Like every woman, I spent the 8th of March feeling like a Panda, Pancake or Plumber. But women were not celebrated as rare species and female rights’ activits but they were interviewed the whole month of March giving a bit of their feminist spirit to my birthmonth.
When I think about women, I always picture myself in romantic Paris, walking with my girls around Les Halles and finishing our wine parties sitting together in front of lighting Beaubourg. Like the lighthouse of our hang-out nights. And then strikes this hour when you just don’t care – I always feel like I’m soaked somewhere. That’s when I discovered the watering world of Niki de Saint Phalle, the artist celebrating women’s shapes and strength.
You never noticed it? This streaming noise, watching the flashy pipes of Centre Pompidou. If you listen more carefully, you might hear hissing noises, or maybe contemporary music notes. Or yes, it could be Stravinsky. The whole reflecting pool might give some clues with Rag time, sculptures of mermaid, fox and of these Black monsters. Like a four-hand play. Who were the players? Niki de St Phalle and Jean Tinguely. The Stravinsky fountain looks like the strange child of these two big kids. A sweet end to the romance of the ex couple, but who remains eternal over creative genius. A free fountain ordered by Jacques Chirac, former French President when he was mayor of Paris. What?
Yes the apple lover president ruled Paris before the whole country in the 80s and yes – the watering entertainment was a public meeting between Parisian kids and the Carnival spirit. Like the marvelous Tarot Garden, the French painter wanted to create ‘a metaphysical place, a meditation space, a site that cheers eyes and heart up.’ But the Italien gardens conceal a feminist goal, fascinated by Park Güell by Gaudi and Niki de St Phalle needed to ‘prove that a woman could undertake a mad and big work.’ Big as the Cabeza, the giant skull with Red and Blue mirrors could even hide a child or any passer-by. A game referring to Mexican myths but a real meditation of our existence: ‘There is no death. There is change-transformation. Our life is Eternal.’
Speaking of change, she used to change a lot of locations – from the States to sunny French Riviera where she rent a tiny house with her husband in the 50s. If you want to take the train from Gare de Lyon to Nice, you have to jump at MAMAC (first because it’s an amazing arty place) and then because you could feel cool air from the door. Not a weather issue. But the terrific feeling when facing Nessie, well a mirror ball Loch Ness but monstrous work.
And along the beach where nights can be horrific, he is still standing there. Enormous music master with magic instrument, Miles Davis (and his large shoes) highlighting the English Promenade with his rainbow suit and putting some groovy music to the ears of Nice people who were missing the summer Jazz Festival.
A bit further, on the right, in Mougins, I had the chance to meet other heroes from Niki’s universe. Sitting in oversized benches, you couldn’t miss them. The Nanas are the real and fantasized portraits of contemporary women. Immense sculptures with gigantic ground but light feeling bringing back the author back in time. When she was ice hiking at Rockefeller Center, she sounded like a migratory bird in busy New York City center, head facing the world – yes her Nanas lift legs like ice skaters. Generous and motherlike like the arabesques as she was, she drew in her pupil notebooks but committed to them as never before.
If you happened to be in the streets of Paris in 2014, you would have been likely to be afraid of her gun. Niki de Saint Phalle targeted the audience with a first shoot of her arts. Violent meeting but memories of her stepmother wishing to kill the Chillian president with a gun or a releasing trigger. ‘I shoot on painting to express my aggressiveness. A murder without victim. Extase, truth time, I shivered with passion.’ Well it’s true that paint flows like blood when things become Political. It is just mad but well done for a ‘artistic terroris’ as she likes calling it.
Juste closing the biography Il faut faire saigner la peinture (Paint has to bleed) by Elisabeth Reynaud, with a nana scarf on my shoulder, I had the feeling of turning into a flying super Nana, shooting out of the room to fame.