Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
My name is Josie Robinson, and I am a third year Fashion design student. I took this trip because I wanted to challenge myself creatively and find new inspiration. I will be going into my graduating year in September, and I will be designing my thesis collection, so I wanted to really discover myself creatively. I felt that studying art would help me become a better designer, because in studying art, I can come to understand why people consume creative ideas, and what motivates cultural change. I’ve never travelled abroad before, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do it with a group of like-minded individuals that I can learn from.
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about Paris (or Kassel) so far?
I’ll start by saying that Paris is surprisingly easy to navigate. The metro is amazing, for real. Never once have I had to take a bus to connect trains, or even leave the underground. It’s planned so that every train can seamlessly link to another. Lately I’ve been thinking to myself that this city is exemplary when it comes to urban planning. Even if you get lost in Paris, it’s not even that bad, you just go with the flow and find a place to have a coffee and flaneur about. I will say that I am surprised at the sheer volume of creative information there is to explore here. I’ve been here for over two weeks doing days of constant creative observation, and there are still things that I haven’t seen. It’s definitely not a place you want to blast through. You want to take your time here and make note of every cultural nuance possible. The culture of France is unique in that they care about visual presentation in everything they do. I notice this in artful shop window displays, and in how food is presented when it is served, but I also notice this in things like packaging, and advertising, and print media. There is care taken to visual communication in this culture which is fascinating to me as a designer.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Orsay Musuem. After seeing the work in person in Paris (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most about it and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it.
My assigned artwork is Young Girl Sewing in the Garden (1880) by Mary Cassatt. For those not familiar with Cassatt, her work was unique because she predominantly expressed the details of the private lives of women at a time where their social roles were rapidly changing in a newly urbanizing society. One thing that struck me when I saw Cassatt’s work in person was her use of colour. You just can’t understand it from seeing it on a screen. When I saw the work up close I was looking at how she rendered the clothing and hair of the woman. When you look at the painting, at first glance, you see the woman has brown hair, but when you examine it more closely, you realize that this colour has been achieved by mixing tones of purple and even gray. The drapery of the white dress also appears to have very small amounts of blue in it when seen in person as well. In person, it is definitely more vibrant. The reds of the flowers come out even more, and you come to have a new understanding of the brushwork in the painting. The painting has a deliberate pattern and texture in the greenery of the background. The hazy brushstrokes used in the foliage are even more exaggerated then one would expect if just seeing a printout. Yet, the clothing and skin tone have more smooth brushwork, and the face is painted with care and detail in contrast to the greenery.
For Cassatt, this aspect of form aligns perfectly with her content and the context. She wanted women to be seen as independent in their own lives, and through form she emphasized the significance of the woman’s personality. Unfortunately, there were no other works by Cassatt on display. I would have liked to examine other works more to become more familiar with the distinct stylistic features that Cassatt may employ. It was still interesting though to see Cassatt’s work in relation to other Impressionist artists of her time. The room that the work was displayed was predominantly filled with works by Monet and Morissott. It was interesting to see both what unified the movement, and what set individual artists apart within it
How did you approach the creative task of responding to this assigned work in studio? What were your challenges as an artist to be in dialogue with the artwork and artist? Would you do anything differently now that you have seen the work in person?
For me, the biggest challenge was to consider the duality of creativity. I had to consider how to utilize the skills I have culminated as a designer and apply them in an artistic setting. Art is a very different way to think about communication than design. It took me some time to understand that the skills I have can be artistic skills, and that I did not need to start over or learn something I had never done before to be an artist. I just needed to consider a different vantage point. In a way, design presents you with solutions, but art asks questions. I am conflicted now that I have seen the work in person. As aforementioned, I would have liked to see more works by the artist. In some ways, some of my past choices have been affirmed by seeing the work, but now I have more questions to explore.
Today’s activity was a free day on our last day in the city of Paris. What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
Today was a free day! So I took it upon myself to return to both the Centre Pompidou and Le Palais de Tokyo. I’m a person that really likes to take my time at museums, so I felt I needed a second look. Le Palais de Tokyo had a contemporary exhibition featuring the interactions between art and science. It was fascinating, and unlike any art experience I have ever had. May of the pieces there demanded attention and interaction. At the Centre Pompidou, I went back to see the exhibition on the works of Ross Lovegrove. I felt very privileged to see his original sketchbooks. There was a video of an interview with Lovegrove, and I enjoyed hearing him talk about his design philosophy. I also gained a surge of inspiration from a film played at the Anarcheology exhibit at the Pompidou. A team of creatives attempted to replicate the acoustics of a 300 year old concert hall in India. It really got me thinking about our changing interactions with the space we live in as our society changes. Paris, in a post Haussmann era is also a perfect backdrop for this.
In the evening, I went to the Bastille Opera to see Rigoletto. I had never been to an Opera before, so why not do it in Paris! It was all in Italian. I don’t speak Italian. It was subtitled, so I looked at that enough to understand, but not detract from the visuals of the stage. What an experience that was! I got discounted student seats, right behind the orchestra, which according to the ticket seller hardly ever happens. It was amazing to see that these people were singing to an entire concert hall with no amplification, just the power of voice! And the intricacies of the costumes and the set intrigued me. At the same time, I couldn’t help but also find it comedic. For example, (spoiler alert) in this opera, there are two women who fall madly in love with the same prince. The main character Gilda, at first feels betrayed, but then ultimately her love prevails and she sacrifices her life to save him. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “It’s a shame that Giuseppe Verdi didn’t live long enough to watch John Tucker Must Die so that he could learn how stuff actually works.” My experience in Paris has been eye opening, and today was a good conclusion to the first half of the trip. Next, we will be winding down for Kassel.