Paris Meets the Plains

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My French mother-in-law is absolutely enamored of Native American culture: the music, the dance, the clothing, the history. So, when French Mother’s Day rolled around this year, we did something very out of the ordinary for us. Instead of having dinner or lunch around the family table, we took a trip to the Musée du Quai Branly to see an exhibition on the Plains Indians of the American West. Knowing my mother-in-law, there really was no better way for us to celebrate the day with her. It was a special moment for me as well — as her American son-in-law — to share our mutual appreciation of the native peoples of my homeland.

Continue reading Paris Meets the Plains

“This is Street Art” Vol. 4½

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Hot on the heels of my last installment of Paris street art, I give you another two dozen intriguing, provocative, and whimsical examples of this most public — and sometimes ephemeral — art form.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words : Street Art, Vol. 4

Inside? Outside?

I haven’t been writing much lately. I’m not sure why that is; simply put, I just haven’t felt very inspired these last few weeks. This too shall pass, of course, and I’ll probably be back with a vengeance, publishing three or four articles a week. In the meantime, since I can’t seem to give you any words to read, how about some pictures to look at? If a picture is worth a thousand words, this post is worth about 24 grand. It’s a new collection of street art photos I’ve collected from all over Paris since my installment in June. Continue reading A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words : Street Art, Vol. 4

Saturday Afternoon Gardening

© 2013 Michel Denis Pouradier, all rights reserved

Photo credit: © 2013 Michel Denis Pouradier,
all rights reserved

Yesterday, Babydog proposed an impromptu outing to escape from La Courneuve for the day. Given the way I generally feel about my neighborhood, I was all in favor! We initially planned to take the train to Beauvais to see the cathedral, but then decided to make a less expensive excursion to Versailles. Because of early closing hours this weekend, though, we finally settled on an afternoon at France’s chief botanical garden …

Le Jardin des Plantes Continue reading Saturday Afternoon Gardening

Where’s the Fire?

Leaving the party. I hope that fire truck didn't have to get to a fire!

This weekend, I celebrated my fifth Bastille Day in France, and I’ve done something different every single year. Back in 2007, I was en route from Marseille to Washington after a vacation in Provence: nothing too special to report from the short layover at Charles de Gaulle. In 2009, I picnicked with Michel and his friends in the Bois de Vincennes and happened to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower fireworks from the Louvre on our way home. In 2011, Michel and I trekked down to Pont des Invalides to watch the fireworks from a better vantage point. They were pretty impressive. Last year, we just stayed home … but by doing so, we got to watch from our window fireworks in four different Paris suburbs: La Courneuve, Le Bourget, Drancy, and Bobigny. This year, we kicked it up a notch. We went to my first ever …

Firemen’s Ball Continue reading Where’s the Fire?

“Let’s stay civil …”

"He who jumps a turnstile can end up getting checked on the platform." © RATP

I complain a good bit about the Paris Métro: despite its art nouveau charm, it’s often a crowded, noisy, and filthy experience. I usually don’t give the RATP (the company that operates the transit system) much credit either, but I have to tip my hat to the recently launched third generation of its “civility” campaign, “Restons civils sur toute la ligne” (“Let’s stay civil on the whole line”). Like earlier “seasons,” the campaign uses clever little “proverbs” and animal characters to remind passengers how to conduct themselves in the Métro … and the subtle nod to the fables of La Fontaine is so, so apropos for a French audience. The ads also integrate graphics representing transit lines into the proverbs. Only time will tell if the campaign will have any real impact on the daily transit experience, but until it does, we can at least enjoy the ads … Continue reading “Let’s stay civil …”

Meerkat to Marilyn: Street Art, Vol. 3

© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

It’s been quite some time since I last posted some Paris street art for you. The last collection was pretty somber, too: shades of gray and dingy earth tones were predominant. It was appropriate, though, for the dreary Parisian winter we just endured. Now that spring has finally made her long-awaited appearance (just in time for the summer solstice), it’s high time that I publish this slightly more colorful collection. I do hope you enjoy it — and keep an eye out for the next installment. There’s always more to be seen … Continue reading Meerkat to Marilyn: Street Art, Vol. 3

It caught my eye …

"little by little"

Street Art, Vol. 2

Today, I was feeling pressure to produce something for you, but the spring semester is off to a busy start, and I haven’t had much time to collect my thoughts and write something evocative, informative, or entertaining for you. I asked myself what I could possibly send your way in lieu of a great historical exposition or witty observation about French culture but I was at a loss. Then it struck me that I’ve been hanging on to a collection of street art photos for the last few months. Perfect! Volume II of the Paris Street Art Collection coming right up … Continue reading It caught my eye …

Street Art

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One of the things I love about Paris is the ubiquitous street art.

“But what is street art?” you might ask.

Well, simply put, it’s visual art in public spaces, usually unsanctioned by local authorities. Typically, the term is used to distinguish contemporary public-space artwork (like traditional graffiti, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheatpasting, video projection, art intervention, sculpture, and street installations) from territorial graffiti, vandalism, and corporate art. I don’t want to get into definitions of what constitutes street art, debate whether street art is really “art” or “vandalism,” or expound on the history of Paris street art and its notable artists. I just want to show you some of my favorites that have caught my eye over the last three years.

As you’ll see, street art can be an expansive mural overlooking a public park … or just a single word in an obscure location; it can be a critically acclaimed work by a world-renowned artist … or just a fleeting notion scribbled with a magic marker. What they all have in common is that they’re intended to communicate something to the spectator: provocative, inspiring, or fanciful. And they’re all ephemeral, too. These works exist at the whim of the authorities — or even the weather — who can “clean them up” at a moment’s notice. So, keep an eye out for these unexpected little art exhibits and enjoy them while they last … they could be gone tomorrow.

You can also check out other volumes in the street art archives.

To open the gallery, simply click on one of the photos below (or on a white space if nothing appears). You will then be able then scroll through all of the photos in a larger format.

© 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

“An angel; or, if not, an earthly paragon.”

shakespeare & co

— William Shakespeare, Cymbeline

Being the American expat in France for most of my friends back home brings with it a certain cachet … and certain responsibilities. When someone is planning a Paris vacation, I’m usually the first person my friends think of to ask for advice about restaurants, hotels, and neighborhoods. I love this role; it’s a bit like being an ambassador, or — more appropriately, I suppose — a scout for an advancing foraging party! Sometimes, though, it gets more interesting than simply giving my expert advice about this city; sometimes I actually go on a mission for someone …

Continue reading “An angel; or, if not, an earthly paragon.”