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June 2010 Archives

June 3, 2010

Memorial Day at les Invalides

Peter's suggestion for a visit to les Invalides on Memorial Day seemed appropriate, since the complex of buildings houses the military history of France, and by extension, its allies. Our plan was to revisit the exhibit devoted to WWII resistance efforts, which we had found particularly interesting the last time we were there. This time however, it was closed for renovation. Instead, along with quite a few other English-speaking people with the same idea, we found a fairly new and very extensive exhibit devoted to World Wars 1 and 2. Reading through the history of both wars, battle by battle, and seeing the related photographs and artifacts made for a different, more involved and more emotional Memorial Day than we anticipated.

For years, we haven't done anything related to Memorial Day on the 30th, though as a child I remember more recognition of the specific day. Up in Orange, we would dig out the tall wicker baskets from over the garage that we used for flower arrangements to put on the graves of all our relatives. The baskets were probably better than two feet tall, including the handle, with pins sort of like tent stakes, that stuck down through holes in the base to hold them firmly in the ground. Grandma Pete and I would go down to the florist at the bottom of the hill to pick out bunches of flowers of all colors, nice and tall to fill the big baskets, and then supplement them with wild flowers that I gathered in the woods behind the house. Next, down in the cool basement, we'd fill all the wicker baskets, make a few simple wildflower arrangements in smaller vases, load everything into the car and drive them up to the cemetery above Lake Mattawa. There we'd place each on one of the family tombstones, making sure they were firmly anchored and wouldn't tip over in the wind. Later in the day, according to the schedule of cemetery visits published in the newspaper, we'd go back for the ceremony. There would be a small parade of veterans, a minister who delivered a few words remembering those who had died in war, and a gun salute to mark the ceremony's end as the parade left in silence. Usually the day was bright and sunny, all the graves were decorated, people were milling about chatting and kids were running around. Though the firing of the rifles at the end was a reminder of the day's meaning, the bright skies and thoughts of the traditional family picnic to follow interfered. At les Invalides, we had none of that to detract and the results of war, with its atrocities and sacrifices, came through powerfully.

Back home the next day we came across Howard Mansfield's Globe editorial equating "Decoration Day, as it was once known" with "the opening bell of summer, its meaning lost in the three-day weekend." He called for a return to a more thoughtful holiday and we're in agreement; we already got a start on it.

June 5, 2010

Studio in Paris

Our studio was a wonderful place in a great central location, with everything we needed but not a thing extra. The only drawbacks, and then only if you were over 5'5", were low beams and a very low front door. Needless to say, there was one unfortunate encounter between a 6'2" visitor and the door header, but only one. Experience is a good teacher. One of our last nights there, we were even treated to a band concert right outside our door. Photos show how well the space was put to use.

June 7, 2010

Montmartre Street Art by Pitr

What first caught my eye was a black-painted head, low down on the wall of an alley as I walked by. I was almost past the alley when I noticed there was also someone kneeling next to the head, looking through a large portfolio of what turned out to be stencils. Next to him were several cans of spray paint and I realized I was about to see a piece of street art in the making. Peter was now out of sight, well ahead of me, so I took a couple of quick photos and hurried to find him. I knew he'd be as interested as I was in watching the artist work.

When we got back to the alley, nothing had changed. The artist kept sticking his finger on the thick coat of black spray paint, waiting impatiently for it to dry enough to begin the next step. Finally it passed the finger touch, and he selected a stencil to tape on top of the black base. Once it was in position, he grabbed a can of gray spray paint for the next layer. This continued for a couple more stencils as the crowd of watchers grew larger. We were right in front with a good view that was suddenly filled by two gendarmes pushing their way through to confront the artist. It didn't matter that we couldn't hear the conversation, nor understand the French anyway, we knew what was about to happen. At that point, an older woman pushed through the crowd and began to speak with the police as well. I thought she must have been the person who called them, and after watching a bit more, we left to continue our neighborhood walk.

Montmartre is full of winding streets often connected by steep sets of stairs, like those you find in the metro stations but without the escalators. We headed down a nearby set, and at the bottom, found another stenciled face, that looked like it might have been recently completed and was signed Pitr. We spent some time shooting the street art piece and looking around a bit more, but decided to climb back up, wishing at every step for an escalator.

Surprise, surprise. Back at the alley, the gendarmes were gone and the artist was still there, layering on another stencil. We wormed back into the crowd, up close enough to continue taking pictures of his progress. I'm guessing he used as many as ten different stencils, maybe more, building up layer by layer, to develop the detail of a slightly photoshopped portrait. That made me wonder if he actually uses photoshop layers in some way to make his stencils. However he does it though, lugging everything around in his backpack, applying the stencils in the right order, keeping track of the subtly different gray colors, and dealing with the public and police, puts it rightfully into the category of street art. Perhaps that's what the woman who joined the conversation with the gendarmes told them; she wasn't complaining about graffiti, she was promoting street art. That's what I suspect now because after the artist tagged his final version, Pitr, he walked off, chatting away with that same woman. See our photos of the whole process.

Update: Peter counted the stencils and there were only five.

About June 2010

This page contains all entries posted to hey jud in June 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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