I just came across this picture which marks the center of Aix (traffic). There are cafes nearby to keep an eye on the center of activity and the fountain that changes with the light, be it morning, noon, or evening. Originally designed to celebrate the arrival of water from the Zola canal, it is beautiful. There are so many pictures of it online. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontaine_de_la_Rotonde
I recently binged on “Emily in Paris” and laughed out loud at the similarities of my experience in the first few months in Aix. The fun and quirky things about being an American abroad, struggling mightily to read and speak French, and the many things that went right over my head or I never understood. I always remembered these things fondly. Especially because within a few months my experience changed so much for the better as my accent became more Provencal and my French was quite passable.
My story as a visiting artist at the Ecole des Beaux Arts had a different tone. To be a visiting artist in another country is really a once in a lifetime experience and opportunity. It brings a responsibility but also unexpected experiences. Another culture will challenge the concept of what art and the artist means within a different context. In another culture that does not value things in the same way, a transformation and reinvention of creativity and art is almost demanded. Art is universal but there is a reason different cultures produce different art.
What I adored, was learning a new vocabulary for art and the artistic experience which derived from the very nature of the culture and expanded my awareness of what art is and how it affects our lives. Theirs was such a gentle, refined and expansive vocabulary. As I learned those words, I learned to think in those ways. Very often when one asks an American about their art, the person immediately launches into a reprise of their resume, what they have done. In France, they spoke immediately of the aesthetic qualities, the project, the research, possibly music or theatrical collaborations. I began to view my life and my art from this new vocabulary and perspective. It made me look deeply inside and question my work in a different way.
Out of this affection for more words to describe aesthetic qualities, I invented an exercise for myself to discover my own work through close observation and writing down adjectives. For each word I write down, I look up all the words in the definition and I write those down, and so on, until I run out of words and very often they have looped back to the beginning. This exercise helps me to understand what the work is actually doing, what feelings it is creating. In other words, am I succeeding at expressing what I intended? Or, maybe the work is headed in a very different direction, possibly driven by the subconscious. I use this exercise of words to reveal my work to myself.
This is a small thing that living in a foreign country gave me.