But art is found everywhere these days. Increasingly, the "tag"s on walls in Paris and evidently Reims like here in Mulhouse have given way to more sophisticated artistic expression on walls. En route through Paris to Reims, I could not help but notice this collage along Rue Vieille du Temple:
So, it was a bit of a surprise to run into a very similar--and I wondered, by the same artist--collage style on a wall in Reims by a lovely old garage: The dilapidated shed near the garage and the garage itself sit between the great cathedral and the contemporary, glass box of the Reims médiathèque--which houses free art shows, one which George and I stopped into. Even if it was nothing to write home about, I remain happy to see any institution promoting art & providing spectators free access to a little show! As for "expected" art in Reims, there is the old Notre Dame Cathedrale. :
(photos: view from the street as we approached the cathedral, then the façade reflected on the glassy front of the médiathèque. Third pic: detail of some of the elaborate sculpture work on the outside of the church)But unlike the gazillion other churches I have seen in Europe, this one had a few spectacular surprises for me--First, the Chagall windows. That chagall kind of painting style reproduced in a series of windows at the back of the church stunned and moved me. The particular blue, its depth, was stunning. And when I turned back to look along the whole length of the church, thus with the Chagall windows at my back, this was the sight which greeted me: Then, were the odd archways just inside the main part of the church. They lined all three arches, and the images here are from the middle, or largest doorway. I found these kind of haunting, like a weird set of insectile pockets in some odd hive structure containing figures. The ones I am showing here are still in great shape--likely reworked--but others have softened so it is as if at the based of the arch the figures have melted back into the stones like bodies reclaimed by the earth. Quite fascinating! But Reims also was a great place to see the "Hemingway Café" making me think a bit of Key West, though little here had any real sense of Hemingway, just the hommage is pleasing. I also was put up by la comédie in the Grand Hotel Continental, which had a feeling of Hemingway's time in that it felt personal instead of like so many hotels these days which have such generic rooms and styles. Not here! This hotel was warm, its halls lined with art or posters of art, and its rooms had a comfortable "real" space feeling. If you are looking to stay in Reims, I really do advise this hotel!After George & I had a wander & rewarmed ourselves round a hot chocolate, I headed over to the lovely Comédie de Reims to join Anne Kawala. We had time to rehearse our evening reading of my series of poems Betwixt and the translations into French by Christophe Marchand Kiss. (Photos: Anne and I reading; a view looking back into a sort of salon space in the modern Comédie de Reims theater, a space where people could wait to enter the Studip theater we were in, or the theater bar, or official shows on the main stage)
The group of spectator-writers that attended the reading and workshop, including George--then were invited to complete a series of writing exercises led by Anne. I, too, tried my hand at the work... making a map and 3 texts to accompany it. As the night drew to a close, there were drinks and quiche dinner with the theater crowd and company post their production of an Olivier Cadiot play. It is wonderful to be in/within the energy of a theater group such as that which exists in Reims, where everyone comes together and converses and shares responses about the evening, from admin to interns, from directors to actors to those helping out in the theater bar. The ambiance was so inviting. Though I was only a visitor, I really felt the fabulous energy of creation in the air that evidently invigorates the exciting & daring works being played out on the stage and in the studio of the Comédie de Reims. The dedication on every level to making and bringing to the public theater, writing & the possibility also to enter that community & to create (as with Anne Kawala's workshops) certainly made it hard to leave Reims behind, & return home to Mulhouse...