Tuesday, January 27, 2009

February 2007: Paris

Paris holds a special place in the hearts and minds of creators everywhere. Museums like the Louvre, le Centre Pompidou, and le Museé d’Orsay teem with masterpieces by Gaugin, Monet, and Degas. Writers gather in cafés in le Quartier Latin just like the Sartres, Prousts, and Zolas of days gone by. Considered one of the major cultural capitals of the world, Paris and its avant-garde scene is the quintessence of cool.
I paid a visit to the City of Light in 2007. During my trip, I explored the city’s prolific museums, lunched in its spacious parks, and wandered its vibrant neighborhoods. Combining mosques with churches and baguettes with baba ganoush, the city contained more Middle Eastern influence than I expected. In galleries or on the streets, I was inspired by the location, the creativity, and the people (Contrary to popular American opinion, I have yet to meet an unfriendly Parisian). I felt at ease and excited simultaneously; the city felt sleepy and electric at the same time.
Today, it appears that a new genre of art is exploding in this remarkable city. I noticed a colorful collection of street art decorating the historic landscape. From gothic architecture to modern post-war buildings, street artists displayed their creations on every available surface. Before, the French art scene was confined to gallery walls. Today, artists like Blek le Rat and Miss Van share their work on the street and garner attention at home and abroad. With countless new members emerging, the French scene continues to grow and expand stylistically.

In my first photo, Miss Tic's fierce female stared back at me from an apartment building. Roughly translated, the text says, "It's life; it will pass." After wandering for hours trying to find the Pompidou Center, I appreciated her message. Who knew that Paris had so many undocumented side streets? Clearly, not me or my tiny map. While I was tired and hungry, this saucy mama put things in perspective.

Next, I stumbled upon a little boy, a red umbrella, and a monkey. This graphic combined such unusual subjects that I was left with a lot of questions. Why is this boy hugging his knees? Is he trying to stay dry? Is he hurt or scared? And what is the monkey doing? Wacky.

My third photo was found in a small neighborhood as I searched for a place to eat. This sea foam green stencil of Ingrid Betancourt, a Colombian-French political activist held hostage by FARC for six years, carries even more significance since her 2008 release. 

On rue Descartes, I looked up to find this large mural and poem. Painted by Pierre Alechinsky, the mural illustrates "Feuilles d'automnes," a poem by Yves Bonnefoy. I certainly appreciate the trees of the city, but I also felt this poem captured how I feel about street art. I felt lucky to find these pieces and they opened my eyes to another side of Paris. Someday, I'd love to return and continue my search.

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