Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…

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Avignon, two…


The Pope’s Palace in Avignon was a massive structure which at this point no longer exhibited much opulence, the centuries having seen its decoration removed or deteriorated. The remaining decoration could not be photographed because of preservation concerns, so I settled for light reflections and vaulted ceilings until we were almost finished with our interior tour.

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The last large room we walked into contained some treasures of a new variety, however. There was set-up going on of a significant art show that would open two days later.


Entitled “Les Papesses”, it featured five high priestesses of modern art with their modern work reverberating against the Medieval space of the Palace.

The art was in disarray, I could not get near or find many good angles for photos, and there was caution tape everywhere, but it has been fun since we’ve been home to try to figure out what the art and exhibit was about.

Before the Popes came to Avignon, there was a Pope that turned out to be a woman, Pope Joan (discovered because she was pregnant). The name “Les Papesses” (women Popes) refers to the five women artists considered to have major impact in their field of art. At the time I was familiar with Kiki Smith and knew she was American. After I got to researching I realized I was also familiar with Camille Claudel. I had seen a large portion of her work the year before when we visited Rodin’s Museum in Paris. She was his Muse and lover and tragically spent the last thirty years of her life institutionalized. I had seen the work of Louise Bourgeois (French) before as the sculpture garden at San Francisco MOMA has one of her large spiders near their Blue Bottle Coffee Kiosk (wonder if it will still be there after their three-year renovation?)

The other two artists were Jana Sterbak (Czech) and Berlinde De Bruyckere (Belgium). Once again I was struck with how labels in art museums help me put art into context and understanding. None of that here. Some of my pictures are trying to be just an impression of the art for that reason. I did not buy the catalogue of the show. It was big, heavy and would not make it home in my suitcase. So I have tried Google searches but specific pieces are hard to name without the catalogue especially since sometimes all I could see was the back. I rented the DVD “Squatting the Palace”  about Kiki Smith from Netflix since I have been home (a documentary about a show she had in Venice) and I looked back at my pictures from last year at the Rodin Museum. I loved seeing the contrast of the art with its antique environment and wished I could have come back later when it was all set up.

IMG_6111IMG_6112Kiki Smith

IMG_6113 IMG_6109Camille Claudel

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Louise Bourgeoise “Maman” (the spider) with “Planetarium” by Jana Sterbak behindIMG_6105 IMG_6119 IMG_6121IMG_6124Jana Sterbak


“The Princess and the Pea” as well as some floating nightshirts and straight jackets. (Is that a comment of feminine or what…)

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Kiki Smith’s “Pyre Woman Kneeling”

IMG_6132IMG_6134 IMG_6136 IMG_6135Opposite the original art of the structure…

IMG_6137and a slight bit of original fresco…

IMG_6142It was another lovely day in Provence…one of many…


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Walking shoes…

During my last years of teaching, I developed a loyalty to comfortable shoes and bought my first pair of Merrell. A lovely dark grey shoe with blue trim. They did a good job of mitigating foot pain and developed a used patina that included drops of paint from many projects. By the time I retired and started traveling, I had purchased a second pair (with chartreuse trim) that was developing its own patina to go with  comfortableness. I took them on our trip to Florance and Tuscany and they did not fail me on the cobblestones of Italy. The glitch was that I had not learned, yet, that it is not wise to purchase books in museum stores and when it came time to pack the suitcases to come home I made the dreadful decision to leave them behind so that everything else could fit. Broke my heart to give up that chartreuse, but I knew that I had the blue trimmed pair at home.

As we left for Provence, I put the blue trimmed shoes into the suitcase as the backup shoes for foot fatigue. They did their duty well. As we packed at the end of the trip, however, it became clear that although there were no books to pack there were lavender soaps and lotions as well as nougats from the candy factory down the road at St. Didier. The shoes were not going to make it back to the United States. So there was a short ceremony as they were put into the garbage can near Le Beaucet. Almost like burying a Jackson Pollock painting. RIP great friends, I appreciate your support all these years. View from the trash cans toward Le Beaucet:


Purchased new ones once I got home:


Same brand, new color…wait for it…”elephant, with pink trim”. If you know me you will know why the name swayed my choice…if you don’t, scroll to the bottom and put the word elephant in my “search” engine!

My shoes are my passport to adventure!


New app: Etchings.

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Pattern, Color, Printing…

Pattern          Color          Printing

While in Provence, we went to the factory where Les Olivades fabrics are printed. These are the iconic “Pierre Deux” fabrics characteristic of Provence. I was excited to see the silk-screen process. (You may remember that when I entered my first Duomo in Italy I decided my goal was to become the intern sitting on the floor cleaning ancient mosaics with a tooth-brush; when I marbled paper in a paper store in Florence I wanted to hire on to be their “marbler”; and Paris made me think I could get hired to paint walls the colors that the Musee D’Orsay has chosen.) Now that I have returned from Provence I want to follow in the steps of the many Cheesemen I saw in the marches (my friend Lisa and I have signed up for a cheese making class in August) and I keep wondering why I spent so many years in that classroom when I could have been learning how to be a master-printer at Les Olivades? The process is very similar to EZScreen printing which I love because its cleanup is with water. Here is my iMovie of the process: (You can make it full screen by clicking the square to the left of the word Vimeo.)

pillowThe pillow I bought at the factory store. (Any one else have a husband that hates pillows on the couch? geez, I felt like I was bringing back contraband!)

patternsPatterns for a class with guru Mary Ann Moss here and an inkjet transparency of a photo I took of the clock at the Musee D’Orsay ready to be made into a silk screen. Fun is happening here!



After our delicious lunch in Arles, we still had time before we would drive back to our “country home.” We decided to spend it at the Reattu Museum. We had passed it earlier on our walk and the modern art looked intriguing. The exhibit at the museum was called Nuage (cloud) and the building had clouds coming out of its windows.


The best part of the exhibit for me was the small booklet we were given that was written by the curator of the exhibit. Printed on cloud-like vellum paper it gave a focus for the art in each room and explained her motivation for the way she had curated the show.

book1book2booklettersIMG_1510“Tendering the visitor a wave of words from under the stooping Gleditsia. Stones are the roots of the clouds, a Chinese poet once wrote….The dense and the impalpable, the immutable and the moving.”

IMG_1513 IMG_1514“Open up to the turbulence of Andy Warhol, to his light-filled utopias, the former studio of Jacques Reattu, his famous ‘room of clouds’  cradled in the Mistral, in the sky’s intensity and the bend of the river as it rushes towards the sea.”


“…Jean Arp, who imagines the navel is directly connected to the clouds.”


“…tools and utensils should be elastic, pliable or with springs, precarious, gentle or negligible to suit. In any case, they should be concrete,-and tinged with melancholy.”


“Tethered Sky”


“Drift from one continent to another. When you’re in the cloud business, Asia is never far away.”

“Scaffold the sky. You’re only a stair case away, the only truly celestial partition in the whole exhibition: a fugue, the winds, quavers, between photography and painting, and a jellyfish which, for 51 seconds, thinks it is a cloud.”

“Find the keys to unlock innumerable elevators that will sweep you up into the clouds—by far the ideal way of escaping gravity.”

“Marvel in the den of an artist-collector, at the mind-blowing fragment of a meteorite, which the stratosphere took pains to fashion into the shape of a cloud. A stone from another world, whose composition we do not understand. A token of infinity.”

“…the cloud is capable of embodying anything.”

“Tremble at the clouds of crisis, menace, submersion, the funeral drum, disorder or vertigo.”

“Capture the impossible garden with clouds. Arp was one of those nurserymen.”

“Mould the movement of the clouds.”

“Sift the swaying of the clouds the interrupted passage of light.”

After that I became obsessive with taking photos of the skies and clouds of Provence. Van Gogh’s paintings really did depict the light of Provence. Our new goal in traveling will be to evaluate the skies we see on a scale of 1 to 10 (with Provence at 10). Is it possible that some places just have better clouds than others? A miniscule portion of my sky photos:

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In preparation for our trip to Provence, among other sources of information, we relied on a few blogs we discovered. We particularly liked Lost in Arles for its poetic writing and beautiful pictures. It developed that we could hire its writer, Heather Robinson, as a walking tour guide. We are very glad we did because it gave a richness to our tour of the city and she knew a great place (Cuisine de Comtoir) to send us for lunch. (When in Paris last year, one of our favorite places for lunches were the Cuisine de Bar connected to Poilâne Bakery.) Here in Arles, they had tartine sandwiches on Poilâne bread, gazpacho with mint-having only ever had it with parsley, this was a magnificently cooling taste treat-and tiramisu to die for. Plus lovely art on the walls. There I was nourished internally, intellectually, and visually to the point of wishing that I could run to my studio to put paint to paper. Thank you Heather!
This movie is not the entire day…there is more that will be in a second post…later…

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On our drive back from Orange we stopped at a wine growing region centered by the small town of Gigondas. TM was interested in stopping here because he gets the newsletter from the Kermit Lynch Wine Shop in Berkeley. Kermit blends wine from the grapes of this area and talks of the area glowingly in his newsletter. Since we were in the neighborhood, it seemed like it would be worth a view…and it was. Structured on a slant and anchored by the 11th century Saint Catherine’s Church,we walked to the top where there is a botanical garden amongst the ruins of a castle and its ramparts that was built in the 13th and 14th centuries. We walked back down the hill through the church grounds where there is a collection of modern art (closed on Tuesdays when we were there). We could only see the part out side that looked like giant Legos. An interesting juxtaposition. This town is well-maintained and prosperous and 75% of its inhabitants derive income from the wine industry. Here is our view: