My Birthday in Paris, Part 4

The Splendor of Musee d’Orsay

On Friday of our astounding week in Paris we visited the Musee d’Orsay, an enormous  destination that is now dear to my heart. The famous clock, that spot-on perfect icon that defines this museum in the minds of folks who are passionate about art history was clearly visible and unmistakable as we approached from a bridge on the right bank crossing over the Seine to the left, an easy walk from our hotel in St Germaine. What better symbol, what better icon, to identify such a priceless location commemorating the very passage of time and the treasures therein? What time has given us is personified in Paris and its museums. All that is right in the world of art, antiques, fashion, food, design, music, literature, treasures small and large and tradition I found in abundance during our week of wandering this gorgeous city. A city that remains easy to explore, welcoming, comfortable and always extraordinary in its offerings.

The gigantic rotunda of this museum might reveal that it was once a railway station built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle but by 1939 rail travel ceased at this building. Later from 1848 to 1914 the government set about transforming it it to what became the country’s premier showcase for art. It is grand and glorious but not uncomfortably so, with comfy beanbag chairs accessible for relaxing in the upstairs space where you see the interior photo of the window clock, which reveals an amazing panorama of the city’s Montmartre area including the Sacre-Coeur. It was nearly shrouded by fog the day we were there….

As with the Louvre and its Mona Lisa, I had one primary goal in the Musee d’Orsay and that was Degas’s ballerina sculpture titled Little Dancer. Once again, blotting tears streaming down my cheeks, I walked around and around her as I remembered my own tiny dancer daughter when she was in the Nutcracker at Denver’s Christmas season years ago. I have always been a fan of Degas, and this sculpture is tres magnifique and especially realistic with its unusual addition of a pale peach-colored gauzy  tutu and a wide satin hair-ribbon to match that have remained almost unscathed since it was incorporated into the 1880 sculpture. The young girl depicted in the sculpture is a fourteen year old Belgian, a student at the Paris Opera Ballet School of that time named Marie van Goethem. Little did she know that she would live forever in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and become a worldwide symbol of the ballet. Degas’s huge body of work portrays many ballet scenes; this one is by far his claim to fame.

I also viewed more Van Gogh’s than I had ever seen in one space that day in the Musee d’Orsay, as well as Manet, Monet, Renoir, Gauguin and many others who were made real to me through my viewing of their Impressionistic art.

To be so fortunate, so blessed and so enlightened on one day in Paris, just one day out of seven, was rare and immensely joyful for me. I am forever changed by it and thankful that my daughter sent me there for my birthday. If you read my own grown-up ballerina’s travel blog here on WordPress at http://www.compassandcamera.wordpress you will be reminded that she wrote about my mother’s (and her grandmother’s) trip to Europe of many years ago including a trip to Paris, based upon the postcards she sent home. Of course my daughter has also been to Paris, included with many other countrys on her travel resume.

Hhmm…. this Paris thing is a golden heirloom thread running through our family now and it is no accident believe me. We women know where to go and what to see that will enrich our lives and add to our appreciation for the life we have been given and the very brief time we have here on earth in which to live it….. I wish for all of you a trip to Paris.

For additional photos of Paris please follow me on Instagram at “the creative epiphany” Jo Ann Brown-Scott

 

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The Spell of Paris, Part Three

Oh Paris I am deep under your spell. Seven days spent in your magical bubble took me entirely away from all practical considerations into the sublime realm of the ancient and the artistic. I felt almost the same visiting Rome and Florence only different. Paris is different. Different in what way is the question I continue to ask myself…how can one define Paris?

Paris is a celebration, a happening, an event unto itself. People go to Paris to commemorate an enormous occasion, or as a second time, longed-for treasured gift of a trip because they cannot stay away…Paris is made of romance, of visual delights, of a longing for quiet strolls along the Seine and magnificent museums, outdoor cafes (no matter the weather) with bread,cheese & wine and people watching. Paris is a beautiful lady bearing timeless glittering gifts inside long and lovely evenings. She welcomed us with open arms and we were never treated as tourists. People actually spoke to us for no reason and helped us and giggled with us about our feeble attempts at the language. We never felt ridiculed or laughed at. I don’t quite know where Parisiannes got the bad rap for being aloof and cynical because we saw none of that.

Our second day in Paris began with a 10 am reservation at the Louvre, located just across the Seine from us, looming as a magnificent iconic monument  in the distance as we walked toward the glass pyramid by noted American architect IM Pei. When we entered I was overtaken by emotion, awed by the sheer size and reverence I have for the most splendid of all museums, I believe. Please visit my Instagram account for a more extensive selection of photographs from Paris at The Creative Epiphany, Jo Ann Brown-Scott

If we had devoted our entire week in Paris to only the Louvre, we still would not have seen everything. The foremost item on my list was absolutely the Mona Lisa and yet I was transfixed by the rooms along the way that contained ancient sculpture including Michelangelo’s Dying Slave and Roman artifacts such as the bathtub pictured above. The Winged Victory of Samothrace, a superb Hellenistic sculpture from the second century BC which we studied extensively in my art history class at CU in Boulder took me by surprise as we walked the stairs toward her. Full body chills – it has been a very long time but I finally saw her in the flesh, and she is amazing, especially the draping of her robes so expertly executed in marble.

The ceilings in the Louvre are ornate and fascinating – floors and ceilings will be a fascination for me my entire life and I was mesmerized and in pain from looking up for such long periods of time in Paris, but every bit worth the discomfort.

The Mona Lisa was as I expected with so much more – enigmatic, hypnotizing, eyes seeming to follow you as you walk from side to side. In the newly published book I read before leaving home titled Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) by Walter Isaacson I learned all the newest and re-learned the oldest information about this famous painting and so I came to the Louvre with some questions answered and other new ones to ask…. Leonardo was indeed a complex and multi-faceted artist and inventor and scientist of his time and right up until now, time itself having enhanced respect and admiration for his insightful, ingenious  discoveries. But his brilliant, delicate rendering of this mysterious woman remains as his most iconic work. The gift shop was dominated by all things Mona Lisa – it was rather humorous to see just how many items could display that unforgettable Mona Lisa smile. She is charming and shrouded in mystery.

After leaving the Louvre on that windy cold day we ate lunch at La Fregate along the Seine and I had the Frenchiest French onion soup I had ever eaten in a French cafe. After lunch we walked miles and took in the sights before having dinner at a favorite location back in our St. Germain neighborhood – Les Deux Magot. I highly recommend it – great food and people watching, frequented by sophisticated and prominent locals, as we discovered when it began to snow in big cottonball flakes and the local Parisiannes began to honk their horns and laugh and whoop it up as if they were 7 years old! Snow is rare in the City of Lights and it was so much fun to watch! Our favorite little church across the street was gorgeous in the indigo blue evening with snow blowing in swirls around it. It was the perfect ending to our second day in Paris. I am the luckiest girl in the world!

 

Siem Reap, Cambodia – Textures of Angkor Wat

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If you get off on color, pattern and texture as do I in my mixed media collage artwork and my contemporary abstracts, well then Angkor Wat can offer you a plentiful selection of all three of those as well as inspiration for color ideas ranging from weathered reds to terra cottas, burnt siennas and other shades of orange – originally all the structures were painted. The very high relief of the sandstone sculpture is astounding and reflects the sophistication of each temple’s design preferences. Simple carvings remained lower to the ground, for easy access by the common people; carvings increased in complexity the higher they got on the temple wall with the simple fact that it took more educated people who lived in the upper chambers to read them. To complicate matters, speaking in terms of art history, the historically Hindu Angkor Wat includes an invasion of Buddhists who breezed onto the scene sometime around the 14th or 15th century and proceeded to conquer and destroy all Hindu references to the Hindu god Vishnu! Modifying (smashing) the faces, headdresses, leg positions and arm placement of seated figures and transforming them to Buddhist! It is an abomination – and a horrible attempt – clearly an obvious and disgusting falsification of important art, and Angkor Wat remains Buddhist to the present day. One can easily see with the naked eye the areas where these uncharacteristically violent Buddhist changes were made in the carvings.