Five Days in Monet’s Gardens, Giverny

It’s a rare opportunity to be able to stay for five days in a world renowned tourist destination that most visitors only experience for a few hours. Literally a two minute walk from Monet’s gardens and house, Terra Foundation’s housing and studio was truly a haven for art students. In the midst of all the starstruck moments of study abroad, I was beginning to miss the feeling of being comfortable, stable, and familiar. But those four days, four dinner parties, and four fabulous studio sessions with Greg Wyatt and the rest of the Marchutz gang felt like home. Not just home, but home during the holiday season when everyone’s together – family and friends – and enjoying each other’s company with not a thought for how late it is getting or how many bottles of wine have been drained (64, if you had to know). I needed that.

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The focus of the studio sessions was sculpture. Now I am not naturally inclined to sculpture probably because it confuses me. It confuses me because I’ve never done it before. I’ve never done it before probably because sculpture is fricking expensive. We’re going to be casting our little three by four inch wax sculpture into bronze through the founderie at Coubertin and I think he estimated them to be at about a hundred bucks a pop. I mean, it’s a gift free of charge from Greg but, seriously. Bronze cast sculpture is not for the starving artist.

Though, there is something incredibly fascinating about playing with hot wax and burning stuff over an open flame. Melting wax is fun. Playing with soft, squishy clay is fun. I don’t know why but it’s just fun to squish stuff in your hand and feel it ooze through your fingers.

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Obligatory photo in front of Monet’s ponds. Did you know Monet was actually kind of a bad ass? I thought Monet just bought these ponds and gardens but no. He had these dug and built to his exact specifications (a lot of Japanese zen influence) because he was one of those rare painters that made it when he was still alive. His garden is almost the antipathy of something like Versailles with all the geometric grids and clear boundaries (seriously, the French are so strict about not walking on the grass…) where man imposes a form onto nature. If you see Monet’s garden, it’s very organic and there are no boundaries so that the reflections in the water are infinite. That was probably very important to Monet because he considered the mirror of water to be his number one motif. I used to think Monet was kinda foufou and decorative but when I actually had to draw the pond and make sense of the water, the transparency of the water to the bottom of the pond, and the reflection of the sky and trees on the water – my mind exploded.

Some attempts:

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We were supposed to interpret Monet’s gardens with wax sculpture on wire supports. I didn’t take a photo but I did do a sketch of it!

It might be shallow of me to say this but the food and housing definitely made the Giverny trip unforgettable. We basically had three separate houses to ourselves, catered dinners every night, museum lunches everyday, and endless loaves of good French breads and jams for breakfast.

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Me devouring a chocolate tart with the most sexy expression on the planet.

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Me not looking at all the art books on the shelves in the middle of the most epic pillow fight of the century.

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The Terra Foundation buildings had the sweetest country feel to them. Wood on exposed beams on stone fireplaces on floral patterned linens.

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Not taken at Giverny but at the Founderie de Coubertin. There’s some pretty secretive stuff going on over there, no pictures allowed. Looking back on all these photos though…man, I really am so lucky. How many people can say that they stayed at an artist’s colony in Monet’s gardens for a week? I journaled, I sketched, I ate, I fell in love with a place. Maybe Monet was onto something:

“I form no other wish but to mingle myself more intimately with nature and i covet no other destiny than to have worked and lived…in harmony with her laws. She is the grandeur, the power, and the immortality beside which the human creature seems no more than a miserable atom.”

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