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Friday, February 29, 2008

The costume

in our street in January

Today my youngest son, 5, asked me to make a costume with him. He wanted to be a bird. He found a newspaper and went get the roll of packaging tape. Then he explained to me how to proceed, step by step, on top of his clothes. I did exactly what he was asking for. I did not give him any advice. I taped on his wings, tail and feathers. Nothing was cut: it was made with entire pages. In about 20 minutes the costume was done and my son was extremely happy about it. Then he tried his wings, flapping them around the house and declared they were working very well. When it was time to leave and go get his brother at school, he carefully climbed into the car, buckled his belt and managed to not damage his fragile costume. Then, at school, he ran to see his brother, wind in his wings, and all the kids were saying: “look, a bird, a bird!” The whole thing was great, I was thrilled by his spontaneity and the spontaneity of the other children. This child does not think anybody could think it is bizarre to do something like that, he just wants to do it and he does it.

When do we lose this ability to enjoy doing things just for what they are and no more?

No judgment is involved here - and no fear -, just the pure pleasure of doing something exhilarating and light as a feather.

I forgot to take a picture.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Using text in my work

The Border - 2007 - acrylic on canvas, 36" x 60"

The Border (detail)

I am very interested in the exhibition “In the beginning” because of all the different uses of texts. I use more and more texts in my pieces, French and English: poems I wrote in French, extracts of my travel diaries, texts in English I extract from the news … They are not really meant to be read because they are usually partly hidden, but they are there. I really enjoy the technique I am using right now on my paintings: stamping the letters, one by one.

Undocumented 3, 2006, face-mounted digital print, 24" x 24"

Undocumented 3 (detail)

I also work with texts, sentences and words in my digital images. You can always read parts of the texts. Sometimes they are overlapping so much that it creates a “color”, like a shade. In the series “Undocumented”, the text creates an impression of fog where the people are appearing and disappearing.

Lately I bought a new set of stamps, they are bigger, and I started to use them to stamp simple words on the canvases. It is a completely different feeling. You can see the words from far, they give a direction to the viewer. But I am interested to search further and see what happens. I have, like Monique Prieto, a background in graphic design. As a graphic designer, working with letters was what I was doing everyday. I am still paying attention to all the signs around me, the colors, the sizes, the contrasts, and I am very attentive to the layouts I see. I am more and more at ease to merge everything together with a lot of pleasure. Everything is possible, everything is open!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Monique Prieto’s talk – UCSD

Monique Prieto, Bells, 2005, acrylic on canvas, 30" x 40"

Tonight I went to the Monique Prieto talk at UCSD. Her work is part of the exhibition “In the Beginning” at the UCSD gallery. I saw the exhibition a few days ago.

Monique Prieto was calm and attentive, soft spoken and smiley. She was speaking without preaching or teaching or anything like that. It seems to me she was herself, sharing what she can tell about her experience.

She talked while showing photos of her work on a large screen. She graduated in L.A., in 1994, the year of the big earthquake. She was - and still is - a painter. At the time she graduated the question was “why an artist today would use such an archaic technique?” She was not interested in “Identity art” although her background is Hispanic, but she was committed to continue painting. And she was suddenly interested by introducing humor in her work. She was recognizing where painting was coming from, but she wanted to introduce some lightness since the weight of the history of painting is so heavy. She painted without any brush marks. It was forms and colors on canvas.

She talked with humor about the fact that at that time she was having her first baby and did not have much time in her studio. Her husband told her to work on the computer to prepare some work. It happened to be a great idea: she could nurse and prepare her paintings on the computer at the same time. That series uses metaphors to express relations between people or between objects, like in “Pedestrian”, “My asthma”, “Love Think”, Warm Body”, “Over again”. She used every day life scenarios around the house or events around the world.

In September 2001, her interest shifted. Because of the events she gave herself some time to digest the past 10 years of her work. She spent a lot of time with friends in the street protesting. She started to sketch small black and white drawings. She did not make any commitment, did not participate in any show and did not show her work to anybody for two years.

She travelled to Europe, saw a lot of paintings “for real” for the first time and was really thrilled. That was an opening: there was still a lot to do with painting.

But after two years, she felt she did not get anywhere with her work and was terrified. At the same time she was not going back to her “old” work - there was no turning back. Then something happened. She was driving on a highway in a slow traffic. She saw on a wall a graffiti which struck her: it was blockish, very particular. Back at her studio she started to work with words. At the time there were plenty of billboards shouting “United we stand”, big words were everywhere. She also had a graphic design background and never thought that graphic design and painting were exclusive. Using words was totally making sense for her and she decided to work with the first diary ever printed: the one of Samuel Pepys. She used Pepys’s diary because she did not want to make confessional paintings (although the quotes she uses are quite mysterious and ambiguous and they don’t tell much about Pepys’s life).

She did not work again with the computer. She picks up a quote she likes and starts a painting right away, without any sketches. Although the space of her series of work seems very structured she says she sometimes loses complete control and she likes it a lot, it is like in real life. “Because it was quiet”, Mad in Love”, “And Everything Else” are part of the series she is still working on today.

The talk was interesting, I had a great time!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Writing in English

Diary - French is my native language

It is a challenge for me to write this blog in English. I know I will never be totally bilingual: I was not born in the United States, so I am missing a good amount of cultural references. It does not bother me, it makes me very attentive. I am surprised every day by the language I am using, which is quite amazing and refreshing. Sometimes in a conversation I ask someone about the meaning of an expression or a word I hear for the first time.

Using another language makes me see the world with a different angle, not just from my French perspective. I am exploring a new territory and the unknown is exciting. Sometimes it is not easy, but it is exciting.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Digital work

A Time to Heal #10, 2008, 24"x24" [50cmx50cm], digital print

The digital images and the paintings have a lot in common. But in my digital work I have a tendency to be more abstract, and the people are not recognizable. People evolve in empty spaces, which for me are desert-like, when the light is so strong that everything disappears – it comes from memories of my teenage years when I spent time in Mauritania, in the Saharan Desert, where vast oceans of almost white sand literally burn under the sun. It is a unique sensation where the landscape can dissolve around you, and if someone walks a few feet away from you, it looks that the person is floating: there is no longer a precise border between the ground and the sky.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Landscape 18, 2007

I very often use pictures of my children and husband in my paintings. Painting them make me feel very close to them, or maybe it is because they inspire me that I enjoy so much working on images of them.

I juxtapose them with elements of nature, very often deserts: scorched landscapes, cacti, rocks... I try to reach for the limit where a face is still recognizable, but with only very few details.

In Landscape 18, for example, I used a picture of one of my sons and a picture I took of the Anza Borrego desert.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A day in the Anza Borrego Desert

A Cholla cactus in Hellhole Canyon, Anza Borrego.

I spent the day with my family in the Anza Borrego Desert. The weather was gorgeous, it was slightly overcast and not too hot, the air was crisp and we could see far. We went to Hellhole Canyon, close to Borrego Springs, a canyon we’ve never been too. It takes less than two hours from San Diego to get to the start of the trail. We hiked for a few hours and approximately 5 miles, which is not much: we took our time.

The desert was surprisingly green because it rained a lot lately. In a few weeks the wild flowers bloom will certainly be explosive.

I recharge my batteries when I am in the desert. I like to look at the different native plants. I especially like the Cholla cactus, because they are so fuzzy and shine so much in the sun. The Cholla is abundant there. Coming back from the Canyon, we could see the open perspective of the Borrego badlands and beyond, the chain of the Santa Rosa Mountains. The sun was setting when we came back and we had many light shifts, from very contrasted warm, dark oranges and light browns to extremely soft and purplelish hues. Although we saw quite a few visitors, we were the only ones at the end of the day on the trail, and in the silence we heard the coyotes…

Back in San Diego the heart warmed by that arid but magnificent land!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Robert Irwin's lecture - MCASD

Tonight I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla (MCASD) with a group of close artist friends to listen to a lecture by Robert Irwin. I love that Museum! The MCASD presents Robert Irwin: Primaries and Secondaries, an exhibition at the MCASD downtown San Diego. I saw the exhibition three times, Robert Irwin made the installations especially for the space and the result is a candy for the eye and at the same time very subdued.

Robert Irwin gives lectures in Universities very often and he said tonight that he was telling us kind of the same thing he would tell students. His speech was very articulated. At one time it echoed what I felt this morning when I saw the exhibition “In the Beginning” at UCSD: Robert Irwin was talking about how it was irrelevant for him to try to contain the world in a frame, how it felt awkward to try to work inside the boundaries of a defined surface (for example a canvas stretched on bars). This morning the piece I preferred was “it’s midnight and I’m lonely, 2007” by Danielle Gustafson-Sundell which is totally open, although in two dimensions and not three: it is still “on” the wall.

I have to think through this, it is very important.

In the Beginning @ UCSD Art Gallery

"In the Beginning"

Today I saw the exhibition “In the Beginning” at UCSD Art Gallery in La Jolla and I loved it!

It’s a world of words: 20 artists working with words presented in a completely renovated space. There is a lot of text to read and, in some case, the text is not meant to be read, like in the video by Jesus Aguilar “Dante’s Inferno in 8mn 34 seconds” where the words are scrolling full speed. There is quite a lot of humor like in the playful open piece by Danielle Gustafson-Sundell “it’s midnight and I’m lonely, 2007”, which is spread lightly on a huge wall. I really like that piece, partly because it has no clear limits: the little elements crawl on the wall, they could be presented in a different way (you can see the same piece on her website and it does not look the same although it uses the same elements - I think this flexibility is great). “Another world is possible” by Mark Titchner is a large print on a billboard-like structure across the first room which greets the visitors. The sensation of energy and color is very strong in the first room.

When I walk through the exhibition - and although it is all about words/sentences/texts - I do not feel that I need a lot of references to understand what is going on there.

info here.

Life at the border

The Border, San Diego-Tijuana

I cannot believe that a few miles from here, and almost daily, people continue to die in the desert trying to cross the border. I wanted to see the wall between Mexico and the U.S. And so a few months ago I went there. I left the car in the south of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve and I walked the short distance up to the wall which, at this point, is an assemblage of old metallic plaques. I took a lot of pictures. Then I painted "The Border".
As an artist, it is impossible for me not be influenced by what is going on.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cultural Mixing

Landscape 11, 2006

Being an artist and living here is interesting for many reasons. One is that I love the cultural influence from Mexico and some very interesting Mexican artists show their work here, and some of them, like Acamonchi, live here. I always have been interested by cultural mixing. I lived in West Africa for a few years when I was a teenager and it changed me forever: it opened the world to me; it gave me the desire to know more, to see more.

It is quite fascinating and stimulating to live here!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Whale Watching

Cabrillo National Monument National Park

Today I went whale watching with my youngest son and his class. There is a beautiful area at the tip of the Point Loma peninsula, in the Cabrillo National Monument National Park; a few miles away south from where we live. This time of the year (although the peak of the season is mid-January) is the Pacific Gray Whale migration: they are coming back from the Arctic waters and are heading down to Baja California to give birth and take care of their young. Their migration route passes close to the shore. The visitor center lent us binoculars and we stayed along the trail for a while, very quiet, staring at the silvery white ocean, very still today. We saw some blows, and we had a glimpse of their backs two or three times.

It is very moving to think that they are there, swimming without ever stopping until they arrive, doing what they have done for millenniums.

While we are running errands, talking about the elections, fueling our cars, and worrying about all sort of things, the beautiful and peaceful Pacific Gray Whales are swimming from Alaska to Baja California…

Monday, February 18, 2008

Solo Exhibition theme

work in progress

Different people are present in the series I am working on: people I know (family and friends) and people I don’t know, far away from where I live and who do not have the freedom I am enjoying. In my artwork I am trying to express the very strange truth that it is possible to enjoy life even if the world is upside down. It does not mean I ignore what is going on. It means I want to be awake, to be there, to listen, to look, and to watch carefully. I am trying to do that because I have the incredible fortune to have my basic life needs satisfied – which unfortunately is not something granted. It gives me the time that a lot of people on Earth simply do not have and it is an amazing luxury I do not want to waste.

I am still working on the title of the exhibition. I was thinking “Here it’s Peace, there it’s War”, but lately I prefer “Here it's Peace”, because some pieces in the show will obviously not be about “here” so the contrast should be interesting.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Solo Exhibition in June

In the studio

I am working on a series of paintings and digital images for the solo exhibition I will have at the San Diego Art Institute in June. I already have a few pieces I really like. I take one day at a time, not thinking too much yet about the final result of the whole series. My thoughts are slowly evolving and maturing. I love the process, hopefully I will continue on this path: without stress, just enjoying the journey of creating a body of work which in the end will say something about the way I perceive the world.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Nature Perspective

Canyon View

The house we rent in San Diego has a little backyard overlooking a canyon. The view is really peaceful and open. I love to just look at the landscape. I realize more and more I need that perspective on nature to live and to create. The canyon is different every day, especially the colors. A light wind blows very often and brings some cool air from the Pacific Ocean. From time to time, the old palm branches fall from the palm trees. It is still very exotic for me to have palm trees in the backyard! We can have silent and mysterious mornings here when the fog covers the canyon, then slowly clears as the day progresses. Many different birds visit the canyon, depending on the time of the day. The canyon is full of various native plants, and right now the birds seem to enjoy looking for succulent flowers.

I cannot believe this is what I see every day. It’s a gift. Usually, before to start working on my pieces in the morning I spend some very quiet time just looking.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Into the Wild

Anza Borrego State Park, California, 2007.

I am reading again Jon Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild”. I am completely fascinated by the story and I really loved the movie. A friend of mine offered me the soundtrack by Eddie Vedder and I listen to it very often when I am working on my paintings. Although I am not independent and radical enough to imagine – and make - a journey away from the civilization like Chris McCandless did, his odyssey echoes deeply in me. I always loved the landscapes of the Western United States, I am attracted to them since I was a teenager. I feel definitely alive when I am there, surrounded by emptiness, rocks, endless horizons...

Something extremely strong is happening in those plains and canyons. I take a lot of pictures of the desert when I go there with my family. And then I work with those pictures in my paintings.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt

In the studio

Today I almost finished the portrait of Ingrid Betancourt I am working on. Despite the fact that she knew she was at the wrong place at the wrong time when she was abducted by the FARC, I still feel close to her and I would like, in my way, to express my hope that she will be free soon and that she will be able to see her children after years of being separated from them.

In my painting I used extracts of the letter she wrote to her mother last November. I stamped it in the background, letter by letter.