When I say “art,” you think paint brushes. Maybe pastel crayons. Perhaps shards of broken stained glass. Chiseled statues so life-like you touch it just to be sure it is truly stone-cold. But when people say “art,” my mind jumps to Paris.
Paris has come to enchant me in the world of art. Maybe not enchant all the way through, but surely enrich me. Take my grueling semester of Romantisme everything, or Romantic Era like literally everything, during my Parisian semester abroad. I learned the thing called technique to assess paintings for light, shadows, and human emotions. My trips to the Louvre (or maybe the museum of La Vie Romantique, if we’re staying on theme) had me check-marking different elements of art.
Cool, I thought. Never thought of a painting’s inner emotions via shadows before.
Then, I surpassed the shadows and met real people, real artsy people in my second go-round here abroad. I met my hip, satin-shoe toting friend AuCourant who teaches English at an art school while learning Italian through French instruction and paints paintings so life-like, I have to touch the canvases just to be sure they’re not real. Then I met the dear LaRoux, who when meeting for coffee showcased her recent shopping haul: a bag of clay and carving tools.
Wow, I marveled. I’m in and amongst a city of artists!
I considered myself an artist in my own little way. I drew sketches of little things like coffee trucks, croissants, and Eiffel Tours in my free time. While babysitting, there’s a lot of Pokémon, but nonetheless, pen is in hand and ink is on page. Broadening the terms of art, I consider myself an artist as a writer too. Taking individual words, stringing them together, creating a voice in another person’s head, I’d reckon it as art.
When sitting at a window-side table across from AuCourant in the flashy patisserie known as Colorova, we not only were next to a window but beside a display case of pastries so refined, so scientific, and so… artistic, art was taking on a whole new delicious twist for me here in Paris.
And life is all about twists, whether the bundt cinnamon kind or the sesame jellied doughnut flair going on in the display case beside me. In this life of twists and turns, art has found my face here in Paris.
I’m not referring to the time I was asked to have my body painted (I declined). Or the offer to have my face painted wearing an apple pie hat and perhaps even eating some pie too (I happily accepted – can’t wait AuCourant!).
There was one more time this weekend. Do let me explain.
While wandering through the wintry white Luxembourg Gardens after a little English lesson off Rue Mouffetard, Kahwehgi and I were taking in the dazzling delights of the scenery. The snow-covered trees, wow! The Parisian pipsqueaks making snow angels, adorable! Happy and delighted as one is in the Luxembourg Gardens, Kahwehgi leaned in for a kiss, and I happily accepted. Parting to smile at one another, a voice came from behind us, offering a heavily French-accented, “pardon!”
Turning, a man bundled-up holding a professional camera leaned forward asking if we didn’t mind, to perhaps do that again. “It was so romantic and all, with the snow and the Panthéon there in the background,” he insisted.
Skewing our own heads, Kahwehgi and I saw it too. The wintry landscape, our knitted hats, and this whole Boulevard Saint Michel-esque backdrop was really quite… romantic.
Without much of a second thought, the two of us then became Parisian models in the Luxembourg Gardens. Because, said simply, why not?
Before boarding my France-bound plane for my big move abroad, a friend from study abroad brought me to a bar in Chicago. She swooned thinking about Paris in that nostalgic way all of us from our semester abroad did, with that small little Eiffel-Tour glittering twinkle in their eye. My friend Espresso looked at me, acknowledging fully that life would be different in Paris the second time round. This wasn’t Round 2 of study abroad.
“Carly,” Espresso said slowly, dragging her pale ale through the air for emphasis, “when you go to Paris, you are going to paint over that city with all new colors and all new memories. You’re going to paint a city that is all your own.”
Whether through photographs or paintings, art captures a moment in time to invoke feelings out of you. Whether its feelings of attachment towards new-found friendships. Feelings of confusion when a baseball-cap clad artist asks to paint your body. Feelings of hunger you didn’t know you had over coconut-covered pastries at Colorova. Or feelings of love towards what makes your heart happy. Art is your own life filled with light, shadows, and human emotion.
Huh, I thought gazing up at the wrought-iron posts tapering the perimeters of the Luxembourg Gardens. If art hasn’t captured you already, come to Paris, for it will surely capture you.
Colorova, 47 rue de l’Abbé-Grégoire 75006
* LaRoux, AuCourant, and Kahwehgi are nicknames intended for the anonymity of this blog