Paris 1907

“Paris is always a good idea.” Audrey Hepburn

In my early 20’s, I imagined traveling to Paris to enroll in an art history course.  Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal in the 1954 film, Sabrina may have had a strong influence given her astonishing transformation when she studied at a prestigious culinary school in Paris.  From heartbreak to elegance and grace (which of course, was always within her), Paris imbued Sabrina with an exuberant sophistication.

I experienced Paris in spring, albeit a couple of decades past my 20’s, and can reaffirm, that Paris is indeed a good idea.

I have gone back to Paris again, but in a different way.  I am seeing the world of Gertrude Stein through the eyes of Alice Babette Toklas, her closest friend and life partner.  I imagined that the “Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” would be a rather easy read, something that I could get through in a couple of sittings.  Instead, I have become enrolled in the art history course that I longed for in my early 20’s.

Gertrude Stein has a marvelous talent for dropping names, without the snobbishness that usually accompanies that type of behaviour. This could be that Gertrude is speaking as if she were Alice; or perhaps it is because the names are familiar and I am seeing them in the light of a conversation rather than as a list of dates and accomplishments.   What is even more interesting is that every name has a personal story, as well as a place in an encyclopedia.

Gertrude Stein By Pablo Picasso –

Alice arrives in Paris in the year 1907.

“Picasso had just finished his portrait of her which nobody at that time liked except the painter and the painted and which is so famous, and he had just begun his strange complicated picture of three women, Matisse had just finished his Bonheur de Vivre, his first big composition which gave him the name of fauve or a zoo.” Gertrude Stein “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas”

Gertrude and Alice created a vibrant environment where literary and artistic endeavours flourished. I am savouring the pages of this autobiography as if I were attending one of Gertrude’s soirees where art came alive in the scintillating chatter of a crowded Parisian atelier.  Paintings have taken on a personal narrative, which adds dynamics and a deeper understanding for the artwork.

“It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”  Gertrude Stein


Bonheur by matisse
Bonheur by Matisse



Artists Against the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower
Looking Up

“I ought to be jealous of the tower. She is more famous than I am.”

Gustave Eiffel

Gustave Eiffel’s words have a prophetic ring.  The Eiffel Tower continues to be more famous than the man who designed and fought for her existence.  Surrounded by a history of controversy, the Tower embraces the whole of Paris within her benevolent gaze, confident that her ageless splendour will continue into the next century. It is difficult to believe that many well-known and respected writers and artists objected to her existence.  The Eiffel Tower

They called themselves the “Artists against the Eiffel Tower.” Charles Gounod, Guy de Maupassant, Alexandre Dumas junior, François Coppée, Leconte de Lisle, Sully Prudhomme, William Bouguereau, Ernest Meissonier, Victorien Sardou and Charles Garnier participated in a protest that included the words:

“To comprehend what we are arguing one only needs to imagine for a moment a tower of ridiculous vertiginous height dominating Paris, just like a gigantic black factory chimney, its barbarous mass overwhelming and humiliating all our monuments and belittling our works of architecture, which will just disappear before this stupefying folly. And for twenty years we shall see spreading across the whole city, a city shimmering with the genius of so many centuries, we shall see spreading like an ink stain, the odious shadow of this odious column of bolted metal.”

The twenty years was an reference to the Tower’s demolition, which was scheduled to occur in 1909.  Fate (and technology) intervened when the Tower was transformed into a giant radio antenna.  And despite the protestations of the early naysayers, the Eiffel Tower was officially declared to be a historical monument in 1964.

The Eiffel Tower
Gustave Eiffel & The Pyramids

Gustave Eiffel remained unfazed by the criticism.  He went so far as to compare his efforts with those of the pharaohs of Egypt.

“My tower will be the tallest edifice ever erected by man. Will it not also be grandiose in its way? And why would something admirable in Egypt become hideous and ridiculous in Paris?”

The Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty
The Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty

Today, on March 31, 2016, we celebrate another anniversary of the Eiffel Tower’s opening in 1889. In the Tower’s inaugural year, a staggering two million visitors came to view the monumental accomplishment.

When they saw the completed Tower, many of the dissenters changed their mind; others never accepted Gustave Eiffel’s engineering achievement.   And while we may, from the clarity of hindsight, disparage those who spoke out against the project, I would rather view the debate as a necessary dialogue.  Embracing new ideas has great merit, but recognizing traditions and past contributions has equal importance.

I invite you to discover Paris and the Eiffel Tower for yourself.

Thank you Resa!

Kindred Spirits
Kindred Spirits

“Whether it’s a kind thought or deed, a small monetary donation, a large endowment, volunteer services or a dedicated career there is a role for all in the betterment of life on earth.  “Art Gowns” are my creations that have been inspired by beautiful people who care.”

Resa McConaghy

Anne of Green Gables once said, “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”  Resa McConaghy welcomes kindred spirits to come together to share, discuss and appreciate creative endeavours. I first met her through her Art Gowns which combines the art of glamorous fantasy with charitable endeavours. I especially enjoyed her most recent post on the Goddess Mnemosyne, which was a collaborative event with Aquileana and Christy Birmingham.

Resa, an established Costume Designer and a 2015 CSA nominee for best costumes, has a passion for taking pics of outdoor ephemeral art.  Her blog Graffiti Lux and Murals opened my eyes to new way of looking at street art.  I have been captivated by her “street art” posts which have stimulated a wide range of emotions from laughter to tears and everything in between.  I have come to see that this art form is about connections. Street artist bring art to a public space; they communicate with people where they work, live, play.  There is a strong sense of activism and a determination to start a dialogue about things that matter and are relevant to our time, and to our communities both local and global.

Speak softly, but carry a big can of paint.”

Banksy, Wall and Piece

A Woman’s Voice – Knuko Laskey

Kinuko Laskey
Kinuko Laskey

Today, I celebrated International Women’s Day by visiting Kinuko Laskey.  Even though she moved on from this existence on November 3, 2004, I feel her presence and fierce courage every time I stop by her memorial sculpture situated in Seaforth Peace Park, Vancouver.  The noise of traffic ebbs and flows in the background, yet there is a quiet solitude that welcomes those who pass by.

Kinuko Laskey’s journey was not for the faint of heart.  She was a “hibakusha”, the Japanese word to describe the victims of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Despite her physical injuries, she believed that peace was the only pathway for humanity.

Kinuko Laskey
Kinuko Laskey

Knuko Laskey

March 22, 1929 – November 03, 2004

(text on sculpture)

Kinuko Laskey was a sixteen-year-old student nurse who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. She moved to Vancouver in 1953. For many years she was unable to speak of her experience. In 1982 she broke her silence and began what became a lifelong work as a peace educator and activist. This bust honours Kinuko’s life and her work.

Sponsor: Vancouver and District Labour Council is proud to dedicate this monument to Kinuko Laskey’s memory

Sculptor: Keith Shields

Happy Birthday, Pierre-Auguste Renior

“To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them.”

 Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The Threater Box
“The Theater Box Pierre” Auguste Renoir [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The work of art must seize upon you, wrap you up in itself, carry you away. It is the means by which the artist conveys his passion; it is the current which he puts forth which sweeps you along in his passion.”
Pierre-Auguste Renoir


Bal du moulin de la Galette
“Bal du moulin de la Galette”  Pierre-Auguste Renoir [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Art is about emotion; if art needs to be explained it is no longer art.”
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The Swing
“The Swing” Pierre Auguste Renoir [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 “-last words about painting, age 78… I think I’m beginning to learn something about it.”    Pierre-Auguste Renoir