Monday, July 11, 2011

In-Your-Face Art

The faces of Villars-Fontaine

My husband and I rounded a curve while still debating what road we were on along Burgundy’s wine route and what road we were supposed to be on (a common dilemma when driving in France).  The far side of that curve, however, stopped us short when we came face to face with a village full of, well, faces.  Yes, summer is art season in France and every hamlet, village, and city finds its own way to publicly celebrate the creative side of its culture.

In Villars-Fontaine we were stopped by a small, tree-lined lane displaying black and white photos of its citizens.  They were posted on both sides of the trunks, so you could enjoy the portraits coming and going.  Almost every building in the village had a face hanging on its wall.  My French wasn’t good enough to read information panels about the artists or the models.  We were satisfied, however, to walk the rough streets and visit with the people who lived there, even if we never spoke.

Taking art to the streets

This very local art display, reminded me of the growing artistic movement in the States represented by American Quilt Barn Trails.  A grass-roots cultural statement, the quilt squares have marched across the Midwest, appearing on barns, sides of old brick stores, on houses, and even shaping gardens for the lucky and observant traveler. (See it here and here)  What the regions along the quilt trails share with their distant cousins in France is pride in their culture and their history.  Art is not reserved for museums, nor does it need the stamp of approval from someone outside of their community.

The difference between France and the U.S., though, is that art seems essential to French life.  You find it in unexpected places, from mailboxes to moving wall murals.  A stroll to our car after dinner in the town of Beaune treated us to a light show on the side of the city hall.  Gorgeous animation filled the four-story stone edifice, telling the human and agricultural history of this graceful medieval town.  We could have watched the scenes projected on the wall all night if it weren’t so late and we still had an hour’s drive back to Dijon.

A French mailbox
I miss these small touches of daily delight when I’m at home in the States.  I’m not sure where we would fit our art, though.  In the parking lot of a big-box store?  But then again, how would we see it while driving past in rush hour traffic?  American photographer Paul Strand (who spent almost three decades of his life in France and made art out of such unlikely subjects as Wall Street) said, “The artist's world is limitless. It can be found anywhere far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep.

I think when I get home I need to start looking a little more closely.

The history of Beaune in beautiful animation on the side of the City Hall
Readers’ Show and Tell
Where have you seen art in your daily routine?  Share here so we can see what you are seeing.

1 comment:

Annie Boreson said...

I love finding art in trees and on the sides of barns and buildings! What a fabulous idea to put photos of the inhabitants of the village. I think that it gives a familiarity and warmth to a community. Very rich and wonderful! I very much enjoy your discoveries!

Related Posts with Thumbnails