Without Jury, But With Cupcake

DT1922Last week marked Edgar Degas’ 183rd birthday, and if any reason exists to treat oneself to a gourmet cupcake from a local bakery, it is to solitarily celebrate the birth of a hero (which may or may not have been exactly what I did). Degas was a founding member of the Société Anonyme des Artistes, or the Society of Independent Artists. It was this group that launched exhibitions apart from the traditional, elitist Salons of the day, and the Society later came to be known as the “Impressionists.”

While in Boston this past April, I got to see my very first Degas, The Rehearsal, at the Harvard Art Museum. As I turned the corner into my first gallery just past the café, there it was, hanging directly across from the doorway. I knew him immediately,  with his arms outstretched toward me for a Texas-sized hug, and seemingly wishing, “Bon voyage,” as I was preparing to cross the pond for the first big solo adventure of my twenties.

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Edgar Degas, The Rehearsal. c. 1873-1878. Harvard Art Museum, Boston, MA.

A few days later, I passed an hour in a corner of the London National Gallery surrounded by half a dozen more of Degas’ paintings. Having made plans for Brighton later that week, it was difficult to keep myself from going all the way into France… but there would’ve been no returning.

Degas and his friends knew how to #lovealocal. They “blurred the lines” between art for recognition and art for art’s sake. In adapting and operating under the slogan, “Without Jury nor Reward,” Degas and the Society showed that it’s okay to claim independence in your art, and not succumb to opinions of a jury specifically for their reward. 

Happy birthday, mon chevalier.

“Art is the desire of a man to express himself.”
– Edgar Degas

Twelve Months’ Adventures

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Today marks exactly one year since the start of my first big excursion: road-tripping up the California and Oregon coastlines to Seattle, the oldest city on my bucket list. In the twelve months since then, I’ve found ways to achieve so many of my personal goals that it’s almost hard to really understand why anybody would let their dreams go unrealized.

Your only excuse for not achieving your goals or fulfilling your dreams is exactly that – an excuse. If you really want to do it, then make it happen, do whatever it takes, set a specific timeline for yourself and don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way.

July 2016: Road-tripped up the West Coast from California through Portland to Seattle

August 2016: Solo-camped Big Sur

September 2016: Road-tripped from California to Texas via Las Vegas run-ins, the Grand Canyon, and Route 66

January 2017: Saw musicals on Broadway via Grand Central Station before pie in Brooklyn

April 2017: Ran around New England for libraries in Boston and lobster rolls in South Maine

May 2017: Solo-backpacked the United Kingdom for sights across the North Sea, the English Channel, the British countryside, and, best yet, the Doctor’s tenth regeneration in the flesh (swoon!)

July 2017: Road-tripped from Texas to baseball in Florida via watermelon on an Alabama church lawn and beignets in the French Quarter

Twelve cheers to what the next twelve months have in store! Do something for yourself.

Nous Voilà

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I’m so proud of my French heritage, especially on French National Day, and more especially this year, since July 14, 2017 also marks the 100th anniversary of the day the United States joined WWI.

If you know anything about the bits of French history that have intertwined with American history, you know that French aristocrat Marquis de Lafayette voluntarily came to America from France to fight in our Revolution against the British. Lafayette eventually became a trusted bestie of George Washington and was promoted to General, and led invasions while successfully persuading the French army to come to America to help fight. After the war ended, Lafayette returned to France and helped lead the French Revolution against Napoleon.

A century and a half later, when the world began fighting itself, the United States managed to stay neutral for three years before reluctantly deciding to join the war – by sending a million troops to South France to help defend the French from German invasion and make a declaration against the Axis Powers. When they arrived in France, US General Pershing went to Lafayette’s tomb to pay homage, with an interest in showing that America shares and respects Lafayette’s desire to see freedom.

France was America’s first ally when the United States was born, and since 1775, France and America have faithfully supported each other throughout the years. Nothing surpasses brotherly love in the name of independence, and I can’t wait to get to say “thank you” to the land of my fathers in person.

Goya: From Fiction to Fact

Maybe you’re like me, and you’re cursed to be a student forever (or maybe you’re not, and you’re a lucky duck). Maybe you’re glued to the Google search engine, or maybe you’re not exactly the child in the backseat asking incessantly, “Why?” Honestly, it doesn’t matter, and it’s not my point for this blog, I’m just trying to come up with a good opening paragraph. Carry on.

Thanks to unlimited data plans, I’ve commenced to listening to TV shows on Netflix over my car stereo while driving back and forth between Austin and San Antonio. (It’s a lot like radio drama! LOVE.) During one of my recent trips, I listened to the pilot episode of my very favorite TV show, White Collar. I’ve seen this particular episode probably three or four times in the past while introducing the show to non-believers, but it had been several years since my last confession… and I wanted to listen to something that had characters with whom I would be at least vaguely familiar, so I wouldn’t miss so much by not watching.

If you’re familiar with White Collar, you know that the show features Neal Caffrey, a con artist, who convinces Peter Burke, the FBI agent who caught Neal, to agree to a work-release program. Basically, Neal serves the rest of his prison sentence as property of/a consultant to the FBI, and the series is a string of capers in which Neal uses his artsy smarts and con-artist mentality to help Peter catch other white-collar criminals.

self-portrait-with-spectaclesAaaanyway, to the point. In the first episode, Neal and Peter work to catch a forger of Spanish war bonds. The bonds feature a work by Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco de Goya, which leads Neal to believe that the bonds might be the work of renowned Goya restorer, Curtis Hagen (played by Mark Sheppard, for my fellow members of the SPN family!). To make a long story short, Hagen is caught, and my Goya curiosity is piqued.

I’ve spent the last week and a half reading about and doing research on Goya and his work, livelihood, and influences. While I’ve never been particularly interested in Spanish art, I’ve learned a few interesting things about Goya that actually tie back to “easter eggs,” to loosely borrow the idea, in the pilot episode of White Collar. There’s something about catching details that only maybe 5% of the audience might recognize, and I love feeling like an insider.

  • Frescos_de_Goya_en_San_Antonio_de_la_FloridaCurtis Hagen is located by Neal and Peter while Hagen is restoring frescoes in a church. Goya’s reputation as an artist was established with his rococo frescoes painted for a cathedral in Saragossa, upon his return to Spain from Italy where he studied the classic artists. Plus one for White Collar.

 

  • the-milkmaid-of-bordeaux-1827Neal and Peter have some conversation about a 1982 bottle of Bordeaux. Goya retired to Bordeaux, France, and spent his last years there. It was in Bordeaux that Goya produced The Milkmaid of Bordeaux, the painting of Goya’s that has come to be my favorite. Goya uses shades of blue, one of his rarely used colors (my favorite color); Goya stopped using paintbrushes and used only his palette knife and rags while in Bordeaux (“what matter?”); The Milkmaid of Bordeaux more than any of Goya’s works shows Goya to be a precursor to the Impressionists (my favorite art movement).

 

  • Peter’s wife, Elizabeth, is characterized by enjoying pottery making, Nancy Drew mysteries, oleander candles, old jazz, and “anything Italian except anchovies.” Young Goya spent two years studying art in Italy, and won an award for his painting skill from the Academy of Parma. It was following Goya’s time in Italy that he painted the frescoes in Spain that established his reputation.

That last connection’s a lesser connection, to be sure, maybe coincidental at best… but who wants to make just two points when three is a much more complete number? All else aside, here is where my favorite fiction has become very “fact” to me – I’ve got a bit more appreciation for Spanish art, and the town of Bordeaux added to my bucket list. Many thanks, White Collar.

Quill and Quire and Quentin

While stumbling onto The Daily Posts’s Quill for today, I was reminded of learning a new word a few weeks ago. Being a book review blogger interested in supporting authors in doing what they love to do, I found myself researching a particular author one afternoon in order to best represent her work as a product of her character. My search led me to Quill and Quire, a Canadian book review magazine, where I spent a few moments digging. I eventually navigated through other “About”-related pages until I found the FAQs, where Quill and Quire stewardly explained what a “quire” was:
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74076e18d348378247b7da29244ea0c26e21d9ac (1)Normally, I’ll have a second thought about a new word anytime I hear one. When it comes to proper-ish nouns, though, I’m not as inclined to wonder about what a strange word might mean. It’s easy to go nuts trying to come up with the most unique name for a band, club, book, brand, pet, etc., and most of the time, I’ll resort to the thought that somebody was just trying to be different… While I’m sure that the person tasked with naming Quill and Quire was certainly going for a unique name, I didn’t immediately wonder what “quire” could mean.

I’m glad to have been prompted to learn about “quire,” though, as it’s certainly struck my bookish fancy. Feels very Harry-Potter-ish. While looking for images of quires like the one above, I’ve just now learned that a quire can also refer to a “choir” of music.

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Church Quire.

Preaching to the quire.

That just doesn’t even look the same. Although, if Quentin Quire was on the church quire, perhaps even singing from a quire, maybe I’d understand a little better.