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.
I promised that this post would address more deeply the meaning of the flâneur, and my coming to terms with that idea... but I am breaking that promise. I am not ready yet. Two weeks remain. There is so much that happens during the course of each walk, each day—let alone each week. Injuries, excitement, illnesses, minute discoveries, museums, visitors, sleepless nights, fancy dinners, no dinners, metro tickets—all piling up. There is so much that has changed, shifted from my original expectations. What am I doing here? What are these objects that I collect each day on my walks? What do they mean? To so many people they will doubtlessly always just be tchotchkes, junk, meaningless crap.
(left) Specimen book page, watercolor and pencil (right) Paris/NY trash comparisons, shopping resistance
To me they are totems. Truly, they mark my passage through neighborhoods, communities, time. They represent the particular personality of each walk.* They recall the characters I saw that day, the climate, the sky. They bring to mind the economy, focus, ethnicity, and level of prosperity of the neighborhood I walk through. From luxury shopping bags to potato sacks, they run the gamut. I particularly love the little hands broken from action figures (which I imagine have fallen out of car windows, occupied by careless little boys). All these objects are imbued with a spirit that is hard to pin down. I think that the oversize specimen books I’ve been keeping (where I trace the object to keep them all to scale, draw, and watercolor throughout) may communicate something more about this liveliness and emotion than some of the original objects.
Specimen book page, watercolor and pencil
So, what to do? How to overcome this hurdle? The only way I can imagine communicating the spirit contained within these objects is to create a single monumental work using all of them. A tapestry, using the meshes off the tops of clementine boxes, construction barriers, and the aforementioned potato sacks as an armature of sorts, and then weaving plastic strapping threads, string, and electrical wire (and the like) back-and-forth as warp and weft. I imagine my fringe of metro tickets adorning the bottom edge of this free-hanging piece, and salmon-pink flamingo feathers adorning the top. Étoiles of coffee stirrers dot the expanse, and caution tape hangs down in ribbons. Bits of metal will be suspended throughout, and the three big plastic Christmas baubles I found in Montparnasse will bring light through. (It is a vulnerable position, to publish these unformed thoughts about a new sculpture—perhaps I’ll use these words as a pledge.)
(left) The growing spiral of metro tickets (right) Watercolor sketch of the proposed tapestry
I don't think it's possible to begin assembling this work until my walks in Paris are complete. The balance of weight, color, and object has to be right in order to communicate the importance of these objects. I must finish collecting them first to be sure I am clear.
Specimen book page, watercolor and pencil
The tapestry, the traced map of walks, the “specimens” zine of drawn and scanned objects, the photographs, and these collected blog/essays—these cumulatively make up the body of work I see emerging from my residency in Paris.
Unfinished specimen book page, watercolor and pencil. Small feathers
The Walk of The Orange Flame
The Walk of Relinquished Brass Letters
The Walk of the Colored Straws
The Walk of Peace and Charlie
The Walk of Feathers and Quills
The Walk of Secret Gardens
The Walk of the Seine (Part One)
The Walk of the First Tiny Hand
The Walk of the Drunken Lunch
The Walk Through History (Louvre)
The Walk of Two Flâneurs
The Walks of The Death Tourist
The Walk of True Love and Pastry
The Walk of The Royalist
The Walk of Old Friends, and Drunkards With Cheese
The Walk of The Seine (Part Two)
The Walk of the Bon Marché
The Walk Through the World of the Dead
The Walk of the Arcades
Your Flâneuse. Photo: George Terry
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.
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