The Amazing Geoffroy Mottart

I had the pleasure of speaking with Belgium artist, Geoffroy Mottart about his floral works. He places beards and wigs made of vibrant colors on public statues. With the generous French translation help of Carmen Kingsley, here is our interview.

ES: How would you describe your work?

GM: I style statues with floral compositions, because I feel like I am building a border between this long lasting art, anchored in time and ephemeral, but equally magnificent flowers.

I have been working with flowers for more than 20 years, I’m fond of the artistic creations created with them, however I love just as much the timelessness of the “Sculpture” that exists since the man discovered art .

This “border” between the ephemeral floral art and the lasting art of sculpture affects me a lot.

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Jean Delville – Photo from Geoffroy Mottart

ES: What made you decide to create these flower pieces on public sculptures?

GM: A book called International Floral Art (http://fleurbookshop.com/international-floral-art-16-17.html) spotted me during my participation in florist competitions and asked me to send pictures of my artwork and that’s where things started to fall into place.

ES: You talk about the choice of statue for your work. You mention finding the right kind of statue for your work. Could you expand on that?

GM: It is not so much that I look for a very specific statue, instead I look for statues that could become nearly human when I style them. I appreciate statues that have subtle traits, that have depth to them.

ES: How do you choose the flowers for your pieces? Color, shape, meaning?

GM: I choose flowers based on several criteria:

– The character and delicacy of the statue’s features

– The statue´s color and material.

– The place where it is located.

– The season.

ES: How long does it take to create a piece? How long does it take to install a piece on a statue?

GM: I estimate that for the entire creation of a piece of art; it takes me about ten hours, the installation generally doesn’t take so much time, I work a lot in my workshop.

ES: I read that you take the pieces down after a few days because the flowers will fade and die. You said that keeping them up would give a different meaning to the piece. Could you explain a little more?

GM: My goal is to highlight the statues, and to leave the dead flowers on them would make the passerby much less interested in appreciating them. I am someone who loves beautiful things, color, life; and so it would be senseless to let the flowers rot.

ES: How do you want people to react to your work?

GM: I am not interested in a particular reaction, just the fact that people notice my work is an end in itself, since my goal is to make them rediscover what surrounds them.

ES: Would you call yourself a street artist?

GM: Yes, I define myself as an artist working in public space.

Thanks to Geoffroy Mottart for the interview and thanks to Carmen Kingsley for her amazing French translating work.

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Photo by Geoffroy Mottart

Day 13: France and England

The following morning, we went to see the Cirque d’Hiver, the Winter Circus, in Paris. This was our second time there. While I’ve been to Paris countless times before, I had never known about Cirque d’Hiver until my tight wire teacher told us about it over a year ago. Now, it’s on our Must-Dos in Paris (well, between October and March). We enjoyed the shows immensely.

This year, we were a little more with it. We were ready with our Euro coin to tip the usher who showed us to our seats. It’s an interesting custom. It’s not really an option to find your own seats. And apparently, they don’t get paid and rely on tips. So nothing like a compulsory tip. But this time we knew and had coins. Avoid the awkwardness!

Inside Cirque D'Hiver

Inside Cirque D’Hiver

The show starts with a toy-tie in. Parents can buy their children these light up whirly sword things. And to encourage sales, the Circus goes dark a few minutes for the show. Music starts playing and various acrobats/dancers who are wearing LED outfits come on and dance around. Children shake their light up sword tings around it in the dark theater. It’s actually a pretty neat visual…and a great way to guilt parents into buying them for their kids. You wouldn’t want your kids to miss out, no?

These quirks aside, the show was lovely. The name of the show was Géant, which means Giant. So there were lots of elephants, which is super. (They are my favorite animal to watch. So much personality!) The elephants were brought out for two acts. The first had them posing on platforms or on their hind legs. The second had acrobats doing tricks on their backs and even flipping from one elephant back to another. It was rather incredible. The most amazing trick involved a seesaw. One elephant stepped on the seesaw flinging a man into the air to land on top of another elephant. Really cool. Very dangerous, I imagine.

There was also a lovely tango inspired duo silks act. The tango must be a favorite at the circus since we saw at least two tango inspired acts last year too. The pair was able to perform these intricate drops, spins, and catches that I’d never seen done on a silk 30 feet up. And the final bit had the lady doing all sorts of drops and flinging sparkles all over.

There was a duo male pole act that was astonishing. The two men acted as if gravity was optional. They could walk their bodies up and down the poles, spin them in perfect synchronization. Incredible. There was a lovely dog act with very cute puppies. Of course, there is always one dog who acts like a clown. He never does whatever the trainer asks him! Also, it was kinda neat that the clown host was doing a Jerry Lewis impression. There was a fine flying trapeze act.

The only act that we were not fond of involved a model airplane. The handler had his plane do all sorts of loops, upside down and right side up, near miss dives, etc. There’s definitely skill, I’m not sure it was appropriate for the circus.

Anyway, it was good fun. Look forward to going again next year! Here’s a trailer for it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poqJzVzDNpM

Later that afternoon, we went to one of my favorite museums in Paris: Musée de Cluny. It’s the museum of medieval art that is the home to the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. The museum is really a gem in Paris and there’s never a line. It’s built on some Roman 1st century baths too, which you can see a bit from the outside. Inside, it’s room after room of medieval marvels. One room has small scenes from stained glass windows where you can see the details up close. Another larger room has giant sculptures that were removed from Notre Dame during the Revolution. Another room is filled with silver reliquaries including a beautifully constructed metal flower. Another room has painted wooden shields. The museum must have recently undergone some renovation because it seems they’ve expanded the displays.

Notre Dame Heads

Notre Dame Heads

The piece de la resistance is the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. I’ve seen them dozens of times but they still take my breath away. There are six of them. 5 represent the five senses. The sixth is a bit unclear; it may represent love or divine love. Some interpret the tapestries as cautions against the five senses and argue that the sixth shows the only thing that matters; love of G-d. Interpretation aside, the detail in the tapestries is so magnificent. There are all sorts of flora and fauna throughout. The lady seems to be wearing a different dress in each. I highly recommend checking them out.

The museum had a lovely special exhibition about travel in the middle ages. It looked at the various elements of travel whether it was the maps and clocks of travel, to the religious trappings of travel. There was this enormous Vulgate Latin Bible on display that had to be the largest book I’d ever seen.

Stained glass birds

Stained glass birds

Metal Flower

Metal Flower

What a great trip! That’s all for this trip! Next, I’ll talk about somethings here in Chicago and then we’ll soon get to our great African safari!

Part 2: Argentina

On this trip, I really wanted to go to the Buenos Aires zoo. I love animals. I watch a lot of animal documentaries and love going to the Lincoln Park Zoo here in Chicago. I should have gone to the zoo when I lived in Buenos Aires but I was foolish. I told myself, “Why should I go to the zoo? I can go to the one in Chicago.” Yes, very short-sighted of me. This zoo would certainly have different animals considering its a hemisphere away. And the zoo would be different overall. Time to rectify a wrong.

This time, I made sure that I went.  It’s quite a different zoo from either the Lincoln Park Zoo or Brookfield. It feels older. Throughout the zoo, there are buildings in the styles of different cultures. For instance, in the elephant habitat, there was a building that seemed to be inspired by Indian architecture. There were pagodas, and little houses. These structures were used to house animals at night or add ons to their cages.  And there was a monkey island. Enough said. And you can buy food to feed to some of the animals (something I did not do).

Elephants!

Elephants!

However, I will say that there were a fair amount of actual cages, which was disconcerting. It was a little difficult to look at the birds and the monkeys behind literal bars.

On the other hand, there were a far amount of animals wandering around the zoo. There were these large black geese with vulture heads. There were also these tiny deer-like creatures lounging all over. There was a bit of a surreal moment when I saw a habitat that contained the same animal while other deer-like creatures sat in front of it. Then here was a sign telling people that these creatures bit. Curiouser and curiouser. There were also small beaver like creatures scattered around the park; they gravitated towards water.

What are these animals?

What are these animals?

One thing that struck me was how close you got to the animals. One side effect of the cages is that the animals can see you. They even react to you in a way most animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo can’t. I had a monkey stare at me and then swing around and around keeping his eye on me. I also watched a seal (possibly sea lion) crawl up vertically on the rocks and gaze at me with longing. I think he was exhorting me to help him escape.

The selection of animals was pretty neat. They had your traditional zoo animals: rhinoceros, giraffes, elephants. But they also had llamas, lemurs, ostriches, and Patagonia penguins. Also, I watched a rhino gnaw on a giant tire for awhile. So that was neat.

I think it was worth a visit. There is another zoo outside of the city, the Lujan zoo, where you can get in the cages and pet the animals. We’ll see if I can muster up the nerve next time.

After the zoo, I decided to stop by the botanical garden nearby. I’m finding myself drawn more and more to these green spaces. Part of it is that the winters are so long in Chicago, I miss vegetation. The botanical garden was lovely. It’s not quite as incredible or large as the one in Rio de Janeiro but I had nice time wandering around. It’s fall in Argentina so I did get to see some amazing vistas of colorful trees.

One of my favorite things about Buenos Aires is the statues. There are incredible and interesting statues throughout Palermo, a neighborhood with lots of parks (kinda like Lincoln Park). I’ve seen statues of street cleaners and Cuban martyr Jose Marti in the same trip. The botanical garden had a nice selection of statues. For instance, there was a lovely statue of a nymph underneath dropping branches. And there was copy of the famous statue of Romulus and Remus suckling on the female wolf.

Sculpture, Botanical Garden

Sculpture, Botanical Garden

I ended my day at the Museum of Fine Arts. I’ve had a strange relationship with the museum. When I lived in Buenos Aires, I remember touring the museum. That trip, the first floor had the Masters, like Rodin, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt, while the second floor had a wonderful collection of Argentine art through the ages. I didn’t get to spend as much time on the second floor so I resolved to come back. When I did on that same trip, it happened to be the day the museum was closed for a special event. Grumble. Then I went back two years ago when I was in BA. Then, the second floor was under renovation. This time, the second floor was still under renovation. Now I’m starting to think that universe doesn’t want me to see that amazing collection of Argentine art. Or maybe it got moved elsewhere.

It’s still worth checking out. They do have a fairly impressive collection of Rodin sculptures and bronzes including the famous statue of “the Kiss.” There is also a wonderful selection of bronzes made by Rodin for a door called “The Gates of Hell.: There are some Argentine works including these five painting series about a decisive battle in Argentine before, after and during the battle. It’s quite impressive.

What blew me away was a special exhibition on a cartoonist named Miguel Rep. The exhibition was about his work lampooning the art establishment, touching on various themes like critics, models, reality v. art, and the artists themselves. They were hysterical and poignant if you like comedy about art. For instance, one cartoon showed an artist peering through a key hole and painting a picture of a woman undressing. Wonderful lampoon of artists focusing so much on the female nude. There is another parody of the famous painting of doctors overseeing an autopsy called, “The Anatomy Lesson, of Nichlaes Tulp” by Rembrandt. In the cartoon, the artist stands next to his nearly completed canvas. Behind the canvas is the real scene showing the doctors posing covered with flies. They ask, “Much more time, sir?” What a humorous look at the gulf between art and reality. Neat exhibition though Spanish literacy is highly recommended. Here’s a selected few from the website. 

That’s all for now!

 

 

 

 

 

The Way of the Shovel

This week, I went to see “The Way of the Shovel,” an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It wasn’t quite what I had expected. I had thought it was going to be more about archeology itself rather than a reimaging of art as archeology. Or as the  exhibition explains, it “imagines the art world as an alternative “History Channel” that is as concerned with remembering histories as it is with challenging their truthfulness.” Much of it was artists’ conception of what constituted archeology rather than archeology as an academic field. As I previously mentioned, I am fascinated by archeology and was hoping for a consideration of it directly.

But it had it had its high points. First, I got to see my first Mark Dion installation. I saw him speak as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival in the fall and I was enchanted. Here he recreated an archeologist’s office from the messy desk, the various relevant subject matter books, to the gloves, and shovels. Archeology deals with objects so it was neat to see the view turned around; it was a view of the objects for archeology. I could almost imagine what a treasure trove it would be if the installation were buried for 1000 years and future archeologists find it!

The real highlight for me was an incredible work called “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” by Michael Rakowitz. It was a table with various brightly colored statues on them. Each object is a recreation of an object lost from the Iraqi Museum when it was looted in 2003 during the war. Each object is delicately reconstructed using paper products, like newspapers and food papers that are from Iraq or the Middle East in general. Each object has a card describing the object as if it were in a museum or in storage, like its dimensions, material, age, and more. Each card has a quotation about the incident from the era from people trying to articulate the horror of the looting to Donald Rumsfeld’s glib remarks.

Lion of “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” by Michael Rakowitz

Lion of “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” by Michael Rakowitz

It really wounds you to realize that this table is a small number of objects that are lost to us. Some were looted and probably reside in people’s private collections while others were probably destroyed. Moreover, the choice of ephemeral material, like paper, only serves to remind you that these objects have lasted 100s if not 1000s of years and now they are gone. These are mere facsimiles (though incredible) but they will not last.

Statues “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” by Michael Rakowitz

Statues “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” by Michael Rakowitz

Absolutely astonishing work. Bravo Mr. Rakowitz bravo.

So go check it out before it closes on March 9th.

There is also a nice room of Calder mobiles and ceramics by Lille Carre, an artist and cartoonist. Interestingly, there is a video installation where two different videos are projected on opposing walls. They are off set so animation happens in one and then the other. It’s almost as if they are reacting to one another. Wonderful concept.