Giverny Residency

By Ciara Rafferty (MFA 2016)

It’s been four days since we arrived in Giverny, and after much consideration, discussion and examination, we have come to a group consensus that the French do not eat what they serve. There is no way the same bodies we're seeing come from the same foods we're eating. You do not stuff cheese, wine, tarts, bread and butter in endless amounts down your throat and then come out looking like Brigitte Bardot, it goes against scientific fact! I am convinced they do this as a way to make themselves and their culture seem even more appealing then they already are. We do, however, agree that everything tastes better with bread…including bread (even a croissant is accompanied by a small piece of bread!) Such are the ways of the French, and blesses and curses upon them for it!

Upon first arrival, Daniel DaSilva (MFA 2015) and I, found a very elegant train to ride into town on and as we were making our way across the delightful cobblestone roads, I had the grand idea that we shouldn’t show up empty handed. I informed Daniel of my intelligent gesture of appreciation and said, “I know! We should stop and get them some flowers.” Thinking he would be completely on board as the great gentleman he is, I was a bit confused as I saw his face scrunch up in mild disapproval. He let me down gently, (though I think he still may be questioning my full mental capacity), by telling me that whatever flowers we bring might not quite live up to their standards, and that perhaps a bottle of wine or chocolates would be more suitable. Needless to say, we showed up empty handed.

It is hot here, but not humid. It's like a big kick in the pants to New Yorkers in that its a nice kind of hot where you want to stroll endlessly amidst the flowers and their various enchanting fragrances, rather than hoping you can hold your breath long enough because the heat and humidity has turned that smell from the subway into a lingering perfume you never wanted to wear but some nagging sales woman accidentally sprayed into your mouth as you were passing by because that will make you want to buy it, right? The heat has also provided us the opportunity to don our most chic of hat attire, straight from fashion week, to impress our well dressed hosts, so its a win-win thus far.

This morning, we took a brief interim from the sunshine to experience a thrilling thunderstorm that clarified for us why Normandy is so green. With this extra time to eat all the necessary “nutrients” provided us, we were able to further discuss important topics such as, where was Monet, and was he ever going to come for the meet and greet portion of our visit? Joking aside, we did discuss how impactful his art continues to be around the world. The steady influx of visitors here is astounding. It speaks volumes to how influential and impactful the impressionists work was and still is, specifically Monet’s, and that color is capital. From the paintings to his gardens to his kitchen and even his pastel trimmed house, Monet was king of color and knew how powerful it was. Daniel and I have been continuing this discussion on color daily, but both agree Monet was a boss.

This residency is unreal. The accommodations are amazing. Seeing as the town of Giverny is primarily a tourist attraction, there is not much around that is not connected to the grounds of the Terra foundation and Monet’s home and gardens. No supermarket’s or post offices or anything of the like, so we are truly out in the French countryside.

Once you stray from the busy central pathway that leads visitors throughout the premises, you find yourself in a beautiful pastoral setting. With the use of the bicycles provided, we have been able to venture out on our own to discover the surrounding area, and paint in fields that slowly change light in accordance with the slow schedule of the cows movements around them. We are not sure if they eat bread, but Daniel felt so bad about all the baguettes that were going to waste from the house that he decided to “feed them or the birds” by throwing gigantic pieces of bread into the enclosure which were gone today. This only proved that if the French did eat what they serve, they would look more like these cows than models.

Beautiful Pastoral Setting

The cows were actually quite endearing

It is an added bonus that the visual beauty of Monet’s gardens seems to have become a source of pride throughout the town, in which people are eager to show off their own pristine yards, in such a way as to say, "yes, we do live a perfect, simple life here." There is no lack of hedging or flora and fauna anywhere you look and it made to seem as if it was no effort at all.

Last night, we got the privilege of being invited into the gardens after hours by the magnificent Jan Huntley (Head of Munn Artist & Volunteer Programs), without any other visitors, and were able to spend time amongst the renowned lily ponds with absolutely no time restrictions. As if it weren't overwhelmingly peaceful enough, with our feet dangling over the infamous green bridges into the water, sketching and painting from the idyllic scenes we all know so well… a rainbow appeared as the sun was setting and I'm pretty sure we all thought our heads were going to implode from too much idealism.

We celebrated this joyous day in the traditional manner by playing a short game of badminton, during which we uncovered the hidden talents of Jingyi Wang’s (MFA 2016) master badminton and Kong Fu skills. Jiannan Wu (MFA 2016) remains very skilled in soccer. Meanwhile, Daniel was very scared of the giant jumping fish and intimidating red squirrel that came to kick him out of the gardens…so much for no time restraints.

After today’s thunderstorms passed, Daniel and I went back out to the pastureland to try some more conceptual painting practices where you don’t even look at the canvas. Later that evening, we partook in something the french call “wine”, with our incredible guide, Miranda. We plan to examine this “wine” drink further throughout our stay.

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