Monet’s Garden

What a wonderful, wild experience it is to walk inside a painting and to see the world through the eyes of an artist. An early morning train from Paris, a walk through a quiet French town, and then you arrive into the pallet of Monet‘s mind. 

“My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.”- Claude Monet

“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” -Claude Monet

My Year in Provence

This is a hard post to write. I have such a flood of emotions looking back, reflecting on what I have learned, how I have grown, and what I have loved. You can not recap a year’s experience without ending it with what is next? To be honest, I don’t know. Sure, I thought I would come to spend a year in Provence and answer all the questions for myself about my life, about who I am and what I want. I can certainly answer now some of these things but other aspects have grown even more confusing. I loved things I never thought I could love like living in the country. I learned things about myself I never knew. For example, I am an introvert which finally explains why I hate talking on the phone, why people who are upset or angry give me anxiety attacks, why I feel so exhausted after social events, and most importantly, why I work so much better alone. So where does that take me next when I come back to the United States? 

It was shocking when I first arrived. Nothing seemed to be possible, from getting boxes delivered to buying food on a Sunday… or any time after 7pm. I missed all the things about New York I took for granted. 24/7 Uber service for instance. There is ONE Uber guy and he lives and hour from my little town. I am ecstatic when my train pulls into Avignon and he’s on the clock. I missed laundry service. The last time I took a linen shirt to be pressed they estimated a turn around time of two weeks… lol. So I got used to wrinkles. I missed Seamless, something which I never even think about now. The pleasure I derive in cooking is to the point of therapy. The access to organic, AFFORDABLE, locally farmed ingredients here puts the US to a great shame. I will never forget my first trip to the farmer’s market. Alone with only a handful of French words, I was terrified. I paid for everything with 20’s because I didn’t understand the amounts, and I was used to New York City farmer’s market prices, until I discovered how incredibly inexpensive everything was. Then I walked into the wine shop and my jaw really hit the ground. When it is not market day in my town or one of the surround villages, I have four bio (organic) grocers I can walk to. I know their names, what is happening in their life, who is having a baby and who is in the hospital. I am, for once, part of a community and I feel physically part of the earth here. 

I learned to live a life with less noise. My days in Provence are filled mostly with cooking, cleaning, and making photographs and those are the days when I am most happy. I found freedom. Above everything I learned, I discovered true freedom. Freedom exists beyond the ability to choose where you live or what you believe. I found freedom in my art and expression. I found freedom from money. Of course, we all need money to survive but they don’t worship it here in France and it’s amazing how much your stress levels dissolve when that’s not the goal to life. I’m really into being free from plastics and logos and that has brought down the noise in my life in the best way. I loved the freedom from a culture that tells woman how we are supposed to look. I loved being free from what society tells me I should be doing like having children and a corporate job so I have health insurance. I loved the freedom from ‘stuff’. I never had to walk outside my door and be reminded of all the ‘stuff’ I don’t have that I supposedly need to in order to be valuable. The value comes from within – in my mind, in my soul and if I can create something of meaning. I wish I had more time to work on these ideas. Time, I have come to find out, is the most valuable thing we have. 

To quote the French philosopher Albert Camus who lived in Lourmarin not far from me, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” 

Of course, these are just some of the many thoughts and experiences I have garnered in my year here. I slowed down on sharing (blogging) to take the time to be present and experience. I imagine when I return to the US I will begin editing and posting so many of the stories I have filled up 5 hard drives with. There is so much to sift through and my heart has been on a roller coaster. This week has been especially though as I try to figure out where I belong in the world and what value I have for an American culture. 

I created a self portrait to mark the year anniversary as part of my #ProvenceSelfPortraitSeries inspired by Jan van Eyck’s “The Arnolfini Portrait“. This is a great short video on the piece from one of my favorite YouTube art channels. I loved that this was a “painting of everyday life” as much of my personal work here in Provence has been a celebration of the day to day things. What is in bloom, what is in season, what bug crawls into the window, how the light is today.

Beyond that, I wanted to explain some of the personal symbolism I added into this photographic rendition that pertains to my own experience at this year mark. First, there is meaning in the absences. The absence of furniture is symbolic of feeling unsettled, homeless. I brought in chairs, tables, daybeds and pushed them back out. I feel at home in Provence in my soul, yet I do not have a home. I left the shadow of the table with a bowl of pears cast along the left edge to show there is life that happens in this space. I planned to bring in a newly born kitten from town as I love all the cats that roam my village and have earned their trust but then I felt the absence of the pet represented my life more. As many of you know who follow me on Instagram stories, I DREAM of having pets. Both women wear green gowns by Loup Charmant (left & right) in green, green being a symbol of hope. My hope that this path I am on will lead me to where I belong. The hope that I can do something with this work I have created in Provence. The woman on the right holds her gown close to her chest, representing holding everything dear to me I have learned in Provence. The only real valuable thing I can take with me when I go. Her slippers are on because it is time for her to leave. She looks back, sorrowfully to the woman on the left, sometimes I feel my heart being ripped out when I think about having to leave this place. Originally, I had taken a photographic plate with tear stained cheeks but felt the expression was enough on its own. The woman on the left is turned to be ‘looking back’, reflecting on her time in Provence. Her slippers are off and she is barefoot to represent feeling at home here. She gestures with her hand in the way of a ‘blessing’, feelings blessed from this time in France. Though they are married together, in the sense as one, their hands rest together open, vulnerable of being torn apart. The inscription on the wall is my signature and dated for my one year. Hanging above them in an antique mirror which I borrowed from a shop in town, hides a third self portrait. The real me, the photographer. I stand in my men’s linen suit with my camera on the tripod. You can see a discarded green dress on the table, my phone in the bottom left which I use to create these self portraits as a remote control to my camera. I am standing in the kitchen which is pretty much where I always am while at home either working or cooking. You can see the large French doors that over look my garden and her ripened fig tree. 

I will be here a bit longer. I have some more personal work I need to do before I go and a few professional jobs on the table. So there is some time to ponder what happens next…

Jean Pierre Soalhat

Inside the Provence, France mosaic artist studio of Jean Pierre Soulhat

There is an incredible history to the village of Lacoste – with buildings dating as far back as the 12th century, tales of medieval battles and debauchery, a reputation as being the former home of the infamous Marquis de Sade  – so it makes sense that it would need an incredible historian.

Enter Jean Pierre Soalhat: historic preservationist at SCAD Lacoste, professional mosaicist, and a genuine Provençal man. One of the many amazing qualities about SCAD is the amazing people, staff, students, and professors it attracts. In Jean Pierre’s case, a man whose family has – for generations – been a part of this community, he has become a pillar of support for SCAD Lacoste through his historic knowledge of the area, his all-around ancient-building handyman skills, preservation teachings and even artistic workshops with the students. I had the opportunity to visit Jean Pierre at his studio in Caseneuve where I could see his artwork. I was impressed by his mosaics – some pieces containing shards of ancient Roman pottery he finds in riverbeds and fields – but also amazed by the fact that Jean Pierre doesn’t own a cell phone (jealous).

All around the SCAD Lacoste campus you’ll find Jean Pierre’s artwork, from La Residence to outside shopSCAD, at Maison Basse and even in the President of SCAD’s home, Paula Wallace. AND…if you’re ever hanging out with Russell Crowe or Sandra Bullock you might notice it in their personal collections, too….

When we visited, Jean Pierre said he was “dreaming of fish”, which reflected in his work…but I know I shall sleep dreaming of archaic fragments coming together to create beautiful everlasting works of art.

Inside the Provence, France mosaic artist studio of Jean Pierre Soulhat Inside the Provence, France mosaic artist studio of Jean Pierre Soulhat Inside the Provence, France mosaic artist studio of Jean Pierre Soulhat Continue reading “Jean Pierre Soalhat”

Kyle Ford


Every so often, you meet someone in a way that could only be described as serendipitous. Such was the case when we traveled to SCAD Lacoste and met photography professor Kyle Ford, a fine-art photographer who normally is based at the SCAD Hong Kong campus, but just so happened to be teaching the summer session photography classes at SCAD Lacoste.

As we know well, I love talking to other photographers…it’s always such a pleasure and honor to engage with people about their passions, especially when it’s in a field that I know and love myself.  So it wasn’t long before Kyle and I were planning a photo adventure in a Provençal vineyard and closing the night at a spectacular restaurant with our conversation about his path to photography, why he chooses film, and the research and thought behind the work he creates now…


What was your first photograph?

I was seven years old, and there was a competition I think my mother encouraged me to participate in. She was a painter, an artist, and perhaps she was hoping I would draw something or paint something, but I ended up photographing something. It was a tree. I photographed what I thought was a ghost, and I thought that was great as a seven-year-old…it was really my breath in front of the camera.

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Natalie Frank

Artist Natalie Frank in her Brooklyn art studio

I truly love this series of studio tours we have been able to take with our friend and consultant, Maria Brito. It’s fascinating to walk into the world of another artist and, for a brief moment, see their lives, their ideas, and their passions poured out into their creations. Nowhere did we see this more than with our latest artist, Natalie Frank.

Influenced by magical realism books, the eccentric characters of her childhood, and her own fascinating imagination, Natalie creates pieces that are both striking and unsettling – images that have you waiting with bated breath for what happens next. We were able to sit down with her in her gorgeous, light-filled Bushwick studio and get a little peek to see what’s behind all these works of art…

Artist Natalie Frank in her Brooklyn art studio

What materials do you typically work with for your pieces?

I’m working with oil and oil enamel both, which is kind of new for me – the oil enamel – I’ve kind of been traditionally an oil painter on canvas, working from life, so all of this work is a big change. Moving into the 3D and the different materials. But I have some remnants of, I guess, my traditional training, one of which is working on wood.

Artist Natalie Frank in her Brooklyn art studio Artist Natalie Frank in her Brooklyn art studio Continue reading “Natalie Frank”

Trudy Benson

Sometimes you look at a painting to appreciate a scene that someone has brought to life. And sometimes you look at a painting and you’re filled with a visceral, intense energy. Such is the work of talented abstract painter Trudy Benson. While still a relatively young artist, Trudy has already begun to stake her claim in the abstract art scene, and it’s easy to see why. Her work has – both physically and intellectually – several layers to it, mesmerizing the viewer.

We were lucky enough to get a tour of Trudy’s studio with our friend Maria Brito and to talk to her about her work, what it’s like to be written about in the New York Times, and how much paint she actually uses…

On her painting style:

I’m thinking about different iterations of things – to me, a red stroke there could be almost a 3D painting of [Roy Lichtenstein’s] brushstroke lithograph, which was a lithograph of a painting. So there’s different layers here. But as far as the process goes, I usually start off really simply…here, I started off with this really simple composition of the different windows…but from there, the rest of the painting is totally intuitive. It’s a slow process, so I’m not working like Jackson Pollock or anything.

I work on a lot [of pieces] at once, because I have to. There’s a lot of taping off over the oil paint. I use a hair pick, a plastic hair-pick, and once I’ve taped off a circle and filled it in with really thick oil paint, then I dragged the comb through it. And then these are squeezed out of the tube, and then I scraped them down with a squeegee.

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Michael Dotson

Our studio tours continue today with art buyer and lifestyle consultant extraordinaire Maria Brito, leading us to the saturated landscape that is Michael Dotson‘s studio…

I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it into Michael’s studio when we first arrived. It involved climbing onto handmade ledges, ducking under pipes, and getting into a room that Michael himself described as “totally fine, as long as there aren’t more than five people in it at once.”

But once we stepped inside, we were transported to an entirely different world – one of magical colors, optical illusions, and familiar faces from our childhood transformed. It was so uplifting seeing such bright and cheerful pieces without a trace of irony. Michael himself was also open and generous, chatting with us about where this world comes from and what work he plans to create in the future…


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Carrie Moyer

Our studio tours continue with art buyer and lifestyle consultant extraordinaire Maria Brito, leading us to the fascinating and prolific Carrie Moyer

When you visit Carrie’s studio, you are struck by a wave of intense, bright colors – from paint spatters on the furniture to the bottles of paint on the shelf to the gorgeous, abstract paintings on the wall. It comes as no surprise, though, given Carrie’s colorful background – from her work in the nineties as part of the duo behind Dyke Action Machine! to her growing body of paintings where she refuses to use black, Carrie Moyer is no stranger to breaking rules and stretching boundaries.

Her work is not only full of color, but full of texture, inviting you in to ponder the abstract world she has created. In this world, we sat down to speak with her about her past work, future work, inspiration, and what she thinks about women in the art world…

How she would describe her style: 

I’m interested in making things that feel familiar but you’re not exactly sure what they are. It’s the idea that it might be a landscape, but you’re also destabilized. You don’t know where you’re standing in relationship to it. So it’s the space that I want you to be able to keep unfolding and keep opening up. And of course, that contradicts the idea of a painting anyway because it’s totally flat.

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Ivan Navarro

Our studio tours continue with art buyer and lifestyle consultant extraordinaire Maria Brito, who is a personal fan of today’s artist, Ivan Navarro

Ivan’s work has many layers to it – not only via the optical illusions of mirrors and lights, but in his intentions and the motivation behind his materials. Ivan started to use electricity for his art simply “because it was a very available material in any space, through outlets. There was this literalism, this source of power. So I started making sculptures that would depend on this source.”

Since then, his work has explored electricity in various creative and intellectual ways and has been shown around the world. We were able to walk through his multi-leveled studio and talk to him about the intention behind certain pieces, his other job as a record label owner, and the beginnings of his art with electricity…

On his series of mirror and word pieces:

I started developing this kind of idea of fictional depth in very shallow pieces, in very thin sculptures. These…are only five inches deep, but they create this very endless space, just by combining two pieces of mirror.

On making art in Chile in the 1990s:

When I lived in Chile, during the mid-nineties, the dictatorship just ended only five years before. So in those five years still there was no place for young artists to show their work. My group of friends were always discussing what will be the way to make art in this context when there aren’t any institutions to show art, and my idea was to make pieces that can be used in ordinary places like living rooms or lobbies of hotels or whatever places that weren’t fine-art spaces as furniture but at the same time understood as sculptures. So they could use a space that wasn’t officially for contemporary art.

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Xaviera Simmons

We continue our series today, traveling with art buyer and lifestyle consultant extraordinaire Maria Brito to the Brooklyn studio of multi-faceted artist Xaviera Simmons

Xaviera is an artist in so many senses of the word: creating performance art, shooting large-format film and videos, and building textural sculptures are among some of the many facets of her art. While we may see each of these as separate practices, for Xaviera they are deeply connected:

 “It is important to me to let sculptural ideas sit in photography and to let photographic ideas sit in the sculptural works, and then let performance kind of hold all those things together. I really like these things to fall into each other, to let the language of these things fall into each other.”

It was so inspiring to speak to her about each part of her work, her ideas of success, the thought and process behind her pieces, to hear the language of her work fall into and support each other…read more about Xaviera below:

On the inspiration for her series, Indexes: 

I started making collections, and then trying to construct a narrative based on these collections of things. It was just inherent for me to put it on a figure and have this revealing happen. And also thinking about sculpture but letting it exist as a photograph.  So this work, it’s really becoming some of my favorite work.

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Ramon Vega

Today starts a new series, one where we had the opportunity to tag along with art buyer and lifestyle consultant extraordinaire Maria Brito for six different tours of artists’ studios. Our first tour landed us in the Brooklyn Navy Yard with the charming Ramon Vega

“My work is primarily collage-based,”  he told us. But this is no mere magazine cut-and-paste. By cropping and taping off images, Ramon takes a work you thought you knew and transforms it. It’s incredible how something so standard – advertisements, sports images, magazine covers – can become something so different when information is blocked. This is Ramon’s art: making us create a new interpretation with the information he leaves available to us.

We talked to Ramon about his process, his goals, and what he considers important as he makes his art…


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Adam Katseff

You do not want to put Adam and I across from each other at a dinner table too often because we will close a restaurant talking about photography, photographers, film vs. digital, the meaning behind photographs, technical process, how people experience photographs as art, who, in the history of photography, were influential in changing the dialogue in which we communicate through images and how technology is constantly changing photography everyday.

Back this past summer we were on a location shoot in Lake Tahoe with a client that has since become a wonderful friend and her husband who is a photographer was preparing for his first solo show in New York at the Sasha Wolf Gallery came along. It was fascinating to watch him work in the slowed down process of large format film. Of course, I immediately think of Ansel Adams, but some of his heroes are Ad Reinhardt and Hiroshi Sugimoto. In the car he kept a book of photographs from the late 1800s of the Lake Tahoe area and would study them declaring to search for “that waterfall” or point out boulders that now have tunnels cut through them. The great thing about Adam’s work is not that he creates beautiful landscape photographs but that what he sees before you is a totally new way of looking at something we’ve all seen photographed a million times and yet strangely relatable, the way your eyes adjust at night in those peaceful moments in nature.

It was such a thrill to get to see him create and now, to see the end result hanging on the walls of a gallery to be experienced. We sat down to discuss the thought behind his images, how he got to where he is now, and what’s next:

Jamie: How did the idea for the series of Night Landscapes begin?

Adam: We were on a plane back from Hawaii, flying at sunset. The sun sets really fast when you’re flying west to east. I looked away from the window for a couple of minutes and when I looked back, it was black…almost instantly dark. So I was watching the surface of the ocean and it felt like you could almost see the roundness of the Earth. I’m letting my eyes adjust and I start seeing the landscape, the earth, the way I had seen it before the sun had set. And then I realized what I was seeing – I looked again and it’s like, Wait a minute, there’s nothing there, it’s totally pitch black. And it was the memory of that landscape, not the actual landscape itself. It was almost the reflections on the window that I was imagining as the thing.

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FAILE Studio

Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller (2)

You can’t think about New York City and not think about the incredible history of artists that have defined and redefined art through the ages. This year Kevin and I are cohosting the Brooklyn Artists Ball after-party, so the rest of this week we will be doing studio tours here of a few of the artists, all based in Brooklyn, who are creating special pieces to be on exhibition at each of the guests’ tables for the museum’s annual fundraising event.

Walking through Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood you pass food truck restaurants,  junk stores that remind me of my childhood, and unremarkable doors with blacked out windows covered in rusted old bars… but then this unremarkable door opens and you walk into an absolute paradise of creative vision, color, passion, history, friendship and projects that begin here and reach the far corners of the globe: gracing the halls of Lincoln Center,  parks in Mongolia, temples in Portugal, and in art galleries and on sidewalk walls all over the city.

Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller, the creative duo behind FAILE Studio, met in high school in Arizona. Their collaborations began with trading sketch books, which eventually led them to creating art on the street and ultimately to New York and this studio, where, on this afternoon, Tuba Skinny plays over the speakers as a handful of assistants help them work on ongoing projects, including their installation for the Brooklyn Artists Ball.

Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller (3)

Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller (4)

One thing inspires another in this space – an accident or how something is stored will manifest in a new body of work. Their works constantly evolves into itself.

Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller (5)

Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller (6)

Images are repeated like a universal thread in their work – a ballet dancer appears on large scale murals and smaller objects, like a story retold over time but worded differently.

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