Searching for Vincent

Finally managed to get my butt out of Maury for a few days, motion triggered by an invitation from my friends Mike and Martha to join them for a few days among the swells of St. Tropez.

First stop, Arles, where I thought I’d catch a few photo exhibitions from the Rencontres and stalk the ghost of Van Gogh. Most of what I wanted to see at the Rencontres had already closed—especially disappointing to miss a show of early work from Joel Meyerowitz, a photographer I’ve long admired—but I did get to a survey of Latin American photography that was interesting but marred by a terrible installation with inadequate lighting.

Bridges Across the Seine at Astières

On to the search for Vincent. The Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles had a small exhibit of eight paintings of portraits of ordinary people and field workers from the Bührle collection that nicely traced the development of his modern style of short brushstrokes and saturated colors. Segue to Alice Neel, a “painter of modern life”, left wing New York from about 1940-1970. Mostly portraits, they are more artifice than documentary and led me out into the streets to resume the search for Vincent – with cocktails.

John Perrault, 1971 by Alice Neel
Andy Warhol by Alice Neel

Found both on the terrace of the Hotel Nord-Pinus: Cocteau, Picasso, bullfighters, and fashion designers in historical photos, a lovely Negroni in my glass, and Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night just across the Place du Forum. Tourists like me fill the streets, restaurant terraces cover the Place and overwhelm the statue of Frédéric Mistral, while the café at night offers an €18 Van Gogh salad, still this is a remarkably pleasant place to sit and sip and make notes for a new novel and plans to move to Paris.

Arles: Place du Forum

The streets of Arles are quiet on my way back to my hotel, the tourists have retired for the night and the ghost of Van Gogh is silent.

Arles

A drive north and east to the village of Grimaud, which was the seat of the Grimaldi family before they went off to Monaco and lured a movie star out of Hollywood to become a princess and live in a castle. The villa was almost as nice and the aesthetic shifted from Van Gogh to Hockney.

Villa in Grimaud

A couple of days of luxury with a group of accomplished and interesting people wasn’t hard to take.

©2017 Ron Scherl

Just Before Leaving

Sunday, the last day we had together, Barbara and I went walking in the Presidio to see the new Andy Goldsworthy piece. What a joy!  I was, as I’ve been for the last month, obsessing over details, anxious, living inside my head and maybe a bit removed from reality. Andy Goldsworthy is a great artist. He not only brings you out of your head, he brings you into the natural world through a work of art that shows us the connections we may not see when self-obsessed and not very perceptive.

Andy Goldsworth in PresidioOK. Sorry about the iPhone photo, but as I said, I was not thinking. Not thinking clearly and not getting outside my own brain cells. But this piece turned me around, made me look around and made me happy. This made everything else go away. Made me love where I was at that moment and made me happy.  So here’s a challenge to the photographers out there. Get to the presidio, spend some time with Goldsworthy and, if he moves you, make an image. I really want to see it.