About two weeks ago, I saw the movie Midnight in Paris. Like Sarah, who wrote about the movie a while ago, it catapulted me back to my one summer in Paris.
Today, I remembered that summer as I read Matisse and Picasso: The Story of their Rivalry and Friendship. Like I’ve said, it’s hard for me to stick to one book. My mind always wants to explore everything and anything at the same time. The mood right now is Paris, thanks to Woody Allen. (Sidenote: I want to live in Woody Allen’s New York. Just watched Small Time Crooks. Actually, I want Woody Allen to direct my life. Would you, Woody?)
If I’m not in Mexico or somewhere in the U.S., I am in Paris. Not France. Paris. (Though I’d love to travel the many rich regions.) But in Paris, I became an art snob. You probably had no idea that I have a deep appreciation for modern art, (post Manet’s Le dejeuner sur l’herbe), but I do.
I had never taken an art class in college, not because I wasn’t interested but I didn’t find it relevant to my coursework. When the idea of studying abroad presented itself, I sought programs with courses that were unique/not offered at Lehigh. This art course sealed the deal. I would be studying art in the art capital of the world. C’etait magnifique.
The professor was an artist himself. Nicolas. Not “NI-colas,” as the Americans say it. Nee-co-la. He always liked to make that distinction in a facetious, not fastidious, way.
You’d think three hours of art slides every day for three weeks would have bored me to death, but it was quite the opposite. It brought me back to life in the most unexpected way. I began to understand that art was not just some paint on canvas. It was emotion. It was history. It was audacity. Sometimes it wasn’t even what it looked like.
Dada. Duchamp. Post-Impressionism. Cubism. Ready-mades. Gaugin. Lilies. Nudes. Surrealism. Mondrian.
And it was all just a few feet away at the Musee d’Orsay, at the Pompidou, at Giverny. I’d listen intently to Nee-co-la and take notes on my bright red Moleskine, the same one I’ve used for all of my French classes and the same one I will never, ever throw away.
Every stroke, every line, every angle meant something. Each painting was a visual narrative, and the spectator had to find its beginning, its middle and its ending. This was especially apparent in some of the more analytical art movements like Cubism. (Which, I realized today, reminds me so much of journalism. Because the aim of cubism was to show the same object in fragments, which represented different angles. I don’t know but something about it reminded me of Lippmann journalism.)
I still remember going back to most of those museums we went to during our class field trips with the other students in the class. We, like paint on canvas, bonded and became really good friends. We called ourselves art snobs. We even have a few photos depicting our snobbery.
So now you know. I love modern art.
p.s. I took that picture in Giverny, right outside of Paris and where Monet lived. In fact, that’s Rue Claude Monet. Below is inside the Musee d’Orsay, my favorite museum.