August 28, 2018
A Summer Residency at Moulin à Nef, Auvillar, France
What a summer it’s been! The high point was a residency of two blissful weeks in July at the Moulin à Nef, an artists’ retreat in Auvillar, France. It’s run by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts where I’ve had a couple of residencies in the past (at least one residency at the VCCA is a prerequisite for attending the Moulin à Nef). One of France’s 100 most beautiful villages, the photographs here give only a hint of Auvillar’s beauty and charm.
While at the Moulin à Nef I started a new series of mixed media works incorporating soil from the banks of La Garonne, the river that could be seen from my bedroom window. Since these works are in a nascent stage, I’ll wait until the series has evolved before I share photographs, other than those you can see on the wall of my studio at Moulin à Nef below. These were taken during our open studio at our residency’s end and to which the villagers were invited.
I also completed the series of sixteen small (8.5 inches square), watercolor and ink images with silhouettes of Indian leaves with collaged veins of ferns from my garden. These have slowly evolved over the course of more than a year. I started them in March of last year when I was at the Casa Buena Art Retreat in Nayarit, Mexico. I plan to make an edition of an artist’s book, A Leaf in the Wind, incorporating these images and the moving poetry of my son, the late Jaro Majer, who passed away almost two years ago. (Some of these watercolors can be seen here, also in the studio photos below).
On my way to Auvillar, I spent a delightful day in Paris exploring the Louvre and visiting one of my painting students who is fortunate to have an apartment in Paris. Not long after my arrival in Auvillar, I went on an excursion with a couple of VCCA Fellows to Toulouse, a fascinating city with the cultural variety that comes with a mix of several ethnicities and cultural influences. I also spent the better part of a day exploring the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, an iconic building I’ve wanted to see since its opening in 1997. I wasn’t disappointed! Like the Taj Mahal in India, which I visited when I had a residency at the Sanskriti Kendra in New Delhi, photographs don’t do it justice. The grandeur is almost overwhelming. While the approach to the Guggenheim from the city is, in my opinion, marred by Jeff Koons’ oversized floral puppy, the view from the river walk, and the view from across the river by the light of an almost-full moon were memorable.
The museum boasts a permanent collection of major works by important male artists of the Twentieth Century (Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Anselm Keifer, Gerhard Richter, Amish Kapoor and several Spanish men), and only, as far as I could tell, works by three women artists: Louise Bourgeoise, Jenny Holzer and Cristina Iglasias. Currently on view, however, is an exhibition of work by the Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos whose exuberantly playful and colorful works complemented Frank Gehry’s structure with vast, fiber sculptures that snaked their way through the central section of the building. In the galleries there was an extensive selection of other works with a nod to Pop Art made from a variety of common household items like plastic spoons, mirrors and saucepans. They were ambitious in size and scope and enormously inventive.
We won’t be working on the scale of Joana Vasconcelos, but if you live in the Tampa Bay Area and have considered studying painting, now may be the time to take my Beginning/Intermediate Painting Course at the Morean Arts Center. Sign up for the next session starting the week of September 10 for six weeks or three weeks on either Tuesday evenings (7 to 9:30 p.m.) or Friday mornings (9:30 a.m. to noon). I teach oils, acrylics, watercolors, mixed media and water soluble oils to beginners as well as advanced students.
In between teaching at the Morean Arts Center and making art with the patients at St Anthony’s Hospital, I am busy working on a piece for the Exquisite Corpse Games opening at the Museum of Fine Arts in St Petersburg on November 1. I’m also preparing work for a group exhibition at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas in Largo (in what used to be the Gulf Coast Museum), opening on November 8.