Don’t mistake this for a political message. I’m writing this from Marnay sur Seine, France on the eve of the French election.
I’ve been awarded an international artist residency at the Centre d’Art Marnay Art Centre located in a village of about 250, an hour and a half southeast of Paris. For one month, with seven other artists, I’m living in a place of old bones. It’s a 17th century priory, spacious and still reverential with ancient surprises around every corner. We’re along the Seine river; as the water ripples, the place teems with singing birds, playful fish, contented couplings of white swans cruising, and stately, towering trees with stories to tell.
The l’eglise (church) directly across the street provides a spiritual lift and carries us through the day with a bell counting off the hours at the top of the hour. A single bell sounds each mid-hour. After 11:00 each night, the streetlights go dark, leaving stars as the only illumination. Energy conservation or romanticism?
Yet, as is the beauty adorned within a Monet painting, there’s amazing artistic vitality everywhere. I’m in the fourth day of my residency, enjoying an easy settling in, making an unknown spot in the world a place to create. I’m sure I was a gypsy in a prior life. Or perhaps it’s because a writer is so comfortable in his or her own head. To create, one only needs to relax, a corner filled with light, a laptop, some tunes and if lucky, nature just outside the window. I have it all, with Paris just a train hop away.
My fellow artists, writers, painters, and creators of sculptures, are a talented, hearty group who have ventured in from all over the world. We hail from Brazil, two are from New York (one, by way of Japan), Wisconsin, Mississippi, California and two are from Canada (by way of Korea).
I woke up one morning to the sounds of delighted children assembling just outside my second floor window. Fresh off the bus, they had arrived for an art workshop. I thrilled at the sound, picking up the delightful lilt of the French language I had studied for years, abandoned, and picked up again in preparation for my residency. Little did the children know, they were already artists, bending and shaping language to fit their changing moods.
Last night, we joined a gala in a welcoming home of an Argentine artist, just down the street from CAMAC. Our group was comprised of residency artists, former residents, locals, and individuals from various countries, all succumbing to the magic of Marnay sur Seine, Paris and surrounding cities. I met one former CAMAC artist who came for a residency, and last year settled down here, uprooting herself following a 30-year career in Mississippi. A natural gathering, as the savory wine flowed and music from all over the world spilled from speakers, we artists, united in dance, with wide smiles and camaraderie.
That’s the magic of art as the children discovered the day of their visit to CAMAC. Art can be created anywhere. It simply requires giving in to the muse. And the rewards are immeasurable.