Wednesday, April 18, 2007
On a tenebrous early October evening, you are drifting down Rue Saint-Honoré for a rendezvous with some friends in the beguilingly darkened bar of the Hotel Costes.
Along the way you softly hum strains of Malcolm McLaren's 'Jazz is Paris'*...
"I wore black on Saint-Germain-des-Prés... Feelings in the air, they love today... It's true, I don't believe... In love beyond the grave... But then I listened to a trumpet play..."
Hmm... wrong street, but how prescient with the de rigueur done-to-death hide-the-stains black. The hallway models/doormen at the Costes are also all in black... tight black tee-shirts, tight black pants, sleek dark hair, chic little black headsets.
You feel like a rounded version of them in your tight black shirt and skirt.
Heads are swivelling, but not for you... Gwyneth Paltrow is slinking her way out the door. A pale high-contrast vision in Siberian ice-floe white.
The dimmed lighting throughout the hotel barely illuminates the exotically lush décor, creating a contemporary Cimmerian milieu.
In the bar lounge, it is effectively a virtual black-out. You feel your way gingerly - you don't wish to inflict any unintentional gropes, (yet!) - towards your table, guided by the sound of your friends' voices.
As you sit down, you squint your eyes to try to see who else is amassed around you. When your eyes have adjusted somewhat, you make out a clumped together couple in the next banquette. No body parts are flailing about, so you guess that they are still safely pre-coital... but then again, they could well be exhaustedly post-coital!
As you order your drink from a slender shadow, you sense heads turning towards a more voluptuous shape entering the room. There is the hint of a tear-away buckskin(?!) dress with fringes. Whispers of the name 'Béatrice Dalle' pierce the air...
She fumbles dramatically towards a table, and a man (presumably!) rises to the occasion. She gestures sensually, or perhaps a little bewilderedly, and he helps her find her chair.
Unfortunately, without a spotlight on them, it is hard to fathom how much more is going on in the darkness, but you surmise that the flirtatious stage has been successful when they leave a while later with their arms draped around each other.
And you have yet to make eye contact with anybody at all! As if that will ever happen in this obfuscated world of the parisian demi-monde...
excerpted from "Flirting in the Dark... as dimly heeded by Mme. V" by g. verster, 2003
[*verse from 'Jazz is Paris' written and performed by Malcolm McLaren on his album "PARIS", 1994]
Saturday, April 14, 2007
On a cold languorous mid-winter Saturday afternoon and after a luscious lunch at a little Lebanese restaurant near the Eiffel Tower, we summoned the strength to divert ourselves from heading straight home for our usual sieste. There was a particularly zesty event that we simply could not miss... our first subversive (of sorts) fashion show in this consummate city that has seen them all and done them all!
We had met the equivocal Libertin Louison, a young Belgian designer with long black hair and wrapped in a long black skirt, at his tiny boutique on one of the narrow medieval streets in the Marais. The wistful wisps of black fabric hanging vaguely on the two sparse racks and draped, barely, on the one mannequin had piqued us enough to enter this minimal goth meet japanese zen dollhouse.
I had not dared to try on anything in case I insulted the avant-genius by putting my head through the wrong opening... or worse, emerged from the change-tube all twisted up with the confounded piece on upside down and backwards!... (- inside-out would have been a non-issue!)
A surprise invitation came for the debut of his Collection Couture printemps-été, and we had our chance to see how all those nebulous jigsaw puzzle pieces actually fitted together on real live skin and bones!
When we finally found the venue's address that chilly afternoon, the building looked suspiciously in the mid-stages of a demolition. We entered with trepidation through the still standing doorway and followed the thumping music up the fairly stable stairs.
Seated spectators lined the maze of hallways on the top floor. Standing room was three rows deep and we were squeezed in so tight that if the floor collapsed, the many other bodies would hopefully help break our fall!
The pageantry had already begun, as one stunning model after another slung languidly by. All were pasted up in multiple configurations of oddly shaped black swatches and embellished with black prototypical accessories, especially those who were topless... while the bottomless ones, well!... nobody was really looking at what they were wearing! (If I had tried on those pieces at his boutique, I would have doltishly assumed that the openings must be for my head!) Concise instructions were obviously necessary to indicate the purpose of every cavity in each of his cunningly composed poly-apertured habillement!
excerpted from "Libertin's Sleight-of-Hand Couture... as drolly admired by Mme. V" by g. verster, 2004
[regrettably, Libertin is no longer using his sly dexterity with the scissors to conjure up more nimble little numbers, but has since followed his nose back to Brussels where he now dispenses his own line of scents and body creams infused with, yes, I am quite sure I read this right, donkey's milk!...the name of his new perfumery is "Technique Indiscrète" on 21, Rue de Flandre]
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Take the unsanctioned public art scene, or what is universally referred to as graffiti. In some parts of the city, hardly a wall, door, doorknocker, and even nail-head has escaped the colorful swirls and pronouncements of such creative ego-marking.
I do not profess to have an intimate knowledge of the French graffiti art subculture scene... [but] much like being on a ten thousand painting tour at the Louvre, I am often stopped in my tracks to appreciate a particularly powerful piece that may be enhancing, or defacing, as the case may well be, a typically handsome set of doors or abstractly weathered wall.
In the Marais district, I had come across a different breed of graffiti work noted for their arresting images of scantily clad and wantonly posed female figures, paired up with short provocative phrases playing on words and double meanings. These are all stenciled onto various vertical surfaces in black paint with red highlights on the lettering.
They are tagged "Miss Tic", a pun, I presume, on the word "mystic" and not referring to the tiny parasitic creature that can easily get under your skin. Then again, that would be appropriate, too!
excerpted from "In Paris, even the graffiti is sexy...as blithely noted by Mme. V" by g. verster, 2003
Friday, April 6, 2007
parc des buttes-chaumont
Originally uploaded by gverster_artwork.
parc des buttes-chaumont  oil on linen, 45 x 60 cm
"riding eastwards... towards the parc des buttes-chaumont, [which melly had noted as one of the "various 'chosen places' revered by the surrealists, ...that astonishing pleasure ground, hallowed by nineteenth-century suicides, which occupies a long section of louis aragon's paris peasant (1926)..."]"*
thereby enter at your own risk... "with a feeling of conquest and the true intoxication of an open mind."- louis aragon
*excerpted from "Rue des Solitaires" by g. verster, 2004 [posted March 30, 2007]
Thursday, April 5, 2007
"le parfum sucré de vos roses s'évapore..."
Originally uploaded by gverster_artwork.
"Le parfum sucré de vos roses s'évapore... et moi je compose... vous ne m'aurez jamais donné... que le baiser du condamné..."*
*excerpted from"Revenge of the Flowers" by Françoise Hardy on Malcolm McLaren's album "PARIS"
On an ethereal day in mid-March, she steps off the plane at Charles de Gaulle into divine French sunshine.
Her wildly impatient amant whisks her off into the Cité de l'amour... where he has an unheralded welcome offering in store.
She is driven towards the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, the City of the Dead... the largest cemetery in Paris.
Hmm... this is highly unusual of him... somewhat eccentric, even slightly ghoulish!
But for her, the Père-Lachaise has always been more hauntingly romantic than morbidly macabre - the perpetual abode of so many poetic souls... inspired lives no more.
Her curiosity is aroused, but needless to say, not just her curiosity alone...
Miraculously, a parking spot awaits nearby... [it could have taken half the day to find one!]
She is led towards an unfamiliar and unprepossessing apartment building.
On the fifth floor, they enter into a small pied-à-terre. It is darkened, a little musty smelling... almost sepulchral, but unused for some time...
The shutters are thrown open and she glimpses a bright elysian expanse of Père-Lachaise spread out below.
Small stooped figures stroll along the allées between the crowded tombs shaded by ancient trees whose vernal buds are about to burst open in exuberant observance.
Celestial statuary soars in full melancholic glory... glory everlasting...
She luxuriates in the warmth of the moment, intoxicating beyond relief...
"I often go to Paris to live yesterday tomorrow... because Paris is a place of dreams..."*
The air thins out...
"There's no doubt... in Paris yeah!... There's a girl I dream of seeing everywhere... This way, that way... up against the walls... Voices scream a map of feelings... Everybody loves a Paris lost somehow..."**
Afterwards, subsiding in a blazing state of lightness, a white sheet flutters outside the window, sighing surrender... signing love enacted up on high, where doves aspire...
"Drifting through these landscapes of love... listening to a voice from above... This is a place where you can find... many more of my kind..."**
It is Spring after all, "daughter of Heaven and Earth, coy Spring..." muses Emerson...
Refrains from Malcolm McLaren's "Walking with Satie"* and "Père Lachaise"** intertwine and disperse with predestined abandon into the mood that is Paris...
"And I am walking with Eric Satie... along the boulevards of Paris in the springtime... Un orchestre d'oiseaux every so often breaks this map of feelings... Drifting through these landscapes of love... watching strays from Père Lachaise..."*
[*/** The quoted lyrics are excerpted from "Walking with Satie" and "Père Lachaise", written and performed by Malcolm McLaren on his album "PARIS"]
[copyright 1994, Disques Vogue S.A./World Attractions Ltd.]
"Heaven on Earth, with apologies to St. Francis of Assisi... as blissfully evoked by Mme. V" by g. verster, 2004
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
On a warm sultry day in early June, Madame is striding along Rue du Bac on the Rive-Gauche with her entourage of two on an antique buying spree for her new home [a star-dusted villa once owned by a legendary Hollywood director!].
She is quite sure that only in Paris will she find the most opulent, the highest status-stacked pieces... a paean to her utmost orgulous taste.
Shop after glorious shop in the Carré Rive Gauche... au coeur de Paris... 120 Galeries et Antiquaires... Passions d'Antiquaires... de Paris, Paris...
Which one of these will entice her in?
Unawed, she chooses the one with the most splendiferous objets d'art in its window - and after admiring her flawless reflection ever so briefly in the glass, she enters the establishment with a mock serious air about her.
Monsieur le propriétaire sweeps in discreetly from his salon privé with a twitch of a close-mouthed smile, his sharp eyes having appraised her thoroughly before she is even fully aware of his suave presence.
A soto-voiced "Bonjour, Madame...[and just knowing that she is American, he projects his voice a little more in English]... 'ow can I be to your service, Madame?"
She lets one of her minions answer for her, all the while assessing his rather distingué demeanor... for a Frenchman her age [the botoxed reduced one, of course].
Monsieur continues to direct his remarks only to her, "Madame, I 'ave enough to fee'l your 'ole 'ouse! I can present you wiz much more z'an your be'eu-tee'ful eye can see... and I will be more z'an 'ap'pee to show you my collection privée whenever Madame pleases..." [He draws out the last few words in a softer voice while crinkling his eyes at her.]
She stiffles a giggle and looks away, but her slight coloring betrays her appreciation of his flattering and not so subtle double sens...
Emboldened, and anticipating her forthcoming capitulation, [and somewhat confident of a transaction of formidable size to follow], he shifts closer into her personal space and whispers the impressive provenances of his magnificent pieces in a conspiratorial tone.
She has to angle her head in towards him to hear, but gracefully, and remembering to profile her lovelier side.
He is now quite sure that she will accept his overture to lunch at his favorite restaurant around the corner on the Quai Voltaire... without the peons in tow, of course.
Always pleasure before business... and perhaps, more pleasure again later on...
Just another sublimely successful day for Monsieur l'antiquaire de la Rive-Gauche, Paris...
"The Seduction of an Antique Buyer... as wryly observed by Mme. V" by g. verster, 2004
Sunday, April 1, 2007
On a gray somber afternoon in late November, you walk purposefully across the Pont de Sully and turn onto the Quai Saint-Bernard towards the entrance of the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes.
You are here to pay homage to a long caged up soul... one that has seized your imagination ever since you had read about him in Rainer Maria Rilke's poem 'The Panther in the Jardin des Plantes, Paris'.
You wonder if the panther is still here, and if he is the same one, now old and subdued... his spirit withered in this forsaken jail, dying a little more each day.
A Panther in Paris... so far from home, from that jungle that was his to roam.
You commiserate, but you are not forever locked up in a cage like him.
You have fantasies of freeing him, but would he come with you now?
His gaze has grown so tired from the bars
Passing, it can't hold anything anymore.
It is as if there were a thousand bars
And behind a thousand bars no world.
You sense his presence as you approach the large cats' area of the ménagerie.
A sculptor is modeling a miniature jaguar in clay at his portable stand; he ignores you.
You see the Panther...
The soft gait of powerful supple strides
Which turns in the smallest of all circles
Is like a dance of strength around a center
Where an imperious will stands stunned.
You are mesmerized by his beauty and his potency, but you feel his saturnine anger and frustration at the same time.
He does not look at you, but continues his pacing, back and forth, back and forth behind the thick iron bars.
Only at times the curtain of the pupils
Silently opens... Then an image enters
Passes through the taut stillness of the limbs
And in the heart ceases to be.
You sadly contemplate his restlessness.
Invoking the spirit of Rilke, who had perhaps stood in the very spot as you a century ago, you observe in silence, moved by what had inspired Rilke's poem.
You appraise his magnificence, yet disturbed at the infliction of his captivity.
You witness the injustice of a forfeited life, and decry his isolation from his own kind.
You ache intensely for him, all the while helpless to liberate him.
Then you, too, have to leave him to be for now.
The deus ex machina has not appeared, and you have to go.
Night is falling, black as his coat...
The Panther remains behind at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris...
'Visiting Rilke's Panther...a pilgrimage of sorts by Mme.V' by g. verster, 2004