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).
I come from an extensive musical background in piano and attending opera and Broadway productions inspired a love for costume design and film studies. In 2015 I studied Fashion Design abroad in Berlin, Germany over a six-month period where I travelled to London, Paris, Madrid, Helsinki, Prague and Munich. It was during this exchange that I discovered my passion for traveling and being immersed in new cultures. I graduated with my Bachelor of Design, Fashion and Technology from the Wilson School of Design at KPU in 2016 since then I have shown my Ginger & Flora lingerie collection at Vancouver Fashion Week F/W 2017 and am currently working in the lingerie industry. The opportunity to travel back to Europe to study Art History in Paris and Kassel with like-minded colleagues was not to be missed!
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about Paris so far?
After my first weekend trip to Paris during my exchange abroad in Berlin, I honesty didn’t think that I would be returning to Paris so soon! What really has surprised me is how much I have fallen in love with the city after three days! Our hotel is in the 19th district about a half an hour metro ride into the city center, surrounded by an incredible park and energetic neighbourhood. The local bakeries open early filled with freshly baked goods and the cafes stay open past dark. The variety and diversity of museums has surpassed my expectations as well! Having only done a very quick two-hour tour the first time I was in Paris, it has been a never-ending adventure through the huge halls of the Louvre to the quiet side rooms in the Orsay. The ease of moving around Paris is breath taking, a combination of Metro and walking can get you anywhere, although I personally prefer walking to balance all the delicious croissants I’ve been eating!
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the D’Orsay Museum. 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 work is Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec‘s The Clown Cha-U-Kao (1895). This work is a painting composed of oil paint on card measuring 64cm by 49cm. The painting of petit scale requires the viewer to come close and creates an intimate space to enjoy the work’s banal scene and details highlighting the painterly quality of brush strokes and overlapping colours. The scale is in proportion to the subject in comparison to an enlarged scale where I feel the subtle details would become lost having to stand a distance back to view the painting in its’ entirely. The incredibly vivid colour palette grabs our attention with warm buttercup yellows contrasting cool and rich blues silhouetted against red earth tones and turquoise backgrounds. The resting place for the eye lands on the figure’s pale skin and wig. The natural play of shadows creates a subtle silhouette and gives depth to the figure’s skin against the yellow and blue textiles engulfing her. The central vertical figure divides the cropped composition in the indoor environment. The figure appears flat in a shallow atmosphere where the view is limited and almost encroaching on the figure’s personal space. The organic lines originating from the figure’s awkward posture and shawl draped around the body creates a curvilinear line to transport our eyes around the composition connecting the yellow shawl to the ribbon tied in her hair. Cha-U-Kao is a recurring figure in Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings seen in his Elles series and dressed in her recognizable costume alongside her female lover in other works. Cha-U-Kao as a famous figure in the 19th century Parisian nightlife with her open sexuality and courage to enter a male profession was captured by Toulouse-Lautrec in Impressionist compositions.
Unfortunately I was unable to view my assigned work in personal as this painting in currently in storage at the Orsay museum. There were still several large works by Toulouse-Lautrec and a small room dedicated to some of his more petit scale compositions. The new work I chose to analyze is Toulouse-Lautrec’s Au Nouveau Cirque, Papa Chrysantheme. The continuation of the circus theme is present as the Nouveau cirque is where Cha-U-Kao often performed. The medium is very interesting as the work is composed in stained glasses.
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?
Connecting my artwork to my first studio project was daunting in translating in the incredibly vivid colour palette into my own aesthetic of muted tones. My original plan was to use women’s 19th century undergarment silhouettes transposed into the present with a neutral palette. Upon reflecting this idea, I knew it was a shallow and a near disrespectful interpretation of this incredible painting. I ventured into new ground layering shades of yellow and navy blue tulle outlined with a black ruffled trim to invoke the clown’s costume palette and stage character.
It was through the studio critiques and the present context of viewing The Clown Cha-U-Kao at the Orsay museum that the development for my companion piece was going to push me much further out of my comfort zone. Elizabeth from our second class together had proposed the challenging notion of performance art, which I immediately rejected as not having the confidence to place myself in a position of direct judgment. Yet the idea of re-creating the private environment of Cha-U-Kao’s room and allowing myself to be part of a narrative thrilled me as I felt I had lost my basic human connection with friends and colleagues. Welcoming viewers to step back in time and enter my intimate space was heart pounding and exhilarating simultaneously as I had never been in a vulnerable position to be observed and judged especially from my peers. The positive encouragement and praise from colleagues was immensely thankful and opens new concepts of performance art combined with my design background to ground and inspire my future work. As noted, I was not able to view my work at the D’Orsay museum as it is currently in storage but I do hope one day to see this painting and reconnect with it and my studio projects!
Today’s activity was located at the Musee L’Orangerie in the Tulieries Garden. What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
After the overwhelming endlessness followed by the quaint and beautiful Musee D’Orsay on the first two days of our trip, the Musee L’Orangerie was a breath of fresh air. Located in the Tuileries Garden close to the Louvre, L’Orangerie is known for hosting Monet’s curved wall paintings of water lilies. Walking into the two consecutive long oval rooms, the atmosphere brings a sense of calm and reflection. The bottom floor hosts the permanent exhibition of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings including many confectionary sweet Renoir works. The Palasis de Tokyo is currently hosting a temporary exhibition of Impressionist paintings from Japanese collections at the L’Orangerie. Wandering through paintings by Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and many others the unique scenes of 19th/20th century everyday life was presented. I was enthralled to see an oil painting by Toulouse-Lautrec in greyscale Au Cirque: dans les coalisses ! I sat on the floor right in front of this painting to record thoughts and analysis. Then I moved back to Apres le bain by Degas, which I first though was painted by Toulouse-Lautrec from the subject matter. I felt inspired to pull out my watercolours and try to capture the many subdued earth tones in this work. Two fulfilling hours later, our group took advantage of the beautiful weather to sketch in the Tulierie Garden before going our separate ways.
I picked up a chocolate crepe to enjoy on my walk to the Empriente Lingerie Altiter located only a few blocks away. As a lingerie designer, this was top of my list to experience! Next was a beautiful walk to the Musee Rodin, stopping to eat a delicious ham and cheese baguette at a corner bakery where the French women helped me with my French! I delightfully wandered through the three-hectare garden enjoying the numerous sculptures scattered among the trees. An hour later I was ready to move on to my third museum for the day. Using saved maps on the app Citymapper I wove my way deeper into St. Germain arriving at the Musee Bourdelle hosting an exhibition on famed fashion designer Balenciaga titled L’Oeuvre au Noir [The Work in Black]. Dresses, suits, coats and accessories were interwoven among incredible sculptures in three rooms throughout the museum.
Using the efficient metro to travel across the city back to our hotel, I had a quick hour rest before our group headed out to walk up the Champs-Elysees and catch the sunset atop the Arc de Triumph. A day filled to the brim with activates and sightseeing but so rewarding!