Fiona Alderman Blogging from Rural France – The Final Fete
The Final Fete
The last summer fair in Salignac was at the end of August, and already the feeling is one of closure and the start of Autumn. There was a slightly bittersweet reunion of the long term association which had broken up during the last year and then reformed. Depicting a Medieval theme, the volunteers managed to create a great weekend of events and exhibitions attracting many people.
It was set within a park at the foot of the castle surrounded by fields and little wooden buildings covered in branches and thatch. There were demonstrations of archery, iron wrought materials and swords, cooking and living areas in tents and displays of clothing and helmets, which were much admired. Children could even dress up in medieval costume and have lessons in riding on some beautiful horses. There was a corner of the site where delicious, traditional crepes were being made over an open fire.
Live music by a group of troubadours and an evening meal lasting well into the night finished a very successful weekend.
The Nanas was the name was given to the huge, colourful sculptures made by the avant garde French artist Niki De Saint Phalle in the 60’s.
Born to a French father, a Count, and an American mother, the young Catherine Marie Agnes grew up in a difficult background. From and early age she was known as Niki. She studied art in the USA where her rebellious and feminist nature got her into some trouble and led to her being expelled from her various schools.
Niki had a certain quality and beauty and in her late teens she was a fashion model for Elle, Vogue and Life Magazine. She married young and had two children and the family appeared to enjoy a bohemian existence but already she was experiencing some mental problems and in 1950s in the South of France she had electric shock treatment. Her self taught style arose from anger and depression and she was much influenced by the great artists such as Gaudi in Barcelona, Marcel Duchamp in France and the avant garde painters and musicians including: Raushenberg, John Cage, De Kooning and Jackson Pollock in the USA.
By the early 60’s she was making the Tirs ie The Target Pictures, where an assemblage of household items, even knives and razors, were covered in white plaster. Bags of paint or tomato sauce were sometimes suspended over these huge targets and she would fire a rifle at them releasing all the paint. Large dartboards were also made and viewers at her exhibitions could throw darts at them.
The Nanas, the French slang word for a woman, were huge sculptures depicting brides, mothers giving birth, monsters even with huge heads that were dark and foreboding. The subjects over the years would become more joyous, more colourful and larger too in scale.
She worked with Swiss kinetic artist, Jean Tinguely collaborating on diverse works for many years before becoming man and wife.
However she developed serious respiratory problems from unknowingly using paint chemicals and toxic solvents that were dangerous to use over a long period of time.
A large scale project in Tuscany, The Tarot Garden, would take over 20 years to complete and to finance it she designed other stage productions, produced clothing, jewellery and porcelain figures, often using a theme of the Nanas.
She died in 2002 of respiratory failure surrounded by her children and her family. What a life she had, so full and rewarding and for us too her legacy.
One Euro to Finish
For months now we have been having cold calls pertaining to the insulation of the house for a token 1 euro. Too good to be true. It is becoming a real nuisance and now I have got to the point of either slamming the phone down or not picking up the phone at all. Nevertheless this doesn’t work when it is a real person and something important.
A few people I know have had the work done, but it is more complicated than just paying 1 euro, which must be made out as a cheque too. I recently read in the newspaper of one elderly man who had been completely taken in by it and the crooks came in and robbed him.
I get e- mails too, which are quickly deleted. It was a State commission apparently that was funded specifically for this purpose but I still don’t believe it! Sorry, I’m still fuming after 6 calls today.
That’s all for this month. Until the next time on Fifi’s Stories from rural France.
www.salignacfoundation.com Dance and film courses, SW France
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