answered audience questions. I was starstruck! She’s such an inspiration and a trailblazer as a black female director. It’s so exciting to see her unique lens set upon such a classic children’s novel, and in addition, the movie was great!

Love,

 

Jay ❤

 

L’avant scène

March 5th and 6th

“We must all do theater to find out who we are, and to discover who we can become.”–Augusto Boal

Yesterday was the first day of my classes with the Alliance Française. This week our theme for the class is the theater, which cannot be more convenient for me because I plan to attend a play at the famous Comedié Française this Sunday. During the first class, we covered many vocabularies related to theater (the personage in the troupe, places in the theater, parts of play). As a person who had not worked in a Westtown theater production, I was only a little surprised to find that I don’t even know the English word for many of the vocabularies. As a result, I had to look up the English word for “the person who moves the props between scenes,” “the person who help the actor get dressed” etc. before trying to figure out the correct word in French theater. This means that I have to spend more time finishing my homework, but at the same time, I learned so much more about the different parts that go into a successful reproduction of a play and feel so much more prepared for my adventure to the Comédie Française this Sunday.

ff13492aecbb1830c8c37a588862e1df.jpgThe favorite idea I’ve learned from this first class is that “une pièce de théâtre n’est finie que jusqu’a les comediens le presentent aux spectateurs” (a theater piece is not finished until the actors present it to the audience). This quote emphasizes the important role of the director and the actors’ reinterpretation of the original script. In a piece of theater, the playwright only sets up the “body” for the personage, but it is the actual production and the people who participate in it that gives the characters their spirit. The life experience the actors, the metteur en scène, and the individual spectator can change the meaning of the play a lot. At the same time, our interpretation of the play can tell us a lot about ourselves. Thus, the quote, we must all do theater, as actors, as directors, or as active spectators to discover who we are and who we can be.

The same principle of active participation and interpretation can also be applied to my adventures in Paris. Paris is different for each visitor and inhabitant for it is so diverse that everyone can draw an unique connection with Paris. Given my interest in humanities, my encounter with Paris is more an exploration of Paris’ history and culture. In the past two days, I’ve explored Abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-PrésÉglise Saint-Sulpice, Musée national Eugène-Delacroix, Jardin Luxembourg, Cimetière du Montparnasse, Musée Bourdelle etc. Because of my interest in languages, classics, and history, I payed special attention to the Latin inscriptions in the churches and cemetery I visited and was especially grateful to be able to do a complimentary guided tour in French about Eugène Delacroix’s oriental studies at the Musée national Eugène-Delacroix. IMG_6348.JPG

Middle: Latin inscription on the tomb of Descartes

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Interior of Église Saint-Sulpice

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palace and garden of Luxembourg

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my favorite work of Antoine Bourdelle at Musée Bourdelle

The past few days Paris has offered me many pleasant surprises. I’m super excited for my future adventures at Paris!

Summer

Back from Ghana – Kevin

Well, we made it back safely to the U.S. yesterday, and it’s safe to say that all of us were incredibly sad to leave Ghana and Heritage Academy. The kids were all so wonderful, and there were some tears from a few of our group members and a few Heritage students at our farewell on Monday.

The last week of teaching for me was, in general, great. Most of the children finished up their books, and those that are finished have a permanent place in the Heritage Academy library. Given the fact that practically none of these children have ever taken an art class before, many of them can draw extremely well. The only thing I found surprising, and a little annoying, was that the children couldn’t figure out how to share the materials I had gotten for them (colored pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers, etc…). I would have expected this from much younger children, but certainly not from 13-14 year olds. Seeing as that was really the only problem that I had to deal with in my class, I’d say the entire teaching experience was definitely positive. I am especially proud of my J1B class (7th grade), who are (because of test scores) classified as the more remedial of the two J1 classes, because their work ethic is significantly higher than any other group of students I have met. Not only did all of the students in J1B finish their work by Friday afternoon, but they managed to do it all in fewer class periods. Some of the students in that class even finished their books the night that I assigned them. Although I think that I’ve known this for a while, it was great to see an example, showing that test scores don’t always reflect intelligence and that a hard work ethic is probably one of the most important tools to have in life.

I took pictures of all the books that the children made so that I could remember what they looked like, and I will post some of them on this blog soon, so that you all can read and enjoy them as well.

In addition to teaching, we have also been working hard to make the cinderblocks that will eventually be used to build the secondary school (high school). We made a total of 315 blocks in our short 2 week visit, and according to T. Kwesi the secondary school will be up and running this September, just in time for the new school year.

Again, we were all heartbroken that we had to leave after such a short time, but I can guarantee that many, if not all, are planning on going back as soon as possible.

-Kevin

Week One at the Studio

Emily here –

I like to think that 90% of writing is living, and these past three days have been full of it.

After my return from Barcelona, I had a few hours of catchup before starting the next day with my commute to New York City, where my art teacher helped me find an exciting internship in the artist Donald Baechler’s studio, where the other assistants and I help him with his paintings, prints and sculptures, along with various bookkeeping and organizational tasks. Like all of the other assistants, I am an artist (though still, in many ways, aspiring) and I look to Donald as a sage of sorts: he is an extremely prolific painter and is highly respected both inside the art world and out.

Donald’s work can be seen in the Whitney Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the New York Public Library, the Museum of Fine Art, the Philadelphia Museum, and in countless other museums across the world. He has had almost innumerable solo and group exhibitions worldwide, with his work selling for almost ungodly amounts to the worldly elite (I saw in looking through inventory that even James Brown owns a painting!). More even than the numbers, though, Donald’s character demands respect. His quiet wisdom endears him to anyone he meets, while his Quaker sensibility puts them at ease, drawing even the least learned to his adroitly perfected level.

Starting Wednesday morning, my internship gradually turned from general introductions and thumb twirling to interesting conversations and independent organizational help: most of which meant sorting and unpacking the hidden clutter after a group gallery tour with the Museum of Modern Art in NY. I discussed: recent works by Vik Muniz and Christian Marclay, the state of NGOs in Haiti and across the world, and a recent article in The New Yorker that explored Scientology from an insider’s perspective, all while I was bent over a long, wooden, Chipotle-covered table with Donald and the other assistants. They invited me to gallery shows that they were having or were going to, and offered to show me their own studios whenever I had the chance.

I finished up work at 7:00 and went to meet my friend Allegra, once a classmate of mine at Westtown, who’s now living in the city with her boyfriend. We went to the ever-chic Ace Hotel, for some of the best cappuccinos in Manhattan, where we reconnected over the bustle of the lobby. The ambiance was incredible: a seductive vocalist purred along with the half-hidden jazz band, undulating in perfect harmony with the crowds and the talk and the rolling laughter. I capped my first day with vegan dumplings and a sleepy train ride back to New Jersey, wishing more than ever I didn’t have to leave so magical a place.

Thursday was spent with Donald at Pace Prints, the print studio associated with the Pace Gallery (which, according to Donald, is among the five most important galleries in the city), where we worked on a series of ‘crowd’ monoprints. The crowd is a subject matter relentlessly reworked by Donald; because of its versatility it’s become one of my favorites of his subject matters. For this project, Donald made a series of nearly 70 woodcut faces and skulls (‘Just two eyes, a mouth and a nose,’ as he says), which were arranged like puzzle pieces, inked, and printed on handmade paper. Most of the faces were layered with Chine Colle, a process that glues rice paper under the ink and onto a page during the printing process. This gave the opportunity for the negative space of each face to be a different color, despite the monochromatic inking.

My job during the majority of this was to cut the different colored rice papers to fit the templates of specific heads before they were printed. I was able to choose the color that I thought would best suit each face, and that would correlate with the colors of the surrounding faces. While tedious, the job was fun and collaborative; I met lots of interesting, young printmakers and I learned much more about a medium that I’d though I knew almost everything about. More importantly, though, I felt like, while discreetly, the job I had was making an important mark on the final product, as if it were a signature of sorts.

Thursday’s workday ran late as well; after leaving the studio at 7:00 I ran to Utrecht to pick up supplies before walking to the East Village for dinner with Allegra and friends.

Today was the quietest day of them all; there was only one assistant in the studio other than me, excluding Donald’s personal assistant, who stopped in for a few hours this morning. With no significant work to do, I worked on personal projects until Donald arrived at 2:00 (I arrive around 11:00), and chatted with the other assistant.

When Donald arrived, he talked to us for the majority of the time, showing us pictures of paintings sculptures that he was interested in buying or that he held in high renown. Towards the end of the work day, I helped him sign an edition of prints he’d made while he was in Barcelona a few years ago, which he wants me and one of the other assistants to begin cataloguing in coming days.

After work, I went with Erin, a coworker, to the opening of a show that she and another coworker were in at the Canada Gallery. The opening was packed with exotically-dressed twenty-somethings and smelled like stale beer, but it had a feeling of general excitement and creativity. The show was a collaboration of 20 artists, who made a highly conceptual film, and displayed with it pieces of unrelated art.

A bit overwhelmed by the density of strangers, I left rather quickly, taking the subway back uptown to Penn Station, from where I headed home. Once home, I met with a few friends in their apartment down the street, and we listened to jazz music while talking about our plans for tomorrow, which you’ll hear about soon enough!

Until then,

Emily

An Artist Looking for the Edge

Hi all!

I’m Emily, a senior from Summit, NJ, counting down the days until my senior project begins! Because visual art has been an important part of my life since childhood, my goal for this spring is to learn what it’s like to be a part of a larger art community, by surrounding myself with professional painters and studio artists, and by exploring New York City and Barcelona’s renown museums.

My project was initially going to be spent living at home and commuting into New York City, where I’ll work as a studio assistant for Westtown alum and professional painter Donald Baechler, whose work can be seen at http://baechlerstudio.com . While that’s still going to happen, my list of possibilities has only grown with time! Christmas brought a surprise, 5 day vacation to Barcelona, Spain, where I can combine my love for artists like Miró and Gaudi with my interest in Spanish language, which I am taking at Westtown.

Once back home, I will rendezvous with Donald, who has offered me a chunk of his 2nd floor studio as my own studio space in exchange for working as one of his studio assistants, where I will work with Donald and other artists to build up layers of collage that Donald will later paint pop-art-esque designs over.

In addition to working with Donald, I hope to also spend time visiting some of my favorite New York museums and assisting my godfather and his partner in their floral and party design business, Ron Wendt Designs (ronwendtdesign.com) where they design high-end weddings, corporate events and private parties for esteemed clients like Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Hermes, the New York Stock Exchange, and many others.

Meanwhile, I intend to blog and create work of my own, both in the visual journals and artists books that I create, and in paintings and prints inspired by the diversity of my surroundings.

All in all, my senior project is going to be a cacophony of creativity and inspiration, helping me explore the boundaries of what it means to be an artist and decide whether the life of an artistic professional is the life for me.

Thanks for subscribing, and I hope to have much more to say in two weeks!

-Emily