Reflections of France

Having lived in France for a month now, I have come to realize that it is nearly impossible to see it all in such a short time frame. I could easily stay for another month or even a year, and it would have something new and different with each passing day. I see this recent trip to Paris as my first, with many more trips to come. Learning French phrases from locals and purchasing French Feta which allowed me to adapt to my environment, rather than being sheltered by the comforts of my pocket, phrase book and overly processed string cheese. I spent my evenings by the Seine as I fostered a new love for fresh made crepes and pistachio gelato, and there was not a moment where I could not look and see a monument in the near distance.

I learned that Parisians are very hospitable and willing to go above and beyond to give a helping hand. French was a major language barrier for the first few days. However, after only a week of being in Paris I felt more then comfortable reading street signs, ordering food, and asking basic questions from locals. I  was even astonished by how far the sayings: bon jour, s’il vous plait, and merci beaucoup would go. One only needs a handful of phrases to get by in France, and it helped me out in the long run. Paris is also a great city to practice French if you are currently learning because the French respect you more when you speak in their native tongue. They are not as quick to switching to English, however if they do know some English they will utilize it to speed things up.

Not long after staying in Paris did I realize living there was much more affordable than what I had expected. During my first few nights, I was surprised at how far twenty Euros would stretch when purchasing my weekly groceries. My everyday essentials such as goat cheese, fruit preserves, bread, and sandwich meat were much lower in price, even with the Euro being stronger than the Dollar. An additional perk was the fact that the price posted was exactly what I paid. This is contrary to the United States because there are often fees and sales taxes tacked onto imported goods. The lower price on food items only became better with each passing day. With the metric system, I also found a drop in price for items that were weighted at check out. Most prices were set at a rate per kilo, so I found myself paying for only about half of that rate. Again I was purchasing roughly a pound at a time for most items which converts to roughly a half kilo.

Moving on, the elaborately designed interiors of the various Chateaus I visited proved to be even more dense and ornate than the stock images that have been cataloged into my art history textbooks. Some of my more favorable moments were that of the Rococo, which was characterized with soft pastel hues and had an emphasis on leisure time. I began to gain more insight in how the French were really the arbitrators of tastes and how they were notable for appropriating outside influences and reclaiming them with their own additional touch. This was especially  noted in the various productions of porcelain I had encountered during this trip. 

One of my main interests while in Paris was excessive cultural appropriation. This makes sense in that Paris is a melting pot of nationalities. One notable work that appropriated eastern traditions was an over-the-top vase at the Museum of Decorative Arts. It was just as big as me, and it probably weighted three fold my weight. The designs on it were preoccupied with a multiplicity of stories all jammed onto one composition. This vase had every hue ever glazed onto a porcelain object, and it repulsed the spectator as much as it lured them in. It was the epitome of kitsch and the French were not willing to give it a rest, until they were recognized for perfecting the tastefulness surrounded around porcelain.

Going to museums on a daily basis enriched my artistic knowledge, and there were just as many contemporary spaces as there were history and tourist museums. If I was given a nickle for ever time I saw an art gallery, even if it was a pop up space, I would have enough cash to live in Paris for a year. Some of my more memorable visits included the Michel Houellebecq and Mika Rottenberg exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo. Visiting the various galleries in Montmartre made me even more determined to one day bring my studio practice abroad. Maybe some time in the near future I can snag a studio space or better yet a residency in Paris. Only then will I check more then one bag and gladly pay the airline fee.

Also here are some more pictures from my trip!!

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