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Paris Dispatches: Introducing ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist in Residence Brett Day Windham
by Brett Day Windham


Paris Dispatches is the blog of ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist in Residence, Brett Day Windham, who will be undertaking her residency in Paris during January and February 2015. She will be using the blog to share her process, work, and experience throughout the residency. You can find more information about ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist/Writer Residency here.

 

For the Georgia Fee/ArtSlant Winter Residency, I have proposed a series of daily walks through Paris. Some walks are solitary. Other walks are collaborative, a duet that includes another artist, writer, musician, or critic. Found objects are collected while walking (the objects can be any discarded thing that catches the eye, like beachcombing in the city). These totems are saved; their shape, weight, and color then dictate an assembled sculpture. I have ideas about the final form these accumulated objects might take (initial ideas include a tapestry based on the French tradition) but I am open to the revelations of chance and serendipity. As with my last residency in South Brooklyn,  the experience and the objects I find shape what the project becomes. This blog will map the path taken, record each collaborator, and include photographs from each walk. Photographs of all objects collected at the end of each walk will be included as well.

 

Tassels, 2013, four months of accumulated strands in six colors, installations dimensions 11 x 17 x 7 feet

 

Recently, my work has evolved into this pattern of walking and collecting. Multiple projects have brought this practice into focus, evolving from a collect-one-object-a-day mantra into a much more disciplined and experimental pursuit. In the past I have used my findings to create alchemy machines, chemistry sets, and a giant rosary. I have pressed objects into books in Italy, tied them up into tassels in Denver, and most recently arranged them as an enormous mandala.

 

Left: Theater of The Incompetent Alchemist (Detail), 2009, Milk Crates, Wood, Paint, Glass, Vinyl Tubing, Gold Leaf, Garbage, Gumball Machine. 48 x 48 x 48  in

Right: Automaton, 2012, Hand­cut magazine collage on board, 30 x 20 inches. On frequent walks, I collect discarded glossy magazines, abstracting and reimagining their accumulated contents. These collages inform and inspire my three­-dimensional work.

 

The mandala at the top of this post (with me sitting in the center) was created in April 2014 at the Select Residency at Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I began the residency with daily walks in Sunset Park, but soon became so intrigued by the neighborhood that I wanted to include friends, colleagues, and artists in the experience. I invited these people to walk with me; they dictated a place to meet. Each walk ended at my studio, but everything in between was left up to chance. I discovered that involving other creative people really strengthened my own sense of the project. We collected objects to bring back and add to the installation. The dialogue between the objects intensified as I explored the many communities of South Brooklyn: they told me stories of nationality, language, economics and loss. For example, we found a cast-off yarmulke in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, foam sleeves for shipping pears in the Chinese neighborhood, vintage reggae records near the freeway, and an acid green feather at the gothic revival gates to Green-Wood Cemetery (where an improbable flock of wild parrots makes their home).

 

Cypher (detail)
Sunset Selects Project

Cypher (Sunset Park), 2014, One month of accumulated objects from South Brooklyn, 12 x 12 feet

 

Thus, the project began to assert its anthropological content, and the incredible colors dictated their own color wheel—creating the circular shape of the installation. The detailed blog I kept for that residency became a way to map and document the character of each walk, discuss the time I spent with each guest walker, and include a photograph of what was found. I also created a suite of collages from the photographs I took.

 

Rosary, 2008–13, 5 years of objects accumulated one-per-day, string is 100 feet long, dimensions variable

 

Travel and exposure to other cultures has proven to be a vital source of inspiration, opening up my definitions of drawing, installation, conceptualism, and social practice. As I continue this series of installations comprised of objects collected on durational walks in different cities, I can't think of a better place to work than Paris. It is a perfect match for this project—not only for it’s beauty, but also for the city's intrinsic relationship with walking as an aesthetic practice. One important reference for me is the rich history of the flâneur, the leisurely strolling dandy, as a "modern" late 19th century citizen. 

Specifically, I think of Walter Benjamin’s legendary Arcades Project: a taxonomy of anecdotes organized around the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, identifying the fin-de-siècle Parisian Arcades as the site of commodification and as evidence of modern times. Benjamin positions the Arcades as the ultimate haunt for this Parisian flâneur. As a contemporary woman, I am interested in the contradictions and surprises my walking will reveal. 

 

Verdigris Triptych

Verdigris Triptych, 2012, Collage on illustration board, 30 x 66 inches

 

Walking through Paris collecting small objects for an installation and resurrecting the specter of the flâneur will serve as my aesthetic anthropological study, and as a survey of what a community accumulates and abandons. I am interested equally in the arcades, the alleyways, the cracks in the sidewalk, and the magic that comes from the unexpected discoveries therein. 

 

Brett Day Windham

  

Brett Day Windham (born Cambridge, England, raised Providence, Rhode Island) is a multidisciplinary artist working with sculpture, installation and collage. She received a BFA from Hampshire College and an MFA in Sculpture from RISD. Her work has been included in shows around the US, including The Chace Center at the RISD Museum (Providence), Tompkins Projects West (Los Angeles), Cave (Detroit), Lu Magnus (NY), Brooklyn Fireproof (NY), Gallery Project (Ann Arbor), 808 Gallery (Boston), Samsøn Projects (Boston), University of Maine Museum of Art (Bangor), and RMCAD (Denver). Windham received a Dean’s fellowship while at RISD, and was nominated for the Joan Mitchell MFA Grant that same year. Residencies she has attended include The Select Fair Residency in 2014 (New York), The Chrysler Museum Glass Studio in 2013 (Norfolk, Virginia), TSKW in 2010 (Key West, Florida), Cascina Remondenca in 2009 (Chiaverano, Italy), and Penland in 2005 (Penland, North Carolina). Her work has been discussed in Hyperallergic, The New York Times, Whitewall Magazine, Her Royal Majesty, The Dinner Party and The Bangor Daily News.

Windham uses color and composition to organize collections of natural, commercial and industrial remnants into multi-disciplinary works which confer a sense of mysticism and ritual. Specific sets of objects (as varied as discarded dime bags, broken earbuds, mussel shells, feathers, floor sweepings and bound and recycled magazines) hold totemic powers: she is interested in the anthropological stories they tell. Over time, she accumulates these materials from such varied sources as sidewalks, the floors of other artist's studios, or from nature: these time-based collections are then used as components for assembled sculptures, or are photographed, printed, cut and manipulated for collages.

 

(Image at top: Cypher (Sunset Park), 2014, One month of accumulated objects from South Brooklyn, 12 x 12 feet)



Posted by Brett Day Windham on 1/8 | tags: artist residency Georgia Fee artist residency found objects walks Paris flaneur paris dispatches

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20130904163953-1400x720-qjbxpimmsodrp2pc Dear Ms. Elaine Brandt,
Hello! Nice to hear from you. I'm glad my piece provoked your need to comment...Hmmm, well, I have anxiety in my life, but perhaps this is not quite where it lies. I think that if you look at my body of work, the only piece that harkens to Mike Kelley's wonderful oeuvre is the most recent one. Even there, there is a marked difference. Kelley's approach and result were quite different in terms of mode of collection, scale of project, permanence of finished sculpture, methods and materials used, and use of figuration in the result. He was a marvelous artist, and is sorely missed. However, if you want to talk overlap, I would have to point to Polly Apfelbaum's wonderful "fallen paintings," traditional Tibetan sand mandalas, the unfortunately-but-simultaneously-made (and spectacular) work "Asterisms" by the brilliant Gabriel Orozco, and then of course the great impact Candy Jernigan has had on my practice is immeasurable. We all have influence, n'est-ce que pas? Perhaps better that we think of them as part of our "art family" and build from there? All the best from Paris!
Me2 Ms. Brett Day Windham
The colored chachkas arranged by color are highly reminiscent of Mike Kelley's 2001 arranged found debris from the Detroit River entitled "Blackout," as well as his "Memory Ware" series from 2003. Beware the anxiety of influence.


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Paris Dispatches: Tous Charlie | An Artist's Walk Meets a City's March
by Brett Day Windham


Paris Dispatches is the blog of ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist in Residence, Brett Day Windham, who will be undertaking her residency in Paris during January and February 2015. She will be using the blog to share her process, work, and experience throughout the residency. You can find more information about ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist/Writer Residency here.

 

Six days ago, I was anxious about leaving New York, hoping I was prepared for my adventure, and double checking my packing list. I had no idea that my first day in Paris would bring the Charlie Hebdo attacks, or that for the next week I would be surrounded by uncertainty, terrorism, murder, and some intense political grandstanding. I have been smack in the middle of things here in Paris. I keep criss-crossing around and through emergencies on my daily walks. On Tuesday I was innocent of the day's events at Charlie Hebdo until I got home and checked the news.

My vibrant, popular neighborhood in Le Marais is historically Jewish and newly Arab, and has been intermittently shuttered throughout the week. I have woken each day to the sound of sirens coming and going on the street beyond my courtyard, as my apartment lies close to the site of the hostage standoff at the Jewish Grocery, en route to the main hospital, and right in between Republique and Place de la Bastille, the historical marching route used for Sunday’s peace rally. I walked in that march yesterday, and then walked back along its path when it was over, collecting photographs, cast-off signs, and all manner of signifiers as I went.

 

A hand picked up from the ground while walking

 

I thought about what it meant for a walking artist to take her daily stroll in the middle of a political demonstration, and what it was to walk with over a million other people instead of just one. I tried to slow myself to their pace, and tried not to seem a bit off as I picked up bits of caution tape and “nous sommes tous charlie” stickers. With the interest of the walking Flâneuse, I checked out their fantastic demonstration-chic (many pencils holding up a small chignon, yellow berets and sneakers, and a flirtatious little boy dressed as Charlie Brown riding on his mother’s shoulders with a sign that read “not even scared” in French). The vibe was calm. I noticed a lot of families, just regular people, out to take back their streets, reclaim their city and be together. In the end, the march was incredibly soothing. It was very quiet (compared to demonstrations I’ve participated in in New York and D.C.), with rhythmic bursts of claps and gently sung renditions of "La Marseillaise."

 

A flirtatious little boy who is “not even afraid”

 

Above and beyond all the questions and political combustion about who poked at which bear and what triggered this attack, free speech and a sense of basic security is a human right. The fact that this attack began with an assault against artists left me reeling; I think that (particularly in the US) artists are left to mill about within their “creative class” and often feel separate from politics, media, and mass culture. Friends have told me repeatedly that in Europe this is not true, and I felt it this week. While I am not a satirical cartoonist, I am an artist who is interested in culture and society. There is no way to feel disconnected from an attack of this nature. Simple empathy wouldn’t do—the week raised a lot of questions for me about the varied effects and purposes of art-making.

 

An unbroken pencil, in solidarity with political cartoonists everywhere

 

It was good to march with Paris today, and it didn’t hurt that the Parisians’ quiet chant “fra-ter-ni-té” made this outsider feel included, protected in their numbers. I have refused to be dissuaded from taking my daily walks or from fulfilling the promise of my project: my next post will attend to the beauty and mystery of the rest of my explorations from my first week in Paris, and the various routines and rituals I’ve been imposing on my project.

 

La Collone de Juliet, at La Place de la Bastille, after the march

 


Brett Day Windham

 

Brett Day Windham (born Cambridge, England, raised Providence, Rhode Island) is a multidisciplinary artist working with sculpture, installation and collage. She received a BFA from Hampshire College and an MFA in Sculpture from RISD. Her work has been included in shows around the US, including The Chace Center at the RISD Museum (Providence), Tompkins Projects West (Los Angeles), Cave (Detroit), Lu Magnus (NY), Brooklyn Fireproof (NY), Gallery Project (Ann Arbor), 808 Gallery (Boston), Samsøn Projects (Boston), University of Maine Museum of Art (Bangor), and RMCAD (Denver). Windham received a Dean’s fellowship while at RISD, and was nominated for the Joan Mitchell MFA Grant that same year. Residencies she has attended include The Select Fair Residency in 2014 (New York), The Chrysler Museum Glass Studio in 2013 (Norfolk, Virginia), TSKW in 2010 (Key West, Florida), Cascina Remondenca in 2009 (Chiaverano, Italy), and Penland in 2005 (Penland, North Carolina). Her work has been discussed in Hyperallergic, The New York Times, Whitewall Magazine, Her Royal Majesty, The Dinner Party and The Bangor Daily News.

Windham uses color and composition to organize collections of natural, commercial and industrial remnants into multi-disciplinary works which confer a sense of mysticism and ritual. Specific sets of objects (as varied as discarded dime bags, broken earbuds, mussel shells, feathers, floor sweepings and bound and recycled magazines) hold totemic powers: she is interested in the anthropological stories they tell. Over time, she accumulates these materials from such varied sources as sidewalks, the floors of other artist's studios, or from nature: these time-based collections are then used as components for assembled sculptures, or are photographed, printed, cut and manipulated for collages.

 

(All images courtesy of the author.)



Posted by Brett Day Windham on 1/12 | tags: paris dispatches je suis charlie charlie hebdo Georgia Fee artist residency charlie hebdo solidarity march Paris artist in residence

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Je Suis Charlie: The World Mourns for Freedom of Expression
by The ArtSlant Team


Alongside our peers around the world, we were deeply shocked and saddened at the news of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in which ten journalists plus two police officers lost their lives as they sat down for their weekly editorial meeting on Wednesday.

The weekly satirical publication, a stalwart advocate of freedom of expression and of left-wing pluralism, is known in particular for its irreverent cartoons and send-ups of religious leaders. This was the second terrorist attack the magazine has suffered since it relaunched in 1992. 

The sadness comes not only from the pointless loss of life and suffering, and the assault on the rights to work peacefully and to freedom of expression; it also a huge blow to the terribly fragile relations between the West and religious extremists—the chance of living in a more harmonious world in which we can all communicate without violence seems desperately far away this week. But the values of Charlie Hebdo will continue to be asserted around the world, as artists, editors and journalists unite to respond to the massacre in words and pictures with the line "Je Suis Charlie." Vigils for the victims are taking place across France and around the world.

Here are some of Charlie Hebdo's most acerbic covers, with their strident message of humor over hate.

UPDATE: Charlie Hebdo will publish next week, saying "Stupidity will not win". They plan a circulation of one million copies, compared to their weekly 60k run, and have cut the length of the periodical in half to 8 pages.

 

Racists Have Small Dicks, Obviously

The Socialist Party Has Chosen its Cleaning Lady 

Irresponsible Journal: The Invention of Humour: Oil, Fire

Love Stronger Than Hate  

 

 A Modern Pope

 

Zlatan Taxed to 75%

 

—The ArtSlant Team

 

(Image at top: Latuff for Middle East Monitor, 2015; All other images courtesy: Charlie Hebdo)



Posted by The ArtSlant Team on 1/8 | tags: drawing political cartoons cartoon extremism je suis charlie charlie hebdo

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Paris Dispatches: Anticipating Arrival | A Residency Reading List
by Brett Day Windham


Paris Dispatches is the blog of ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist in Residence, Brett Day Windham, who will be undertaking her residency in Paris during January and February 2015. She will be using the blog to share her process, work, and experience throughout the residency. You can find more information about ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist/Writer Residency here.

 

As I prepared to embark on my two month winter exploration of Paris, I began organizing my thoughts, my books, my suitcase. I made lists, as one does: reading lists, lists of places to walk to, lists of people to walk with, lists of bakeries to haunt, and the types of supplies I’ll need. Walking shoes, cameras, wire cutters, watercolors, notebooks, layers and layers of black. Friends have been sending me incredible lists of suggested walks, favorite cafés, books to read, and places to buy the best fresh vegetables. And now I’ve made a list of lists.

I am thinking and conjuring and wondering what kind of detritus I will find in Paris. Anywhere I’ve traveled, I always seem to find chicken bones, dime bags, washers, tire weights, bits of strapping, feathers, and curiously enough, random playing cards. Will the types of things I find in Paris be different from what I’ve found in New York?  Will they be more poetic, more esoteric, more whimsical? After all, if Susan Buck-Morss is convinced that “[Walter] Benjamin took the debris of mass culture seriously as the source of philosophical truth,” what cast-offs might I accumulate that could reflect this, however abstractly? For more on Ms. Buck-Morss, read on for my preliminary reading list.

 

photo 2.JPG

 

  1. Markets of Paris - by Dixon Long & Marjorie R. Williams

  2. Rimbaud - Collected Poems

  3. The Primary Colors - Alexander Theroux

  4. Paris Vs New York - Vahram Muratyan

  5. Men Explain Things To Me - Rebecca Solnit

  6. Forever Paris: 25 Walks in the Footsteps of Chanel, Hemingway… - Christina Henry de Tessan

  7. A Field Guide To Getting Lost - Rebecca Solnit

  8. Wanderlust - Rebecca Solnit

  9. The Arcades Project - Walter Benjamin, “his attempt to use collage techniques in literature”

  10. Les Fleurs du Mal - Baudelaire (Specifically the Tableaux Parisiennes during Haussmann’s Paris renovations 1853-1870)

  11. The Dialectics of Seeing - Susan Buck-Morss

  12. Dream Worlds - Mass Consumption in Late 19th Century France - Rosalind Williams

  13. Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture - edited by Dr. Lori Brown. 

    “The surveillance, public censure and political powerlessness that the homeless woman experiences as she stakes out private territory in the city is in stark contrast to the comfortable interior that Benjamin’s archetypal flåneur experiences. Benjamin’s “flåneur” is a wandering dandy, voyeur, a poet, a “dreaming idler” at times a predator, and always male. For him, walking transforms Paris into a comfortable intimate interior space without thresholds….While the street absorbs and seduces the male wanderer, or  flåneur, so he transforms Paris from a public realm into a private one. For women however, moving through the streets is a very different experience. In the era when Benjamin was writing, merely walking in the street alone or at the wrong time could place a woman under suspicion of prostitution and give grounds for arrest” (p 381).

  14. My Paris: A Novel - by Gail Scott

    ("In contemporary Paris, a diarist persistently gathers the remains of an epoch, accompanied by the literary ghost of Walter Benjamin, whose famous Paris arcades project serves as a kind of Baedeker. But, little by little she becomes an amalgam of her detritus—including a touch of resentment. For alongside the pleasurable Paris in which expatiate avant-garde artists and rebels have traditionally flourished lies a typically complex city, teeming with disaster.") Note: I have begun reading this book, and am transfixed by its beauty.

  15. "The Start of Something Big" - James Miller,  New York Times Review of the New Edition of The Arcades Project, February 20, 2000. 

    "'Your study,' he carped in 1938, referring to a yet another draft of an essay drawn from The Arcades Project, 'is located at the crossroads of magic and positivism.'" —Theodor Adorno, as quoted by James Miller.



Brett Day Windham

 

Brett Day Windham (born Cambridge, England, raised Providence, Rhode Island) is a multidisciplinary artist working with sculpture, installation and collage. She received a BFA from Hampshire College and an MFA in Sculpture from RISD. Her work has been included in shows around the US, including The Chace Center at the RISD Museum (Providence), Tompkins Projects West (Los Angeles), Cave (Detroit), Lu Magnus (NY), Brooklyn Fireproof (NY), Gallery Project (Ann Arbor), 808 Gallery (Boston), Samsøn Projects (Boston), University of Maine Museum of Art (Bangor), and RMCAD (Denver). Windham received a Dean’s fellowship while at RISD, and was nominated for the Joan Mitchell MFA Grant that same year. Residencies she has attended include The Select Fair Residency in 2014 (New York), The Chrysler Museum Glass Studio in 2013 (Norfolk, Virginia), TSKW in 2010 (Key West, Florida), Cascina Remondenca in 2009 (Chiaverano, Italy), and Penland in 2005 (Penland, North Carolina). Her work has been discussed in Hyperallergic, The New York Times, Whitewall Magazine, Her Royal Majesty, The Dinner Party and The Bangor Daily News.

Windham uses color and composition to organize collections of natural, commercial and industrial remnants into multi-disciplinary works which confer a sense of mysticism and ritual. Specific sets of objects (as varied as discarded dime bags, broken earbuds, mussel shells, feathers, floor sweepings and bound and recycled magazines) hold totemic powers: she is interested in the anthropological stories they tell. Over time, she accumulates these materials from such varied sources as sidewalks, the floors of other artist's studios, or from nature: these time-based collections are then used as components for assembled sculptures, or are photographed, printed, cut and manipulated for collages.

 

(All images courtesy of the author.)



Posted by Brett Day Windham on 1/12 | tags: paris dispatches Georgia Fee artist residency artist in residence paris reading list Walter Benjamin

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Paris Dispatches: The Streets Are Lined with Dreams of Sonia
by Brett Day Windham


Paris Dispatches is the blog of ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist in Residence, Brett Day Windham, who will be undertaking her residency in Paris during January and February 2015. She will be using the blog to share her process, work, and experience throughout the residency. You can find more information about ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist/Writer Residency here.

 

PART I: Paris is rather empty / Still I walk on / La grippe

FullSizeRender.jpgFullSizeRender.jpg

Two photo-collages from my first week of Paris sidewalks

 

Paris is empty, and people are still scared. This is what every shopgirl and taxi driver and doctor I’ve seen assures me. While I am pleased that Charlie Hebdo’s new issue sold out in hours, I am also pleased that there are some thoughtful articles being written like this one, considering the moment when crude cultural caricatures could actually reflect an old and civilized culture still rife with racism and oppression. Nothing is simple.

In the midst of this affirmed douleur, I have developed a kind of routine: I get up, put on my drugstore pedometer, and leave the house. What time I go and for how long still varies, but I walk until I can’t anymore and then I return to my apartment, record the distance and number of steps taken in my notebook, and trace out my meanderings on my map of Paris—which I’ve overlaid with big pieces of transparent vellum. The time and length of my walks have been affected by the level of terror attack happening that day, my endless jet lag, how hard it is raining, or how sick I am (today: very, I have contracted La Grippe, along with the rest of the stolid people remaining in Paris).

A section of my map tracings after the first week in Paris

 

I have been through the Tuileries, to the Museum of Art Modern to see the huge, exhaustive, wonderful Sonia Delaunay show* (and, as a surprise, the extensive and appealing David Altmejd show), retraced Balzac’s steps through the Latin Quarter, and promenaded down the Rue Saint Honoré. I have made pilgrimage to the Marché Aux Puces, and out to the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Bologne to see the Olafur Eliasson exhibition. I have meandered through the alleys and rues pavé in my own neighborhood, Le Marais. The graphite lines on my map slowly grow denser, and I have been finding a few good objects along the way. (Paris is quite clean, so one must keep their eyes peeled).

feather.JPGThe ostrich feather, plucked from doom

 

Current favorites include an ostrich feather from the floor of a vintage shop, a chalkboard-style price tag on a stick from outside a florist, and some huge lengths of red and white caution tape. I have begun thinking about how to weave them all together, to attach them. While I admittedly have a long-time attraction to caution tape, it feels particularly fitting in relation to the state of affairs in Paris right now.

A photograph I took in a Milan construction site, Summer 2009



PART II: * Where a footnote becomes its own post: On Sonia Delaunay-Terk

If I could just return to Sonia Delaunay for a moment, there is more to say here. Years ago, my father gave me a book on Sonia Delaunay. Like many, I had heard of her husband, Robert, about whom I was only marginally interested. The book on Mme Delaunay-Terk blew my mind. She was an enthusiast: she loved art, color, clothes, music, life, and wrapped her able arms around all of it. She was perhaps under-recognized until late in life, but did the hard work of supporting her husband and family during wartime—and did it as an artist. Before I left for Paris, friends repeatedly demanded to know my plans. I would reply that my first day would hold a visit to the Sonia Delaunay show at the MaM, and found that few people knew of her. As often happens with cult figures, though, those who did know her were thrilled. I was so pleased to learn that here in Paris she is not cult, but mainstream. The show is enormous, and presents all the facets of a Life In Art I have long admired.

She was active in any-and-every type of artmaking that interested her, and to which she could apply her color/rhythm theory of Simultanisme (simultaneity—the sensation of movement when contrasting colors are next to each other, which I think makes her a great candidate for synesthesia). She made paintings and posters and prints for textiles and ballet costumes and films; she made illustrated books and poem-dresses with her friend Tristan Tzara, and decorated trunks and decks of cards.

There was a restored film which blew me away; it may seem anecdotal to most people—it’s barely mentioned by the museum—but I thought it brought her drawings to life. For the film, she created a series of tableaux, all resplendent with her power-clashing textile patterns, and placed friends and models inside them; individually they sip tea, pull printed scarves from a painted trunk, twirl in a patterned skirt, and giggle. Finally Madame Delaunay herself laughs before the camera, engulfed in her own floating, wild “tissues.” I watched the film six times, transfixed by her total control over the thing.

Following are images of Mme Delaunay reaching out from the frame into the world—and perhaps into a different frame altogether:

(left) The Flamingo Dancer (as labelled on the English-Language tag at the MaM show), Oil painting, 1916

(right) "Sonia Delaunay; Ses Peintures, Ses Objets, Ses Tissus Simultanés, Ses Modes" 1925, Illustration

A Coat for Gloria Swanson, 1923–24

A still from Sonia Delaunay’s conserved short film, snapped covertly at the MaM

 

More than just the untouchable beauty of her paintings, her embrace of actual daily life—and a commitment to support her husband and their life together—she excelled at, then pushed out from the theoretical world of painting into some weird, real, beautiful, avant-garde territory reserved for few women of her own—or any—era. Such chutzpah. Perhaps at the time it may have felt like over-exposure, I don’t know. To me it looks resourceful, effusive, and a slap in the face of the World Wars swarming around her and against her—she was a Jewish-French immigrant, after all.

There is no good reason to use the outdated term “applied arts” to someone who applied their creativity to everything from the beginning. Where a fancy rug might seem (for some other wildly successful late career artist) like a ploy to conquer the space both above and below the rich collector’s sofa, Mme Delaunay wanted it all, all along; she wanted the curtains, the dress the collector was wearing, the wallpaper, the deck of cards on the table, dust jackets for Tzara’s poetry books on the shelf, a mural and a mosaic outside, the pattern on their car, and the upholstery on the sofa itself to be borne of her master mind.

She has become the guiding spirit for my project here in Paris, a project which is still taking form. As I continue to walk the streets and the arcades, searching for ghosts and the specter of the Flaneur, it is her spirit that I seem to conjure. I am desirous of that omnipotent eye, that delirious yet structured love of color, that breadth of expression both domestic and professional. I think the ways in which she affects my work here in Paris will reveal themselves, over time.

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My Sketch for a Lady Flâneur, January 2015

 

Brett Day Windham

  

Brett Day Windham (born Cambridge, England, raised Providence, Rhode Island) is a multidisciplinary artist working with sculpture, installation and collage. You can find the full list of blog posts from her Paris residency here.

 



Posted by Brett Day Windham on 1/19 | tags: painting sonia delaunay paris dispatches paris walks Georgia Fee artist residency artist in residence

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Jürgen Teller: To View Women Is to Think Them
by Stephanie Cristello


The Face of Joan Didion.

In his 1957 publication, Mythologies, Roland Barthes wrote a chapter entitled “The Face of Garbo” that traced the marked distancing of Hollywood’s representation of the female face from the concept of awe, toward the effect of charm—childish and feline. We have not strayed far from this portrayal of women on screen since. Within Western history, and within our treatment of these images, there is something inexplicably aesthetic within the urge to evaluate the surface of a woman’s face. Portraiture is psychological, we are told. To view women is to think them.

Enter Jürgen Teller’s recent campaign that launched Céline’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection earlier this month, featuring 80-year-old American author, Joan Didion. Didion’s status is literary, though to speak about her image in this campaign is not a criticism of her words, or event her physical being in space. To speak about Didion through its Céline image is to necessarily relegate her status to pure advertisement. Our interaction with Didion in Teller’s piece is limited to its formal qualities; her image is inescapably commercial—we confront her as an advert, a public face, a purposefully cutting take on the typical “poster girl.”

Representations of women in art, as in popular culture, are held to the aesthetics of age. Here more than ever, age commands our vision, and instructs us how to read the image. Though now into her eighties, Didion is still not severed from the discourse of girlishness—an ideal that as an author/image she at once inhabited and problematized. Why does this affect still remain? How can we define “The Face of Didion?”

Jürgen Teller: Céline Spring / Summer 2013 advertisement with Daria Werbowy

 

Her shades say it all.

In Barthes’ original two-page chapter, Audrey Hepburn was responsible for the shift toward the girl-as-kitten, a trope that is arguably “objectified” today (think: Zooey Deschanel). He described the “face-object” of Garbo as an absolute state, an archetype or idea of a woman as human form. The reverse, of course, is Hepburn, with her peculiarity, her idiosyncrasies. Barthes concludes: if Garbo’s face is an Idea, Hepburn’s is an Event. Didion’s is neither. 

Didion’s face is a Façade.

In Teller’s photograph, Didion is sculptural—in the classical sense, as a harmonious form, her composition is balanced and symmetrical—as if carved out of stone. Perhaps that is why our gaze cannot be returned: for fear that we, too, will be transformed. Didion becomes a type of Medusa figure, with all the mythological airs that come with that association. Within this placeless surrounding of indoors (we see a nondescript couch, simple furnishings within a white room), Didion stands out as purposefully non-belonging. Transplanted, transposed.

Façades occupy a surface; they hide the space they claim to cover-up. They can redirect, mislead, give an illusion of what is behind, or eliminate the suspicion that a behind exists at all. I imagine the faux-tunnel painted backdrops Wile E. Coyote staged against brick walls to foil the Roadrunner. Didion’s face is a similar trickster, able to adapt to what the viewer wants her to be. Her shades encourage the myth of glamour, while the dark glass simultaneously deflects all possible interaction with her as a figure. For a campaign that represents her portrait, she is faceless.

Jürgen Teller, Phoebe Philo

 

To speak about Céline’s visual efforts more generally, Phoebe Philo—Creative Director of the brand since her appointment by LVMH in 2008—has herself participated in its images’ want for the fetishization of realness. Philo has become the unofficial mascot for the discomfort of class. In each image, luxury is problematic—or else, the clichés of the upper class are redefined (see: Philo in a white button-down, smoking a cigarette and holding a cup of coffee).

Within Céline, this strange transformation occurs, where the clothing becomes Garbo—and the models each their own Hepburn. The garments, essential and structural, are made to hold women. The garments contain their bodies, never touching the edge of the constructs’ severe silhouettes, limbs floating within the austerity of a-lines and tailored menswear. The minimal yet girlish apparel is suspended as a canopy of intellect and taste, a midcentury aberration, a predictable peculiarity of time and place.

Women drift within them. Women occupy these clothes, detached from them. Light bleeds through these models. They are lit, and light comes from them. In each overexposed photograph, as in our image of them, these women are screens. The compositions project a faded anomaly back into the history of modern fashion, or at least our representation of its aesthetic tropes, redefined ever so slightly by staged taboos. Flaws pose for the camera: the cigarette lines appearing from the aging model’s lips; the discomforting coolness of a heavy diamond necklace in a chlorinated swimming pool; the creased heights of skin on either side of the girl’s lingerie, placed too tightly on her upper thigh. Flaws pose for Teller.

 

Jürgen Teller for Céline

 

Teller’s campaign is so tied to the familiar, yet the aesthetic vision of Céline is not so far outside of the twentieth century. It is post-modern, reused and largely uninventive, if the retro impression is looked at by standards of similarity. Yet it is not tired and tried. Maybe it is even fresh. We still want more; we thrive on the charmingly faltering backdrops, on the staged interloping houseplants, on the discomfort of miscellaneous surroundings, on the gap-toothed model, on her image as untouchably replicable, infinitely more unattainable and sexualized by the blatant exploitation of her predefined defect. These moments of subtle defiance separate Céline from being properly Garbo.

Age, of course, is not outside of Céline’s rebellion.

The luxury of this campaign is its ability to composite the real against its own illusion. The campaign is not outside fashion; it is not outside fashion’s concepts of beauty. The campaign is alert to its status as challenging and outré. The campaign is self-aware.

Using Didion as the face of the brand is no real surprise, but the implications are far more devious and underhanded than that of an average advertisement. While the image of Didion hangs in the balance, Teller is the real trickster—elusively pitting his campaign against itself, and getting labeled as avant-garde in the process. Teller’s vision of Céline bleeds Garbo against Hepburn to imagine a third possibility: the face as a void, the face as pure surface, the face as the ultimate lie. Teller’s Didion presents the myth—that a woman’s face could be read was once thought possible.

 

Stephanie Cristello

 

(Image at top: Joan Didion, by Jürgen Teller for Céline)



Posted by Stephanie Cristello on 1/21 | tags: photography figurative greta garbo advertising barthes fashion photography Celine Jürgen Teller joan didion

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Paris Dispatches: Merci, Georgia
by Brett Day Windham


Paris Dispatches is the blog of ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist in Residence, Brett Day Windham, who will be undertaking her residency in Paris during January and February 2015. She will be using the blog to share her process, work, and experience throughout the residency. You can find more information about ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist/Writer Residency here.

 

We are not idealized wild things.

We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.

―Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

 

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Today I walked to Père Lachaise. I took a weird unfriendly road that looked like a suburban truck route. It was a sad, flat, grey day to visit a cemetery. I misunderstood the geography and entered from the north exit. Everyone will have a map here, I thought, at least I will have an excuse to use a map without shame. I’ll get a map. The handsome French-African guard told me I couldn’t get a map from that end, I had to walk all the way through. “OK, d’accord. Ce n’est pas important pour moi. Merci. Bon journée!” I told him.

I immediately became hopelessly lost. I was looking for Oscar Wilde, using just my memory of a map I’d seen on a plaque. I walked in actual circles. More than one. Walking on the old paving stones is an act demanding constant attention, and I couldn’t find north from south. I got more and more turned around. The heavy beauty of the broken tombs and twisting paths pushed down on me, and was intensified by the cold; it seeped through the bone. I felt deeply haunted. I was overwhelmed by the beauty. I was overwhelmed by decay. I couldn't process the lone roses blooming in January. I was a failure, and was being stalked by giant ravens. I felt grey and un-ingenue-like. I felt like a weirdo doing a weird thing in isolation. The ravens threw me a lot of side-eye, laughed at me. Finally, I realized I was really alone, and that meant that no one cared if I was screwing up royally, and I let go, and I wandered. I started enjoying the sensation. Sometimes It’s good to be alone until you come around.

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The ravens stayed close—spectral, menacing, playful. I really think this is how they are. I had a vision of them possessed by restless spirits of the Parisians below. I found the monument to the communist party, covered in roses. I found Colette. I followed the small hordes to Jim Morrison and felt like a jerk for doing so. I will return for Moliere, Chopin, Caillebotte, Wilde, Melies, Wright, et al. I bought a map at the Metro after I left. When I return, I will make use of the grand, symmetrical, main entrance.

Clearly, I am adjusting slowly to being cut off, being unto myself. Understanding only snippets of conversation around me, shying away from clumps of Americans hunched together against the cold. My days are so my own, so mercurial. I walk and walk and come home and collapse. I record my distance and steps and fall into a fitful sleep. I’ve been perversely looking forward to the end of the January sales, the overwrought signs coming down, signaling the end of temptation. I’ve been wondering if I can acclimate to cafe culture. I’ve been reading Gail Scott’s My Paris like each section is a postcard sent to me by my own alter ego—albeit smarter and more romantic and in the summertime.

“Studio Grant a Leisure Lottery.” —Gail Scott, My Paris, p 15

What is it to work? How do we define work? How do we create discipline and still allow the walking and marinating and conjuring to happen? I am too old to believe that inspiration “strikes”...I know it reveals itself as a reward, when we are fully immersed and living inside an idea. That’s the idea. Total immersion. I'm beginning to think about what can and might take shape here, from this immense gift I’ve been given: two months in Paris, to do with whatever I can. I’m beginning to lust after the possibilities of work, of evidence. Could there be a 3D print of my spidery, labyrinthine walking map? Could there be a series of photos of the incredible oversized trash that taunts me (arcade letters, piles of frosted pine trees, the entire contents of an apartment after a fire)?

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Will the collection of trash—wrought from the strange, slim findings I hustle off the Paris streets (in advance of the overeager street cleaners)—allow me to wrestle it into the strange tapestry I see in my mind?

 

Brett Day Windham

  

Brett Day Windham (born Cambridge, England, raised Providence, Rhode Island) is a multidisciplinary artist working with sculpture, installation and collage. You can find the full list of blog posts from her Paris residency here. 



Posted by Brett Day Windham on 1/22 | tags: pere lachaise walking Paris Georgia Fee artist residency artist-in-residence paris cemeteries paris dispatches

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Paris Dispatches: Three Weeks Walking, a Tally
by Brett Day Windham


Paris Dispatches is the blog of ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist in Residence, Brett Day Windham, who will be undertaking her residency in Paris during January and February 2015. She will be using the blog to share her process, work, and experience throughout the residency. You can find more information about ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist/Writer Residency here.

 

Today marks three weeks in Paris.

So far I have found (among other things) reams of caution tape, bits of strapping, a pile of zippers, a tiny hand, Christmas tree bows, a tassel, a lighter, a button with an emblem of a Roman horse, a lollipop, a photograph of a girl with a sweet note to her father on the back, champagne cork-wire, Nous Sommes Charlie stickers, an earring, perfumed cards, a neon palm tree drink stirrer, various feathers, various new year’s confetti, various flowers, and a boatload of Metro tickets.

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(left) A tiny hand (right) Photographing L’Opera from the traffic median

 

Aside from unbelievable amounts of dogshit, the sidewalks are bare. Metro tickets are the most prevalent thing on the ground in Paris. At my father’s suggestion, I have begun to collect them extensively, and then to string them together with a needle and thread—purchased at the wonderful Rougier & Plé in the Marais—into a long kinetic fringe. I have started making strange pencil sketches for how these assorted odds and ends could be woven together into a “tapestry”—and the metro ticket fringe will certainly create a terrific bottom edge.

After three weeks I also thought it seemed like a good time to make some summaries, as they provide me with a (semi-imaginary) structure:

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A center section of the map drawing, January 25th, 2015

 

The competitor in me (the one who prefers to compete with herself) would love to improve my averages in everything every week, but this is art, not sport (I think), so today will be a studio day. Also, it’s raining. Also, I don’t want to go back to the doctor with pneumonia and a fractured heel; the paving stones are trying to have their way with my feet. So.

 

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Sheet from a Book of the Dead, c. 1075 - 945 BCE, Brooklyn Museum, Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

 

  1. Total Cemeteries: Three. As is now well documented, I am a death tourist. Père Lachaise, Montparnasse, and Montmartre. According to my friend George, the Book of the Dead affirms that staying close to the dead is a good practice, as it re-affirms life.

  2. Total Museums: Four. Pathetic. Now that fashion week is over, perhaps they won’t be occupied by models.

  3. Total Grand Magazins: Four: Printemps, BHV, Galeries Lafayette.

  4. Total Parks: Nineteen? Pretty good. Some are closed for winter.

  5. Total horrible french computer viruses (contracted by my Mac!?): One.

  6. Total articles of clothing/shoes bought at SOLDES: Eight. (oops)

  7. Total Galettes eaten: Two (looking forward to eating many many many more).

  8. Total pastries discovered: Two. Sablés (comme ci comme ça) and tarte tropezienne (comme to me, delicious floaty miracle). But I digress.

     

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(left) The domed ceiling at Galeries Lafayette (right) Haircut trees at the Eiffel Tower

 

I’ve had seven lovely people agree to walk aimlessly through this city with me. Here they are:

 

  1. Carolyn Windham - Mother. La touriste.

  2. Howard Windham - Father. The O.G. walking/street-combing artist.

  3. Matty Hart - founder of The Lafayette Practice, an unbelievable dream walking partner. At some point I’ll devote a whole post to Matty, but I’m hoping we’ll walk again first.

  4. Barrett Hanrahan - fellow RISD alum, former co-worker, good luck charm (I find the best things while walking to cafés and bars with this girl).

  5. Miranda Salt - the lovely, smart ad exec with a sharp eye for art. Ms. Salt taught me that it is against French law to make people work in windowless spaces. She realized that the building that her agency occupies had an enormous lower floor they couldn’t use. She transformed it into an incredible alternative art/cultural space, le Passage du Désir, which is unfortunately not in operation right now, but which I would love to see anyway. Maybe I can wrangle a visit to the empty space! Still, she fed me delicious cafés at Madame Gen, provided me with one of the best conversations I’ve had in weeks, and walked me through the arcades. Which turn out to be gritty, narrow, and sad. We’ll talk about that later.

  6. George Eid, my old friend: founder of Krrb and Area 17...

  7. ...and his enthusiastic daughter Sibylle, who used her French book of nature to create a frame our walk: searching for birds! sticks! dogs! leaves! We were not searching for a random drunk British butcher on a quiet Sunday, but we found him anyway.

  8. Upcoming: Miss Kristen Roller, super chic fashionista and smart girl/badass will tour Versailles with me on Friday. We will dress up.

 

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(left) The carousel at île de la Cité (right) Amazing water-carafe-on-head street shenanigans



Brett Day Windham

  

Brett Day Windham (born Cambridge, England, raised Providence, Rhode Island) is a multidisciplinary artist working with sculpture, installation and collage. You can find the full list of blog posts from her Paris residency here. 



Posted by Brett Day Windham on 1/26 | tags: paris dispatches Georgia Fee artist residency artist-in-residence Paris walking mapping

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Paris Dispatches: The Week of Feathers
by Brett Day Windham


Paris Dispatches is the blog of ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist in Residence, Brett Day Windham, who will be undertaking her residency in Paris during January and February 2015. She will be using the blog to share her process, work, and experience throughout the residency. You can find more information about ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist/Writer Residency here.

 

When we came back to Paris it was clear and cold and lovely. The city had accommodated itself to winter, there was good wood for sale at the wood and coal place across our street, and there were braziers outside of many of the good cafes so that you could keep warm on the terraces. Our own apartment was warm and cheerful. We burned boulets which were molded, egg-shaped lumps of coal dust, on the wood fire, and on the streets the winter light was beautiful. Now you were accustomed to see the bare trees against the sky and you walked on the fresh-washed gravel paths through the Luxembourg gardens in the clear sharp wind. The trees were sculpture without their leaves when you were reconciled to them, and the winter winds blew across the surfaces of the ponds and the fountains below in the bright light.

—Ernest Hemingway, True At First Light

The Entrance to the Jardin des Plantes

 

This week has been pretty gloomy in Paris—about seven hours of light per day, and maybe two hours of sun if you are lucky. When the sun comes out, everything sparkles. It’s been fashion week too, and there have been lots of beautiful people swanning about all clad in cocooning layers of black. I started to feel a bit flat, and took myself to the Jardin des Plantes for some botanical revival. I found nothing on my walk there except a few seagull feathers, and some dyed feathers by the Seine (apparently someone had a multicolored boa fight the night before).

The Jardin des Plantes is stunning, and almost empty this time of year. Even though I could imagine I was missing a really spectacular blooming season, gardens laying fallow in winter have their own special beauty. The Paris winter climate is strange, with palm and pines planted in clusters and the occasional rose blooming in January.

Le Jardin, with sculptural trees.

 

As if in a trance, I wandered through and zigzagged around, and off to the left, into the Ménagerie, the 220-year-old zoo on the property. I haven’t visited a zoo for 25 years; the confined animals have always upset me. I was surprised that I felt lured in, but I felt a deep need to be around animals (perhaps for some connection to nature in this grey stone palace of a city?) and let my instincts lead me through my fear. I paid for my billet and wandered inside.

The zoo was spotless, and herbs planted around each habitat gave off a soothing aroma. The animals were calm and curious about me. I think I was one of ten visitors on the property. The little songbirds had a huge enclosure—budgies and parakeets and lovebirds in the dozens. I noticed that the grass was littered with tiny colorful feathers, and asked an older, ponytailed zookeeper if I could step over the chain and pick them up. He thought I was a bit mad (as have many other Parisians throughout the month), so I tried to explain my project to him, and showed him some photos. His eyes sparked up a bit, and he asked me to follow him. 

The nearly empty zoo, with big cat house in the foreground. Isha did not like the man in blue.

 

Before I knew it, I was being toured around the quiet zoo, meeting many of the zookeepers, and re-explaining myself each time. We all made friends, and I went back into little rooms with them where they had collected different feathers from quail, pheasant, peacock, parrot, and flamingo. I saw the animal nursery and the shower rooms. The carts full of fresh produce were amazing—lunches all ready for snakes and llamas and conures and little red pandas.

My new friend Michel, ornithologist and elder zookeeper, proceede to blow my mind. He bequeathed me with a (slightly stinky) collection of about 40 of the most gorgeous rose pink flamingo feathers. We devised a way to stash them in a shopping bag inside my tote bag (since the feathers weren’t really allowed to leave the property). He added in some macaw tail feathers and porcupine quills, after making me identify them as proof that I wasn’t a total loss. I think I just looked stunned. I didn’t think I’d find anything for my collection that day (some days all I’ll find are metro tickets and a champagne cork). I promised him I would weave the feathers into the sculpture, and make drawings using the quills as nibs.

It was like a child’s dream: behind the scenes at the zoo! I learned that the white leopard’s name is Isha, and that she’s two. She was wild, leaping and prowling and all fluffed up for winter. Over in the monkey house, I found that the orangutan shared my birthday. He was busily pressing his ass to the glass, mooning the shocked young mothers and cracking up their kids. A Sagittarius after my own heart. The regular old American raccoons were a kick to see as a zoo exhibit, and they were absolutely enormous. They seem to enjoy being kept.

The zookeepers told me that they, and the animals, all enjoy the quiet of winter. Just the family, I guess. Some of the smaller enclosures were pretty hard for me—the camels especially—but I appreciated the generosity of the sweet people there, and as I was leaving they made me promise to come back before my residency ends, that they would collect more for me. They really love the animals, and it showed.

The flamingos drop their gorgeous pink feathers everywhere. Look carefully: half of the flock is behind the translucent screen.

 

I had to wait until I left the premises, and was safely strolling along the Seine at dusk, to open the bag and examine my semi-illicit bounty.

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Here are the new additions to my collection, triumphant by the Seine, and soaking in dish soap at home.

 

I got them home and immediately contacted my friend and fellow Edna Lawrence Nature Lab (the magical natural specimen lending library at RISD) alum Becca Barnet, the proprietor of the marvelous Sisal & Tow, a visual/display/taxidermy/art direction/installation group in Charleston, South Carolina. Becca is an incredible artist and taxidermist, and she has advised me well. I am performing a series of tests to deodorize the feathers. (The recipe list is pretty wonderful—I am now scouting the city of Paris for Borax powder, Dawn dish soap, lavender oil, and sawdust, to perform my ablutions). As I search, I have continued to find different feathers throughout the week. Something in the air, I guess.

Also, just as an aside to anyone keeping tally, I’ve now passed the 100 mile mark.

 

Brett Day Windham

  

Brett Day Windham (born Cambridge, England, raised Providence, Rhode Island) is a multidisciplinary artist working with sculpture, installation and collage. You can find the full list of blog posts from her Paris residency here. 



Posted by Brett Day Windham on 1/30 | tags: paris dispatches Georgia Fee artist residency artist-in-residence Paris zoo feathers Flamingos Jardin des Plantes

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