Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Faded elegance in the Luberon, trois

Remi, Ben and I are heading off to explore for a few days, so this will have to be practically wordless! The last of Loumarin. For now...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Faded elegance in the Luberon, deux

Do you know those tourists that spend so much time with their camera glued to their faces that they don't actually experience anything? I am embarrassed to admit it but that was me last Sunday after our wonderful lunch in the Luberon. Blame it on Loumarin. I do. There is just something about this village that wheels up my ooh machine to a manic pace. It is vaguely perfect with just enough fuzzy old acheyness around the outer edges to keep it from being whimsically cute.

I was fortunate in two ways. One is that my honey is a professional photographer that has made me endure hours in dusty nowheres to capture 'magic light' and that the friends that accompanied us not only support my efforts but probably think that I am just "being American" in snapping feverishly at broken flower pots. When they see that gleam in my eye and I start to stalk like a cheetah on the plains of the Serengeti that has just spied a witless baby gazelle, they all wisely wander on.

And so I got a little Canon Crazy. I can already hear Remi chiding me for my lack of editing skills as he leans over my shoulder, calmly scanning the screen. "Non...non...non...ok." Embarrassed as I am to stretch this...one...single...day into an eternity, I will put up one final post in this series soon. After all, when it concerns such a day, in such a phenomenal place, how can I not?

Before signing off for the weekend, I would like to give a heart-felt thanks to Christina Fluegge. Many of you might know her from her gorgeous blog Greige as well as her design company of the same name or its online shop. In her most recent post, Christina kindly mentions me and Lost in Arles. I especially loved that it came as something of a surprise, one that I learned about after having woken up from a particularly unsuccessful nap that had left me feeling groggy and disoriented. I needed something to snap me back into gear, back into the joy of this whirly bird life, which is, at it would turn out, is exactly what Christina wrote about. Kismet! 

For those of you that are visiting for the first time, bienvenue. Having come from the hard tack world of the press, the generosity of spirit in the blog world is a constant source of wonder and one of the main reasons why I keep going. It never ceases to amaze me the fascinating people that discover my little blog. Blame it on Provence. I do.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

National Geographic France

Stop the presses! I am taking time out from the series in the Luberon because I have some very exciting news. This month's National Geographic France is on the newsstands and features the work of my honey, Remi Benali

Those of you that have been reading for a while know that Remi has been assigned to cover the excavation and renovation of an intact Roman boat right here in Arles. As I have mentioned previously, the story will be divided into three sections in France and the world-wide editions will present the complete version in 2014. 

This is an enormous step forward for Remi as it has been the dream of his career to work with the National Geographic. It was very exciting for us to see his name credited along with Patrick Landmann as well as Teddy Seguin and Lionel Roux for the underwater photography. Eight out of the twelve photographs presented are Remi's and from here on out, he will be covering the story on his own.

This will give you a little preview of the dynamic energy in the photographs. For the rest, well, those of you in France can always stop by your local press to pick up a copy. On the magazine's website, there is a teaser video about this fascinating subject: National Geographic France website. Alas, it is French but interesting enough for those that don't speak the language to understand. 

Bravo, my love! I am so proud of you. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Faded elegance in the Luberon

We are heading into the time of the year when I get quiet. I am more interested in looking than in speaking as if I need to take in fuel for a fire that will burn in the spring. Or maybe it is just a state of mimicry of the sleeping land around me. Also so very quiet. A faded form of flânerie.

Yesterday was one of those afternoons where dear friends pulled Remi and I out of our hibernation to spend the day in the Luberon. Originally, the excuse was to buy wine at the truly excellent Chateau la Verrerie but alas, they were closed as is so much during this "off" season. Fortunately for us, our friends had reserved ahead at a charming auberge in Curcuron. We tucked Ben under the table as best as we could and then spent the next few hours talking until the cheese trolley was rolled away. Yes, of course, we needed to walk after and so off we went. I held my camera low and tight, looking for scraps for fuel. Happily, I found enough that this day will be stop-watched into two or three.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Art and antiquities

I never take my splendid surroundings for granted. Every day, I walk through history, passing monuments of incredible importance as I go. Such it is to live in Arles. 

And of course, I am far from being la seule, the only person who knows what treasures can be found here. The Musée Départemental Arles-Antique (or the Musée Bleu as it is affectionately called by the locals in reference to the shining blue exterior) is home to one of Provence's most important collections of Roman antiquities. Last Tuesday, while the museum was closed to the public (save for groups of giggling students), Remi had a phenomenal opportunity to photograph its masterpiece and I happily agreed to be his assistant. 

The discovery of a bust of Julius Caesar in the waters of the Rhone River made headlines around the world. Although its provenance has been disputed, it is generally considered to be the oldest such bust and one of the few that was carved during his lifetime. We were able to spend hours in front of it and never tired to be under the Emperor's gaze. His brows are furrowed, from one side he appears victorious, the other defeated. Under the pop of the studio lights he seemed alive, as if he could bark out orders for us plebeians to bow out of his fine presence. Several times I was mere inches from his face. It was as good as dancing with the Mona Lisa.

Caesar and the rest of his formerly underwater companions, such as the bearded Neptune below and the floating Victoire, will be featured in an exhibition at the Louvre this March, following the monumental success of "César, le Rhone pour mémoire" in Arles in 2009. But the museum is not resting on its laurels, far from it. The archeological digs in the Rhone have continued, including the Arles Rhone 3 project that Remi is documenting for National Geographic. Currently on display is the work of Jean-Claude Golvin, an archeologist with the National Scientific Research Center that has given 1000 of his incredibly precise watercolor paintings to the museum.

The paintings have been installed to great effect. A long funeral procession enlarged to life-size lines the sculpted sarcophagi and throughout the watercolors are organized by theme to create a greater understanding of the Roman way of life. Jean-Claude Golvin's exhibition is running until May 6th in Arles and I highly recommend it. For further information, please see the Museum's website.

When Remi wasn't in need of a helping hand, I left him alone with Caesar and wandered the museum alone. What an incredible luxury to have so much beauty all to myself. I have long been fascinated by the enduring appeal of mosaics and always see something new each time I gaze at the museum's floors, found while renovating a home in Trinquetaille on the other side of the Rhone. The flow of a toga, the curve of a leopard's back...

As the afternoon wore on, the light slid across the roof, sneaking in the windows, pulling long shadows on the maquette or model that depicts what Roman Arles looked like. I could practically smell the fires burning and hear the cries emanating from the Arena.

Certainly there were elements of brutality to those times but the overwhelming sensation while regarding the artifacts is one of finesse. Such delicacy was used in the creation of even the most common objects. How much we have lost in that regard, thinking that everything is disposable with often a weary nonchalance for the seen and unseen world around us. Two steps forward, one step back, a different kind of dance. As we packed up our lights, I felt the weight of Caesar's expression one last time before the security glass separated us and wondered what he would say today if only he could speak.