April in Paris

A spring trip to Paris
I recently returned from a few days in Paris, one of my favorite cities. There was a great deal of walking, a lot of delicious things to eat, and delightful companionship. I got drenched in a sudden cloudburst the day I arrived, but otherwise the weather was nicely cooperative. All around, a dandy trip.

One of the things I wanted to do was to see the new exhibit at the Musée Picasso. He’s not my favorite artist, but the man certainly had a large impact on 20th-century art, and this year marks the 50th anniversary since his death. Exhibits abound, but this one promised to be unique for two reasons. One, this museum holds a huge collection of Picasso works, covering the full range of his life, as well as the remarkably broad range of art forms he worked in. Two, this exhibit is the work of British designer Paul Smith, and I thought it would be interesting to see how he chose to display the art.

The exhibit opens in a room whose walls are fully papered with reproductions of older covers of Vogue magazine. Picasso liked to, um, enhance Vogue covers, and many of his designs were displayed in this room.

From here, each room represented either a different period of Picasso’s life, or a unique art form that he explored. Each of the rooms had its own full wall treatment, which created a more immersive experience than I usually have in museums. I felt as if I were part of the art being shown, maybe even one of Picasso’s subjects. Rather than just looking at the art, I was somehow part of the art itself. The following photographs give an idea of what we saw.

The room for Picasso’s Blue Period was completely painted in a deep midnight blue.
Two different spaces, two different treatments. On the left, a room striped in old-fashioned wallpaper to reflect the textures and colors of the paintings shown there. On the right, an iconic harlequin (Pierrot) figure lends his diamond pattern to the walls. The model is Picasso’s son Paulo.
Picasso was fascinated by bullfighting, and depicted many aspects of the blood sport throughout his life. This room was entirely deep red, and the art included bronze sculptures of bulls, as well as black and white illustrations of the bullfights.
Picasso was always interested in ceramics, and when he moved to Vallauris, near Nice, he began a lifelong exploration of various techniques in the art of pottery. The walls of this room were covered by plain, mass-produced white dinner plates, providing a nice foil for showing off Picasso’s creativity and artistry.
One room, lots of stripes, each wall a different color. It was fantastic!
One of Picasso’s last works, “The Young Painter,” 1972.

The exhibit is “Picasso Celebration: The Collection in a New Light,” until 27 August 2023, at the Musée Picasso in Paris. The opening photograph is by Robert Doisneau, made in 1952 in Picasso’s Vallauris pottery studio.

Paris is a supremely walkable city, and here are some random photographs from a few days of strolling and exploring.

The exquisite painted ceiling of my favorite Paris bakery, Du Pain et des Idées. The Belle-Époque décor is typical of Parisian bakeries from the late 19th century.
The Smoking Dog is one of the older Parisian restaurants, dating to 1740.
That’s a chain link fence. It stands outside the entrance to the Haute École de Joaillerie, a prestigious jewelry design school.

Parting Shot
Doesn’t every town need a Silly Street? I think so.

Shutter dogs of March

What’s a shutter dog?
A shutter dog is a piece of hardware mounted to the outside wall of a building, and it’s designed to hold a shutter open so the shutter doesn’t flap around in the wind. If you do an online search for “shutter dog,” you’ll get results for hardware companies and blacksmiths who make hardware that goes by several names: tieback, holdback, hold-opens, shutter stays, and my favorite, shutter dogs.

Here in France, the term for a shutter dog is arrêt de volet (shutter stop) or the more colorful bergère de volet (shutter shepherdess). We also see tête de bergère (shepherdess head), or when the head is obviously male, it’s a tête de berger. The word is pronounced bair-jhair.

I think they’re wonderful, and I stop to photograph them often enough that I have a pretty good collection of photos. Now I only make a photo when I see a form that I don’t already have, or when the color or setting is interesting.

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Color of the Year

Pantone’s Color of the Year
Every so often, I write about the Pantone color of the year. It’s a little piece of light news amidst what is otherwise a not-so-fun news cycle.

For those who haven’t heard of Pantone, it’s an American company with a color matching system that’s widely used across the fields of graphic design, printing, fashion, product design, textiles and manufacturing.

Cue the drumroll

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Driven to abstraction

Abstract photography
Something catches my eye, and I turn my camera toward it. I move closer; I look from various angles. I move even closer. I get as close as I can, and through the lens, I see a whole new world: the slightly torn edge of a wine bottle label, or the shapes that happen when paint peels from a window shutter.

Sometimes the first thing I see is the best photograph, but that’s rare. With a little more effort, I can usually tease out a photograph that’s good for telling a story in this blog.

But the very best is when that thing that caught my eye turns out to be a big ol’ rabbit hole, and I let myself fall into a world of color and light and texture and form. This is where my heart sings, where I play to my heart’s content. I turn the camera or I move an object. I look from a lower or higher angle. I lose all track of time.

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Winter solstice 2022

The magic of the season
We emerged from the drab grey concrete of the underground parking garage into a scene of such beauty that we all gasped.

A few friends had driven to Béziers to see that city’s holiday light show and Christmas market, followed by a yummy dinner at a nearby restaurant. The first thing we saw was the musical fountains, which had us clapping our hands in delight. The fountains were choreographed—both with the movement of the water and with changing colors—to dance along with the Christmas music that was being broadcast on loudspeakers.

A bonus was that we were two days from the full moon, which added to the magic of the evening.

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Canal voyage and giving thanks

Day trippin’ on the Canal du Midi

Several of us were invited to join our friend Tim aboard his beautiful boat Mary-Lou on the Canal du Midi, a few days before the canal closed for the season. It was a glorious early-November day, the air fresh and crisp, and the colors vivid. There was eager anticipation in the air that morning when we arrived in Carcassonne, and later, the on-board atmosphere was relaxed and full of joy. That, and a lot of great food!

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