JOURNAL

FRANCE > US

Just left France.

It’s been a little crazy to think about the contrasts between the two places; I try to be aware of the differences without making value judgements.

Suffice it to say, we like it there.

Now I am back to the States with my family and Dexter, our dog. And it’s been a while since I shared. Hello!

My exhibit at Galerie AM’Carta in late August was a resounding success. I met a lot of good people, and interacted with a lot of other artists. Because of that exhibit, I was also invited to participate in an 4-artist exhibition the following month in Uzerche, France! This was an added bonus, and brought new connections and opportunities.

A view of my beloved studio in France

 Wilfried Celerian, Deputy Mayor of Cultural Affairs, Felletin

Wilfried Celerian, Deputy Mayor of Cultural Affairs, Felletin

 L-R: Thierry Roger, master framer and an expert yarn dyer for the tapestry trade + Nelly, owner of café L’antidote in Aubusson

L-R: Thierry Roger, master framer and an expert yarn dyer for the tapestry trade + Nelly, owner of café L’antidote in Aubusson

I’m happy to share the images of the newly-created Aubusson art and the events that surrounded the Aubusson exhibit. I so look forward to seeing what the next year in La Creuse brings!

(Scroll down for more)

J'adore la ville, la fleuve et les bâtiments historiques d’Aubusson. En fait, le teinture que j’utilise pour crée mes peintures me relie, je sens, à l’histoire des artisans d’Aubusson.

Avec mes sentiments les meilleurs, j’offre mon oeuvre aux citoyens d’Aubusson.

I love the city, the river and the historic buildings of Aubusson. In fact, the dye that I use to create my paintings connects me, I feel, to the history of Aubusson craftsmen.

With my best feelings, I offer my work to the citizens of Aubusson.

My process begins with a small sketch, which leads to a larger sketch, before I even begin on the silk…

I sketch it out carefully on the silk before I even dream of painting on it. This is after many hours of research, planning, and work.

It’s such a satisfying experience to go from a tiny sketch to this! Prior to this step I set the colors and steam away any wrinkles. I also stitch a loop for the dowel at the top.

In it’s final form. La Rivière Creuse + Galerie AM’Carta. Aubusson. 2018

NEW EXHIBITION in athens, GA OPENS THURSDAY, Nov. 8

AND, I am excited to announce a new exhibit (closer to my Georgia, USA friends) at the Lyndon House Arts Center in Athens, GA. The Lyndon House is a beautiful space and I am honored to be exhibiting there with the very talented Judy Bales in a collaborative exhibit titled, aptly, “Call & Response: Works by René Shoemaker and Judy Bales”. See Judy’s work here: www.judybales.com

Our exhibit opens on November 8th with a reception that encompasses three fascinating exhibits opening that day. The talented team of Sara Parker and Simon Hunt have mounted “Perennial Pattern: Works by Sara Parker and Simon Hunt,” and the delightful seer St .EOM of Pasaquan, a 20th Century visionary whose spirits encouraged him to build a new community in South Georgia.

I was lucky to have visited St. EOM’s home mere months before finding out I would be exhibiting with his work. Talk about synchronicity!

 René Shoemaker

René Shoemaker

Judy Bales

I hope you enjoy these new French artworks, and I look forward to sharing the Lyndon House installation soon. Hope to see you at the reception on November 8th!

Much love,

-René

more from Atelier-Musée des Cartons de Tapisserie d'Aubusson


A Day in The Life

In my last post I promised you a look into my process while in France; here we go!  (select any image to enlarge)

I wake up about 6am when I have art projects going. It’s easy to get up that early; the bedroom windows face the rising sun, and those windows are wide open almost all of the time (no bug screens necessary here!!!).

rene_waking view5.jpg

My well-loved planner and a favorite spot :)

and another view

Bonjour!

My dog Dexter climbs up the stairs while I am descending; he gets extra snooze time with my husband Harvey while I get quiet time, which is very important to my creative process.

Stretch, drink tea, plan my day using my paper-based journal, a beloved vintage Franklin Planner. 

I try to stay away from turning on the iPhone or computer, so that my head stays clear.

. . .

Begin work. Again, I try to stay away from the computer and start working on my art right away. If there is a silk stretched and ready to be painted, that’s what I do first. And/or mix colors, because that process is long; when I create a color, I put the new color on a test grid, and then I need to wait until the dye is completely dry to really see what the color is! That often leads to a new adjustment of the color, another drying spell, etc etc - you get the picture.

 

Today's visitor, la vache, is the domesticated pet of a neighbor; when not at home with her, it is often seen wandering the village

Navigate to the studio. To get there, I walk out my front door, turn right and go up the stone steps into the studio. I think it was these very same outdoor steps that made me fall in love with this house immediately when I first saw it.

The steps to my studio.

Outside my studio window with Ganesh.

After at least an hour of creative work, I eat breakfast with Harvey and we go on a walk with Dexter all together. Here we have the option of walking down the Roman road (really!), a footpath that goes through forest and tree-lined fields with cows and hay, or “around the block” (I’ve always been fascinated that the French language has no word for block). This route goes toward a lake and past more fields with mama cows and baby cows and hawks and sparrows, past a castle, then returning to our house. Yet another route is down the road to Léon le Franc - what is now a tractor path that used to be a major foot thoroughfare to the village 2.5 km away - and we love how descriptive the names around here can be!

This is at the corner of my village; if I turn left I am following the Roman road. The woman who lives in the house you see here takes care of the little plot of land on the corner; the poppies are so beautiful here and seeing them always make me happy.

"around the block"

Dexter

Back home, drink tea, and back to the studio. I have work organized and lined up, both on my table and in my head. I try to make between 15 - 20 new pieces of art for each solo exhibit I hang, and that's what I'm working on now. I design, wax, and paint about 3 silks at a time, so as one is drying I can apply the resist to another, etc etc. When I am working on a large (6 ft long) silk, the banner material will take up my entire work table, so I concentrate on one of those at a time. Also, because the smaller works need to be delivered to the framer, and he needs time to measure, prepare, and cut the frame molding (called “baguettes” - the same word as the typically French loaf of bread!), I create the small works first.

Testing the dyes in my studio to capture the very colors I'm looking for.

Beginning the resist process using wax to draw with.

Here I am standing at the door to my studio looking out. That's my yard in the background.

I hold the artwork outside the door so I can see what the colors look like in the daylight and in the sun.

the set-up

In a very un-French way, we eat lunch about 2pm. The French lunch break is 12-2, and all the stores and businesses close during that time — very wise! After lunch I often sit in the yard and soak up some sunshine while doing hand-sewing or reading and remind myself how lucky I am to be here. And then drink a cup of coffee and move back into the studio.

A large part of the process is patience. And coffee. This is a new artwork for my next exhibition in August, inspired by the town of Aubusson. I look forward to sharing more about this soon... 

Break in routine. The outdoor Felletin Market happens every Friday morning, and it is very lively and a great place for socializing. We buy our vegetables, meat, and olives there, and on Saturdays the Aubusson Market is available; our cheese, bread and fruit come from this market. On Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, the Ressourcerie -- the Habitat-for-Humanity-type second-hand shop, is open and this is where we buy almost everything that we need for our house. We visit there once or twice a week.

Once a week, usually on Friday, I set up the steamer for setting the dyes on the art that I have made that week. The silk steams for 1 hour, but the whole process of preparing and washing and ironing afterwards takes about 4 hours total. I have learned not to leave the steaming until the last minute!

For working on the computer, I try to take it in chunks later in the day, setting a timer so I won’t get lost in the fog of the Internet and social media. The internet is unbelievably speedy here! I answer emails, write blog posts, do photoshop work, and check in with family and friends. And search for new places to exhibit my art.

I take another long walk with the dog towards the end of the day, and never plan on accomplishing anything after dinner - the process is long and the good French wine slows me down. If we are having my favorite (anything “bubbly”/champagne-style) I totally write off the whole evening because I tend to just want to sit in the yard while sipping bubbly with Harvey and Dexter and stare at the sky, the beautiful setting sun, the stars that appear, and the rising moon.

Bed about 11.

 
 

- René Shoemaker, Juchefaux, St Maixant. June 30, 2018

Does it even need a caption? Arc en ciel.

The house that is attached to our friend Madeleine's house in a nearby village. It is so beautiful! We were eating dinner in her yard and drinking champagne to celebrate my birthday when I captured this view...

Our sunset.

Look at that moon!

The moon with planet on my Mother's Birthday which was June 21st.



 

PS - A friend in America just commented: “You are so prolific in France!” Yes, I am making the artwork - but now how do I SELL it?!?! - this is the mystery I am seeking to unravel. Send me your ideas and advice, please! And check out my shop, let me know what you'd like to see there...

 

EXPOSITION! Decouvrir: Felletin et ses villages

Photo Credit - Yveline LeGrand

I’ve been really busy in my studio and beyond here in central France! The reception to my exhibit, which opened on June 1st at La Mairie de Felletin (Felletin City Hall), was so well received. It was my second exhibition about (and in!) Felletin in two years; I am happy to share that my audience grew! And to also see the arrival of familiar faces among those that attended my first vernissage... well, I’m proud. And the Mayor and her office are happy to now share my work with their visitors and dignitaries!

Many attendees noted that my work has progressed exponentially since last year. I heard that it was more free, that the the colors were more alive, and that my subjects grew to include more diverse places and spaces.

I was honored to hang larger silk paintings this year (last year it was forbidden), as creating large work makes me especially happy. It was a challenge as my studio in France was not yet set up for making large-scale silk installation pieces. Now it is! The larger work gave us the perfect scale to create a perfect announcement banner, which hangs in the front of the wonderful, historic building - welcoming all to come in and see my works of art.

La Montagne wrote an article about the exhibition and reviewed it quite complimentary. I find it a sweet synopsis for the people who have yet to attend, and an inspiration for those who still have time to stop by. Decouvrir: Felletin et ses villages runs through July 27th. (*article and translation below) You can see images from the exhibition, purchase work, and read more about it HERE.

Shoemaker-LaMontagne-PaperJournal-2018_cropped.png

Our Community Interpreted by René Shoemaker

By Robert Guinot

Just one year after having an exhibition here, René Shoemaker has retuned to the Felletin City Hall. The American artist, who lives in the commune of Saint Maixant, is this time sharing here the discovery of Felletin and its villages. She presents a selection of paintings on silk that represent a year’s work.*

Artistic Stroll around Felletin

René Shoemaker walked past Pont Roby to the Chatueau d’Arfeuille, then to the library. She went up Rue de Beaumont, climbed to the summit of the bell tower to experience a panoramic view of the town and the countryside. She studied the engraved inscriptions in stone buildings. Her journey is displayed in blue and green. She plays with the horizon line and sometimes departs, deliberately, from reality. Her exhibition delivers her perceptions of Felletin and its surroundings, from Arfeuille to Lavaud and to La Croix-Blanche. Her work has developed into a body of work that is dear to her, between poetry and naivety, with great attention to line and color choice, all with a very personal style. It is understood that the artist and her husband, who live here 1/2 the year in the Creuse, often leaves Saint-Maixant for Felletin where René is fascinated with the countryside and the monuments, where she observes the houses and architectural details. Her wandering journey inspires her paintings on silk, designs that are between figurative and abstraction, which is always elegant and personal. Her chromatic range is limited, contributing to the uniformity of the exhibition, that is, both understated and joyful.

(*) The ceremony of inauguration was held with the presence of Wilfried Celerien, deputy mayor, Gérard Chabert, the mayor of Saint-Maixant, Thierry Roger, who has framed the collection of work…

An exhibition, and all of the work that goes into them, can be really exhausting. In the next few weeks I plan to share some of my process with you!

I am also excited to share with you my next exhibit, opening  at AM’Carta Gallery (Atlier-Musée des Cartons de Tapisserie d'Aubusson) in Aubusson on August 17th. I have allowed myself time for new research, new paintings, and new large scale work — I can’t wait to discover what I create!

As always, I’m so happy to have you along on this adventure with me!

 

PHOTOGRAPHS FROM LE VERNISSAGE (OPENING RECEPTION)

Photo Credit - Yveline LeGrand

MON AVENTURE FRANÇAISE

This village is the same as it was in the 14th century!

My exhibit in Felletin opens June 1st, so I am trying to wrap up all my images, ideas, sketches, and finish my silk paintings. In the middle of all this work, I try and make time to continue exploring my new home and country. Taking long walks and sketching and researching is my heaven on Earth.

Mareugheol, in the Auvergne, by Harvey

Here are a few images I wanted to share with you of the scenes I see on my walks every day... my research of the Creuse and of the town of Mareugheol, in the Auvergne, that we discovered. Begun in the 13th century, only one century later the citizens built a wall around their town to protect themselves -- and the village has not been restored! We felt really lucky to get such a glimpse into the history of this fabulous place.

  the ancient porte in  Mareugheol

the ancient porte in Mareugheol

The last three days here have been the "Days of the Ice Saints"; a point in the spring when one watches if it is the last frost date. And sure enough, it's been rainy and ice-y! So different than last week when it was sunny with clear skies and warm weather; beautiful and expansive. Today in my studio it is cold and the wind blows down the chimney and swirls around. 

I am so happy that it is so easy to share my adventures with you. Let me know more of what you want to see, in France and in the studio! 

Greetings from France!

  The Lily of the Valley grows wild all around here

The Lily of the Valley grows wild all around here

In France . . .

. . . May 1st is a holiday corresponding to Labor Day in the United States. La Fête du Travail is often celebrated with an offering of the sweet little Lily of the Valley flower known as Muquet, giving the holiday another name, La Fête du Muquet.

Yes, I am back in France! The transition from the U.S. to France went well. The house welcomed us, the neighbors welcomed us, the countryside and the open sky welcomed us. 

This time we brought our dog Dexter with us. Dexter went through a period of transition; he had some jet lag, and I’m afraid the plane ride was somewhat stressful. His level of freedom is less here than what he was used to in Georgia – we don’t want any run-ins with the cows. But we are thoroughly enjoying each other’s company and he is a great companion and conversation starter!

. . .

While we were in Athens, I had a good, productive six months during the winter of 2017-18. It was a whirlwind of activity, and I’d like to say a big thank you to my supporters and friends:

  Dexter and René arrive in France

Dexter and René arrive in France

Merci Beaucoup!

Here is a review of my time in Athens, and a sneak peek at what is coming next:

1) My exhibit at Ciné, La Rentrée, was well received. Two of the paintings on exhibit there were published in the Flagpole Magazine on two consecutive weeks, and on the third week, editor Pete McCommons folded in a report of my exhibit with his memories of the Art Deco Athens Greyhound Bus Station downtown. He highlighted a painting of mine he had purchased that now hangs in the Flagpole office and wrote, “René Shoemaker is one of Athens’ local treasures,” which made my year! Thank you, Pete, from the bottom of my heart. I know Pete is a faithful reader of this blog, because he often lifts information from it. How cool is that?!?

The Ciné exhibit was extended twice, and had a lengthy run of 8 weeks. I sold one painting, the signature piece from my exhibit in France. I was sad to see it go, but so happy it found a loving home. The lucky new collector was Sarah Gordon, who purchased the “L’église du Moutier, Felletin, France,” and now she has a part of France hanging in her Athens home.

2) The Works on Paper exhibit at Jittery Joe’s 5 Points was on display from January through March 2018. I am proud of my works on paper and love sharing that aspect of my art.

3) My entry to the 43rd Juried Lyndon House show was accepted -- a large red silk painting called We Are Here that was originally exhibited at The Columbus Museum. This exhibit of Athens regional artists will be available for viewing until May 5th, 2018, so, if you are in Athens, go see it soon!

4) My exhibit at Creature Comforts in November 2017 included a really nice “Meet the Artist” event where I demonstrated the craft of silk painting, and provided a working silk that participants could practice the technique on.

5) I participated in two auctions to support causes near and dear to my heart: BreastFest Athens in March 2018 and The Columbus Museum’s Art for Education in April 2018.

6) I taught a SiIk Painting class twice at the KA Artist shop. My next class is scheduled for Sunday, December 2nd--sign up now !

7) I traveled to NYC two times, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, attending the Paul Taylor Dance Company at Lincoln Center, enjoying the street scene, obtaining a commission for two new silk paintings, and attending a class at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn to (re)discover Natural Dyeing, a truly enjoyable class taught by the talented Jennie Maydew .

8) I attended a private party and sold a number of scarves. I love the way the colors of my hand-dyed scarves make people happy and light up their faces!

9) I visited Laurel, MS (after a snowstorm delay in NYC) to research an upcoming 2019 exhibit there.

10) BMA at Home carries my original art, and I’m very proud of my relationship with the talented Breckyn Alexander. Go see!

11) My cards, postcards, and art are carried by several local shops: Avid Books, KA Artist Shop, and now the Lotta Mae Supply Company.

  Beth Sale and Jon Biron discussing life and art at the Lyndon House Arts Center, Athens, GA USA.  We Are Here  hangs behind them

Beth Sale and Jon Biron discussing life and art at the Lyndon House Arts Center, Athens, GA USA. We Are Here hangs behind them

  Becky Ford + Marty Thomas are so stylish in their new scarves. Athens, GA

Becky Ford + Marty Thomas are so stylish in their new scarves. Athens, GA

  Fields of wildflowers, La Creuse, France

Fields of wildflowers, La Creuse, France

Upcoming events happening in France and the U.S.:

1) June 1-July 27, 2018. Solo exhibit at the Marie de Felletin, France, Découvrir - Felletin et ses villages (Discover - Felletin & Her Villages), with a reception on Friday, June 1, 2018

2) August 17-31, 2018. Solo exhibit at the AM’Carta Gallery in Aubusson, France. Title TBD; the subject will be. . . the historic tapestry town of Aubusson!

3) November 6, 2018-January 12, 2019. Two-person exhibit with my dear friend Judy Bales at the Lyndon House Arts Center in Athens, GA. Opening reception November 8, 2018: Call & Response: Works by Judy Bales & René Shoemaker. I’m very excited about this exhibit, as Judy inspires me to stretch my vision of what I can create, how to display art, and how to interact with another artist in intriguing ways.

4) May 7-October 8, 2019. Solo exhibit at the Lauren Rogers Museum in Laurel, MS, responding to their Japanese woodblock print collection.

  New silk painting of a barn, with barn as background, La Creuse, France

New silk painting of a barn, with barn as background, La Creuse, France

As a parting note, this phrase came to me as I looked at my beautiful surroundings and realized I should never take the gift of life for granted:

"May the Wonder of This Life Never Recede."

With gratitude,

-Rene

IMG_3719.JPG

Save the Dates!

Felletin, France: Friday, June 1, 2018
Aubusson, France: August 17-31, 2018
Athens, GA, USA: Thursday, November 8, 2018
Laurel, MS, USA: May 7-October 8, 2019

 

In Honor of Love...

          ...my exhibit at Ciné in Athens was extended, and all art is 14% off! The sale goes on through midnight on Valentine’s Day. Not local? Don’t worry! You can choose your painting and purchase your choice from my website, or feel free to text, phone or email me directly at rene.shoemaker@gmail.com, 706.424.4739, or just hit 'reply' to this email! All art is framed and ready to give as a gift to your loved one - or to yourself!

                                                                 Orange Sky Over the Plain , painting on silk

                                                               Orange Sky Over the Plain, painting on silk

                                     La Rentrée  exhibit at Ciné in Athens, GA, USA

                                   La Rentrée exhibit at Ciné in Athens, GA, USA

Here is the complete collection of the work in the exhibit. Which one speaks to you?

Thanks for your patronage -- I love sharing my work with you!

IMG_2425.PNG

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all!

Chartres-A Magical Town

Wandering Through Chartres

Recently I highlighted one particular building in Chartres, France: St. Aignan Church, because of its innate beauty, inspiring shape, light, and color. Today I have more images to share with you from Chartres, photos that I took while exploring the town. I found that one of the good things about staying at the Auberge de Jeunesse—the Youth Hostel—in Chartres is that you cannot remain there during the day; they close the hostel to clean and prepare for new guests, and this forced eviction (no sleeping late!) gives one a wonderful opportunity to wander the town.

Chartres, west of Paris, is home to the famous 13th century Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres. It is a magnificent building that sits on a hill, and when approaching the city one can see it from many miles away. Chartres is known for its stained glass windows, and they are beautiful. But my favorite detail, located at the west end of the Cathedral—the King’s entrance—is “my” lady. There, next to the entrance, is a statue lined up with the rest of her coterie, and she is special to me. She is known to be Charlemagne’s mother, Bertrada of Laon, and she is “mine” because a few years back I made a print of her.  It was her smile that first made me fall in love with her; I have always loved that smile, and her elegance.

Come wander the streets with me, and tell me about you own favorite street scenes.

 

 

 

Returning from France - "La rentrée"

                                                                                         Christina's View. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Paris.

                                                                                        Christina's View. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Paris.

YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO THE ART OPENING AT
CINÉ
ATHENS, GA

Thursday, December 14, 2017
5 -7 pm

La Rentrée, 
René returns from France to share with her friends what she saw there

                                                                                                        Le Grand Café. Felletin, France

                                                                                                       Le Grand Café. Felletin, France

 La rentrée, René returns from France will be on display at Ciné at 236 West Hancock Avenue, Athens, GA from December 14, 2017 to January 31, 2018.There will be an opening reception on Thursday, December 14, from 5-7 p.m. The event is free and all are invited.

 I welcome you to this exhibit of paintings on silk and prints on paper of the architecture and landscape of central France. Much of the work was exhibited at the City Hall of Felletin, in La Creuse, France during the summer of 2017.

 After living in France for the better part of this year,  I now return to my Athenian life, friends and loves. But the experience of living in France was transformational, and I wish to share that feeling, the sites, and the adventure of being there with you, my Athens community. 

                                                                               L'eglise et la ville, Felletin, France.

                                                                              L'eglise et la ville, Felletin, France.

La rentrée, in France, is the time at the end of the summer when people return to their “normal life” - school & work - after the summer vacation. But I noticed that what I experienced at the time of La rentrée was not just busy highways as all of France traveled on certain days, but a whole-country feeling and an attitude of excitement marking the end of the summer. At lawlessfrench.com, they describe it best: “…but la rentrée is much more than that – it marks the entire country’s return to normalcy after the summer break. It’s time to go not only back to school but also to work, as well as catch up with friends and clubs and choirs and teams. La rentrée refers to returning home and getting back to real life.”   

 As I settle down to my real life in Athens, I remember that daily life in France was challenging but also very rewarding. The landscape was beautiful, the skies large, the architecture inspiring. While planning my return to Georgia, I knew that I wanted to share my experiences through the artwork I created while in France. I had the feeling La rentrée was the perfect title for this exhibit, as I was returning from a sojourn overseas to reacquaint myself with my Stateside home. This exhibit is a way of bringing my two worlds together, and, hopefully, of sharing what I saw, experienced and enjoyed while overseas. 

For more information, contact the artist:

 rene.shoemaker@gmail.com
 706.424.4730

  reneshoemaker.com

                                                                                                                                                               Eternit, Felletin, France

                                                                                                                                                              Eternit, Felletin, France

St. Aignan Church in Chartres, France

If I were to share one travel tip with you, 

     this would be it:

When you travel to France and visit Chartres, yes, go to the Cathedral - it is truly magnificent.

But DO (and this is the advice part)...

   ...visit St. Aignan Church.  It is tucked away in a small street and is easy to miss. In fact, I am sure most people do not even know it exists.

 This most ancient parish of Chartres is a true architectural gem, and a tactile connection to the past. It is a visual artist's true point of inspiration. Once you arrive, you will most likely be alone in the light-filled structure, standing in this magnificent space by yourself; free to wander and inspect and marvel with an uninterrupted view of the space, light, and the exquisite details all around.

I tend not to offer travel advice because I feel new places are best discovered on one's own for a memorable adventure, but this experience so inspired me I just knew I had to share the beauty of the space.

Silkscreening in France / Sérigraphie en France

 

 

What I had in mind to create was a new inquiry into silkscreening on silk; a direction I wanted to work out by doing.

 

 

Once I arrived in France, I quickly got busy with a silkscreening assignment from the States I had promised to attend to once here. The clock was ticking, and I had a deadline...

What I had in mind to create was a new inquiry into silkscreening on silk; a direction I wanted to work out by doing. I couldn’t imagine how it could turn out until I actually began to physically work on it — it was just an idea in my head and I wasn’t sure I could really make it happen. Once I arrived at my new home, I realized I was suddenly in the land of not knowing anything about how to make silkscreening happen in France. I did not know where to buy supplies nor how to create the system to work; ie, setting up a new silkscreening studio!

What I knew was the French name for silkscreening - sérigraphie - and not much else. As I began trying to track down the supplies I needed (you've certainly guessed that I arrived with NO silkscreening supplies in my suitcase!) I came upon a small sign in front of an exhibition hall in downtown Felletin that announced: “Les Michelines - atelier associatif de serigraphie” (translated "The Michelines - a collective workshop for silkscreening"). What relief!  

I won’t bother you with the details of how much gumption it took for me to begin asking around to find out where the workshop was located, nor how much more gumption it took to walk to the collective’s headquarters and try to explain to them what my needs were and ask for help (all in French!). What I can tell you, is that after a little talking and explaining and drawing pictures with pencils and hand gestures, it all worked out quite beautifully. We made a date to spend the day together printing on paper and printing on silk, and it was a day spent in camaraderie with a fellow artist, and one who could teach me the finer points on creating art via the silkscreening process.

And after it was all said and done, I felt like I had invented a new art form! Which was probably not true, but I really was able to actualize my ideas and make them come to life. And guess what? It was not only fun but worth it - my concept for the exhibition I created this print for was accepted by a major art institution in the South of the United States (I can't discuss it yet, but more on this in the future!!!) I also have some prints for sale from my new edition HERE. --------------------------- >

  Dreams of the South,  Sérigraphie / Screenprint, 2017, Black Ink On Heavyweight Cream Paper, 10.5 x 14 inches  Available in a Limited Edition of 10, printed in Felletin, France @  Atelier Les Michelines  

Dreams of the South, Sérigraphie / Screenprint, 2017, Black Ink On Heavyweight Cream Paper, 10.5 x 14 inches

Available in a Limited Edition of 10, printed in Felletin, France @ Atelier Les Michelines 

Here are some images from that lovely day. I want to thank Melanie Leduc and Les Michelines with a thousand “Merci’s” for being there, for being a kindred spirit, and for understanding this artist’s needs with our shared language - art.

Q+A: RENÉ SHOEMAKER + HOPE HILTON DISCUSS FRANCE, BEING AN ARTIST, INSPIRATION, CHANGE, THE dÉRIVE, COMMUNITY, THE SITUATIONISTS, + MORE

 
walt Whitman
 
 

I've been wanting to ask these questions of René for some time, and I was so very happy when our schedules allowed the time to make this happen. A little background: I knew René's work years before I knew René personally, and I quietly watched her work grow and evolve from the sidelines. As an artist and curator, a big part of what I do is pay attention to how creatives and thinkers are responding to the world. Watching the work happen is a beautiful thing to behold, and I draw from this collection when I put exhibitions together or pair artists up to collaborate. It's like being a composer, a poet, and a philosopher all at once! When I finally met René we were fast friends, and I always have her work in mind when I'm in the world and thinking about what the world needs - more slowing down, more curiosity, more dream following, more wandering, and more, well, hope. René offers this. Enjoy our Q+A! xoHope

Hope Hilton: I've always wondered - at what point did you know you were an artist?

René Shoemaker: At a very young age I was always creating and seeking inspiration. One of my earliest creations - way before I was 5 years old - was a horse that I pieced together from the cloth of my Mom’s sewing discards. I cut out the pieces and sewed them onto another piece of cloth (some might call that ‘applique’).

 

HH: When did you decide to pursue your art full time?

RS: Oh, man, this has been inside of me for a long, long time. I had a “master plan” to retire from The University of Georgia absolutely the MOMENT that I could - not because I didn't like my job as Library Director/ Librarian / Gallery Director (I did like it, tremendously) - but so I could practice my art full time. I had been making art all along, always, but became more serious about it in 1998 when I returned from a summer working in Cortona, Italy. I was in a job there surrounded by artists and art-making people (not to mention the gorgeous Italian hillside architecture and use of the land!) and was completely inspired. Once I began making art more intently, I also discovered how time-consuming the business of art is. Retirement allowed me this time.

HH: Ahhh, retirement... you are doing it right, in my opinion. Now that you have this freedom, you can go anywhere, do anything. I love that you've settled in France and cannot wait to visit! How has being an artist there differed from being an artist in the States? What is something that's easier to get accomplished in the States and vice versa?

RS: I have the feeling that the French have a different attitude toward artists here. It’s not different as much as it is in the States. Here it's just another job description, a part of life! I also discovered that being an artist, and having an exhibition scheduled and about to open so soon after my arrival, was a wonderful introduction to my new community. Who I was and what Harvey and I were doing there was open to the public. In our new place we seemed to be integrated into the community a lot quicker than if it were otherwise.

It’s easier to work here in France because there are less distractions. At home I have a schedule, I have friends, I have social obligations. Here, I have my studio, I have my house, I have Harvey, and the landscape that calls to me every day. Everything, everyday, is an inspiration.

HANDS DOWN it’s easier to find the art supplies I need in Athens, Georgia. I will never, ever, ever again take for granted the fabulous service that The Loft and KA Artist Shop offer to the artists and creatives of the region. I would not be where I am today without the support - and the supplies - from KA and The Loft.

Feeling spaces became something I noticed then,

and it has continued.

- René Shoemaker

 

HH: I think I take internet-ordering for granted, too, in terms of art supplies. And, yes, we have this amazing community here in Athens that supports artists through all levels of their work. I wanna talk about your new work, the work I respond to the most. Much of your new work is an investigation and commitment to a specific community, and because architecture has been a big part of your work (and life!) in the past, did this just happen naturally, or did you know that you wanted to encounter a whole city?

RS: I know I want to conquer the world, and what better way to do it than city by city? I’m not sure where my connection to place comes from... Well, now that I write that, I can imagine that it comes from exploring and the sense of place I created by living in the woods in a handmade house. Traveling in France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands gave me a sense that there are other ways of doing things, often the everyday things that we take for granted. (i.e.: architecture and living spaces and the differences abroad versus home). Christopher Alexander’s book “A Pattern Language” had a big impact on me and my viewpoint.

I also moved at age 17 from everything I knew (not so early in life, but a transformative experience for me) and this provoked new sensations, a kind of "feeling" of spaces. I was searching for the meaning of life then, and also tuning in to the details - loving the sound of the tires on the pavement as I traveled down the road - usually in a friend’s car or by hitchhiking. Later on, in my own car (an International Harvester pickup truck!), it was me and my Great Dane, Eric, having marvelous explorations. Feeling spaces became something I noticed then, and it has continued.

After having wandered for over 10 years, and landing in Athens... You know, it's a very small town - only 10 square blocks in the downtown area - but it feels good. The spaces are intriguing, the juxtaposition of new and old architecture inspirational. I love looking at the old Otasco building (now the Holmes-Hunter) as I cross Broad Street to North Campus at the University. Harvey and I had a small business downtown and I spent 30+ years on North Campus, so downtown Athens was like a home... I had an art studio there, and I felt very happy to be there.

 

HH: And now MY studio is on the exact floor where yours was, years later! I loved the day you told me about that. I looked at the space differently, I envisioned it as when you inhabited it. Not a lot has changed but someone put carpet in the halls and painted the stairs... it's a different space now. But the same place. What prompted you to explore places to begin with and how has this idea changed for you?

RS: For my first solo exhibition at Clayton Street Gallery in Athens in 2001, I offered two proposals - one of exploring the town of Athens and one an exploration of my house (handbuilt, octagon-shaped, in the woods). The Director chose the house proposal and we named it “Ethereal Spaces.” We also decided to pursue the other proposal the following year, and “From Here to There” was born from my explorations of Downtown Athens and the University of Georgia. Then and there, my career was born.

Also, I don't want to forget that when I first moved to the Florida Keys in 1969, way before University, I took a drawing class from a local artist. He took us around to the various locations in the Keys, and what I remember the most - what had the biggest impression on me -  were the old weather-beaten structures on Pigeon Key. There I discovered the beauty of lines that are not straight. I learned how to draw perspective from that artist, and I also learned how to veer away from true perspective with confidence.

 

HH: I love that, when teachers share with you all of the levels of things, and everything involved, and how to just approach it with enough lack of fear to evolve it into a confident mark or gesture. How cool that you were exploring the Keys as part of a class! Now that explorations of place are revered in the art world, especially in prominent museums and galleries, your work is part of a large canon of artists that focus on community, history, and exploring.  One of my favorite movements in art history were the Situationists (in France in the mid 20th century!), and one of their best projects, in my opinion, was setting the intention to wander. They called it a dérive: to wander without knowing why or where you'll end up. How do you feel about connecting to this great idea of the past to now?

RS: I‘m happy to hear that explorations of place are now revered in the art world -- can we schedule a show of my work at a major New York City museum now? :) I love your connection of my sense of exploration to the Situationists’ quest for an “unplanned journey”. There are so many things that point to the fact that I must have lived in France in a former life, as in my name: Re =again né = born... there is no French blood in my family to invite a French name be given to me, yet here I am. Wandering... being alive...

To wander! This is the perfect way to exist. No maps, no guidebooks, only discoveries.

And the past? The Situationists were not so long ago. The past is connected to the present. Always.

A wonderful consequence of the work that I do - exploring a place through its spaces - are the stories I receive in return. This was an unexpected result of putting my art out into the world. My visual stories encourage others to explore, and see, and remember, their own discoveries of a place.

 

HH: In my opinion, the stories and connections are the best thing to come out of creating and sharing art. Why do you think we are craving work like this again, work that connects us? 

RS: Are we? In this life of disconnectedness (especially in the States), I believe there is a strong urge to connect. Families are changing. Nondescript strip malls have taken over America. The concept of “belonging” constantly changes. People wander. Others ask questions. I, myself, was disconnected and rootless for over 10 years, from my late teens to late 20’s. I haven’t consciously made that connection before (of my work related to place and my disconnectedness in the past), but maybe this question will lead to the answer for me?

I believe in the beauty and simplicity of line and color. This quiet beauty is what I am trying to share with the world.

HH: And sharing that with the world helps us rest, connect, recognize, wonder... And I want to understand, because you headed to France at such a tumultuous time politically (newly elected president here and there, immigration politics and terrorism, etc.), what are the conversations like about the States there, if there are any? How do you see us represented or generalized across the pond?

RS: I’m living in a very rural area, and am not completely fluent in the language, so I’m not sure I can say much about the mood of this country towards America. These days I don’t read the news, nor do I watch TV... Although people do shake their head in disbelief if the name of our current president comes up. Otherwise, I find that the USA is still well respected, and that there is still a memory that the United States helped France immensely in WWII. 

 

HH: That's really good to hear in so many ways, as I've received emails from friends across the globe offering help and support. I like focusing on the local, on my small town and my amazingly diverse state, and doing my best. I also haven't been the best at keeping up with the news. Perhaps this is showing up in our art? I have noticed changes in your work since you were in France! Being in new spaces often brings along a shift that's usually quite strong, and often quite brave. So you're in this new place, and it's yours so you can settle in, and just... do your work. It sounds like a dream! I've watched your work shift in the exploration in and around other new spaces - from working in pencil and pastel at your Penland Residency to working HUGE at the Columbus Museum… and I'm not the only one who is noticing! This question is from your dear reader Maureen:

Maureen: My question is about the use of threads sewn onto your work. What inspired you to add that touch?

RS: Moving to France gave me the freedom to release myself from any boxes I had placed myself in, even before the move actually happened. There was something about the fact - in my head - that the people here were not familiar with my work, and that I could be free to try any method, medium, idea - there were no expectations of who I was and what my work had been in the past. The only person who had any idea of my previous work was M Wilfried Celerien, the Adjoint au Mairie of Felletin, whom I had made the original proposal for my current exhibition to - and I am happy to say he was delighted to see my new direction(s).

Thank you, Maureen, for always asking such thoughtful questions! I have been considering adding stitching to my silk paintings for quite a while but was unsure of how I would approach it, and how I could make it “different” from other artists’ work. My framed silks always have an element of stitching, as I hand stitch the silk to the mat board - but often these stitches become invisible to the eye.

When I arrived in France and was faced with a deadline to create and complete a body of art for an exhibition in a short period of time, my resources were (very) limited and I was free to experiment with new materials. I located embroidery threads with the right colors at the local recycle store. There are two layered silk paintings in the Felletin exhibit, and as I didn’t have an embroidery hoop, I had no way of keeping the fabric taut while I worked on it. I stitched through the mat board to add texture to the flowers in one design, and to highlight the wooden shutters and metal door slats on the other. It seems crazy, because it was only a few stitches, but I really could go on for hours discussing the reasons behind my actions!

And as a side note - I have always had an element of working large with my art. From my senior BFA exhibit when I had weavings, embroideries, and monoprints at a 6’x6’ size, to motion drawings I created at Penland that were 4’ x 6’, to a silk painting installation at the Ramsey Center at UGA that was 4’ x 12’ (x3). I feel comfortable working large, so working small here was also a new experiment.

The Short answer? 

I wanted to add texture and color to a simple design in a subdued way.

 

HH: So, are you afraid of anything?

RS: Rien. If I am afraid of something, I try hard to identify in and overcome it. Consciously.

 

HH: Any advice for young artists?

RS: Work hard. Never give up. Look inside and don’t forget who you are. Trust your instincts.

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 9.48.26 PM.png

HH: And what's next for you?

RS: Taking over the world. Exploring new media and pushing the boundaries of the work that I do. A museum exhibition in Mississippi in 2019. An art show in Bordeaux, France in 2017. I am always searching for opportunities, and I look forward to exhibiting again in Athens!

 

HH: What is your life’s force?

RS: 1. Perseverance furthers.   2. A sense of constant amazement at what I experience, and the fact that I am constantly amazed by the NEGATIVE SPACE shape of the sky against a building’s roofline.

HH: Any questions for us?

RS: I love feedback and stories. I’d love people to respond to this interview by writing about their experiences with my art. This helps me more than they can ever know.

 

HH: It really is such a huge part of it all, that conversation and that community. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Dear readers, please feel invited to share below any stories or inspirations. Let René and I know where you wander, or what currently inspires you.

 

 

RS: Thank you, Hope Hilton!

 

- René Shoemaker

July 17, 2017

La Creuse, France