Art therapy at St-Paul de Mausole

Just south of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence are groves of olive trees and rows of cedars. Driving along the D5 highway, one might miss the Maison de Santé Saint-Paul de Mausole which rests back from the highway. I know our first trip to St-Rémy, we certainly did.

The olive groves off of D5

However, back in the surroundings of this traditional Provençal landscape is a special place of rest.  It is a home for psychiatric patients, individuals with special needs, and the elderly. Art therapy is used with the patients as a method of healing.

Cloister at St-Paul de Mausole

Grounds at St-Paul de Mausole

And one of the patients…Vincent Van Gogh.   The courtyards and grounds are filled with scenes familiar to many.  From an art standpoint, his time in Provence was his most productive period.

Scene for Les Oliviers

Vincent Van Gogh’s, Les Oliviers, image courtesy of Google Images

Scene for Le ravin des Pairoulets

Vincent Van Gogh’s Le ravin des Pairoulets, image courtesy of Google Images

Van Gogh lived here after his stay in Arles, and after the loss of his ear, committed himself.  It is evident the staff appreciated Van Gogh as they let him paint alone outside, a designation not given to many.   In St Rémy, Van Gogh created 143 oil paintings and  100 drawings within one years’ time.

My aunt, Miss Talent, enjoying the grounds at St-Paul de Mausole.

Still today, patients create masterpieces in the form of painting and sculpture. They are for sale in the small shop that sits below Van Gogh’s old room.  It makes you wonder about undiscovered potential, perhaps within one of today’s artists living there.  After all, Vincent maybe earned $100 as an artist before he died.

The Irises, was also painted by Van Gogh at St-Paul de Mausole.   In 1987, it was the most expensive painting ever sold. Image courtesy of Google Images.

Our leader Kay read this quote as we pulled away from the site,

“The world concerns me only in so far as I have a certain debt and duty to it, because I have lived in it for thirty years and owe to it to leave behind some souvenir in the shape of drawings and paintings – not done to please any particular movement, but within which a genuine human sentiment is expressed.” ― Vincent van Gogh

I for one am very glad for his souvenirs.

Gratitude Friday: My First Vernissage

The photography group I belong to at the AIWC recently hosted a vernissage.   The word vernissage is common in French & Dutch, and references an opening night of an exhibition before it is open to the general public.  In this instance, it was a vernissage of our photography.

I wrote a small article about the event in the AIWC magazine, The Courier.  I thought I’d share an excerpt:

We are a group of women encompassing all ages and backgrounds.  Our photography expertise is just as diverse as our personal qualities, as we have professionals and beginners.  We have members who have been taking photos just a few months, yet some their entire lives.  We have large paparazzi cameras and we have small “point-and-shoots”.   However, we are all artists.  And we enjoy learning from each other.

Most of our work is done along themes.   Our leader, Wilna, says about themes, ”The theme is like a guide for your eye. It stretches your looking around and influence your focus.  It makes the photographer like a detective, who has his eyes always open for new discoveries.

Sport. Clocks. Bridges. Leaves. Trees. Roofs. Mountains. Textiles. Surfaces. Bottles. Time. Street life. Hands. Shadows. Eyes. Music.     These are yet a few of our themes that inspire our work.

It is quite interesting how a group can interpret these singular words.   Once a month, we come together for photo sharing and each member presents the work they have done along the theme.  Sometimes, photos can be almost identical, and other times, worlds apart.  It is beautiful that way, how we each interpret these themes differently, and thus, we learn and grow together in our perspective. 

In addition to our thematic projects, we have group photo shooting outings where we explore areas of Geneva together.  We also attend exhibitions and share articles and books to draw our inspiration.

This month, we’ll be launching a new exhibition at the club.   Each photographer will display their individual “Passion in Photography,” so you will be able to learn more about their style, motivations and interests through their personal exhibit.  We will host a vernissage, or opening night, on September 27 from 3:30 to 20:00.   We do hope to you can attend so that you can see our interpretations and our passion. 

Seventeen of the women in our photography group exhibited.   Here were a few photos of the set-up before the guests arrived.

Setting up for the vernissage. Photo courtesy of friend, CB.

Setting up for the vernissage. Photo courtesy of friend, CB.

Setting up for the vernissage. Photo courtesy of friend, CB.

The long hallway. Photo courtesy of CB.

For the exhibition, we were encouraged to select photos that represented our passion in photography.  For my wall, I chose to do landscape photography and my favorite thing to do with them: paint.   So, I accompanied each photograph with a painting of that same scene.    The camera lens is sometimes called the “third eye”.  For me, it was meant to show a “fourth eye”: the canvas, and the difference that medium can bring to an image.

Floating Village, Cambodia

White Turf, St. Moritz, Switzerland

Sun Salutation, Jussy, Switzerland

My display. Photo courtesy of C.

So, thus this week’s gratitude post.   This photo group has been very fun to be a part of.   I have learned a lot from the women in the group.  Mostly about patience.  While I tend to rush through things, the women in the group are from different cultures which tend not to be in such a hurry.   Being around them when doing photo-shooting has really inspired me to notice the small things.  Changing an angle or just waiting around for something different to happen can really change the emotion of a photograph.

Aside from that, I am grateful for the social aspect.   We have members from The Netherlands, U.K., U.S.A., South Africa, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Australia, and France.   How wonderful it is to see their perspectives and the subjects that they chose to shoot, and to learn alongside them.

I really do appreciate my time in Geneva for getting to do this. Also, a big thanks to my hubby for his support in my hobbies, especially with letting me use his Big Camera.

For more perspective on the vernissage and the AIWC photo group, you might also want to check out my friend C’s display and post here.

Bon weekend, everyone!!


Escadaria Selarón

When we were in Rio, we stopped at the Escadaria Selarón or Selaron Steps.   The steps have been tiled by one individual who did it as a tribute to the people of Brazil.  Jorge Selarón, the artist, was born in Chile and traveled the world before settling in Rio, in the neighborhood that contains the steps.

Gabe standing on the steps

Me on steps

Originally a painter, Selarón first started the tile project on the concrete steps near his doorstep and then grew into an obsession to complete the entire stairway.   And he has finished many times over.  Now, once he finishes an area, he re-does another.  His intention is for it never to be complete, a living artwork.

The artist is the guy in red. He was busy working while we visited and even invited us in to his house.

Our guide told us tourists bring tiles from all over the world.  Next time we are back in Rio, we’ll have to bring him one.

Related links:

The steps are featured in Snoop Dogg’s Beautiful video

Gratitude Friday: The oldest thing I’ve ever seen

This Friday, I wanted to dedicate gratitude Friday to seeing “the oldest thing I’ve ever seen”.

We stopped in Dordogne Valley of France on the way home from Bordeaux.   Dordogne is known for being a very beautiful area of France, with lovely buildings banking the Dordogne river.

Image courtesy of French property

The Dordogne is also known for being the home of many one-of-a-kind prehistoric caves.We decided to visit Rouffignac Cave, which included drawings that were over 15,000 years old.

We arrived to the site at 11:50.  They closed for lunch from noon until 2pm.  It is France, after all. The fellow warned me I might want to come back early to get in line, however.

There was talk that maybe we should hit another cave instead. However, we researched and found that most other caves either required advance reservations or were also closed at lunch.  We were so remote that it would take awhile to get to another location.

After a sandwich pit stop, we came back at 1pm.  There were already 30 people there.  At 1:30pm, a line had started to queue which we quickly jumped into.  There were at least 100 people in line when the place re-opened at 2pm.  We luckily got into the first tour.

We boarded a mini train and started our journey.  The cave continues for over 10km, but our journey kept us at the first kilometer, where most of the drawings were.  Nowadays, you have to go on train and no photography is allowed.  This is because they discovered visitors were having a bad affect on the preservation of the artwork located in the cave.

Image, courtesy of

One of the first things we saw were mammoth etchings.  They were made with a sharp object, and carved into the cave wall just below the ceiling and rock nodules covering the cave ceiling.

Mammoth etching image courtesy of

We weren’t allowed to take photographs, but our guide showed us with a special light the outlines.  Sort of like this:

Image courtesy of

Our train continued and then we were able to see the three rhino frieze.   It was breathtaking.

Image Courtesy of Flickr photosteam of Gleinster1936

Following was a 10 mammoth freeze, where 5 mammoths were standing off vs. another 5 mammoths.  Most of the artwork in nearby caves doesn’t include mammoths.  This is why Rouffignac is particularly special due to the inclusion of this long-instinct species.

More mammoths, image courtesy of

Lastly, they took us into the great room, where there were dozens of images overlapping, mammoths, horses, rhinos.  The room was shallow, but they hollowed the floor to allow for tourists to stand underneath.

Ceiling image courtesy of

The guide pointed out that cave drawings weren’t discovered until the late 1800’s.   And details on mammoths weren’t fully understood until the 1950’s when excavations found the remains in Siberia, thus helping develop the scientific understanding.  These drawings had details on the animals someone couldn’t possibly know who wasn’t living at the time.  So, they were able to prove and data the history of these magnificent drawings.

I still am in awe that I was able to see that in my lifetime.  What a cool experience.  This area isn’t that accessible, so it truly is because of our living arrangement in relatively nearby Geneva that we were able to get there.  Also, a big thanks to Schwingen in Switzerland for driving us.  It was truly magnificent, and I am thankful to have seen it.

Bon weekend, everyone!

Provençal Hospitality at La Maison de Françoise.

While we were in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, we stayed at a very lovely B & B, La Maison de Françoise.   It is operated by husband and wife, Bruno and Françoise.   It is rare that I do a post exclusively on a hotel room, but this was a special place.

We really enjoyed the grounds of their estate.  Everything was thoughtfully done, from the gardens to the sitting rooms.

It was lovely chatting with the couple.

Lovely grounds of La Maison de Francoise

The pool…notice how all in Provence must be above ground due to the craggy rock soil?

Conversation areas

Our little room was on the top floor of this farmhouse

Our doorway

Rapunzel…let your hair down. Just kidding, he was upstairs working and I was beckoning him.

Breakfast was

Breakfast was coffee, fresh squeezed juice, and a basket of Provençal pastries and breads with confiture.

We’d certainly recommend this gem for your next trip to Provence.

La Maison de Françoise

60 avenue Albert Schweitzer

13210 Saint Rémy de Provence – France

Tél : 33(0)

Painting for Jake

I haven’t been painting a lot lately.    Thus, when I was asked to donate a painting for the Annual Jake Boyle Memorial Golf Tournament again this year, I offered one that I did last year in Umbria, Italy.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t get “Dusk in Umbria” it into E-dawg’s suitcase to deliver back to The States.  Shipping the canvas from Switerland would be over 100 CHF which sort of defeats the purpose of a charity give-away….

So, today, I did a small 9″ x 12″ acrylic that can easily fit into the next suitcase that will go Geneva –> Charlotte*.   Unfortunately, an “I owe U” will have to do for the silent auction.  Sorry guys!

Recognize my inspiration?  Yes, none other than the Fête de la Tulipe we visited in Morges last week.

The reception & auction will be at Havana Social Club in Huntersville, NC this Saturday – 2-5pm Eastern Time.     Wishing them a beautiful day and a great one on the fundraising front.  I’ll be missing them for sure.

*Anyone who would like to volunteer to take the canvas with them on their next trip back to Huntersville or Charlotte, it would be greatly appreciated!!

Gratitude Friday: Stepping into a Van Gogh Painting

Post by Lauren

We added Arles to our list because we knew The Gladiator would like its Roman history.  Arles has a Roman arena in marvelous shape.

However, I also was jazzed about hitting this UNESCO world heritage city because my favorite artist spent a stint of time here and credited it to be the most inspiring place of his career.  Thus, I am making our visit this weeks’ gratitude post.

Upon arrival, we stopped at Hotel Dieu, the hospital where Van Gogh recuperated after he cut off his ear.  We had learned in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam that this incident was likely out of anger during a fight with fellow artist and object of his obsession, Gauguin.  Some say it was actually Gauguin who mistakenly cut off the ear in a sword fight and Van Gogh covered it up to protect Gauguin.  Only the dark streets of Arles can be sure.

Nonetheless, after the ear was no more, Van Gogh ended up at Hotel Dieu.  It was really neat for me to see this courtyard.  I instantly recognized it from a few paintings he did during his stay.

Espace Van Gogh, site of the Hotel Dieu, hospital where Van Gogh recovered

Later, we enjoyed an amazing dinner al fresco at Café Apostrophe in the Place du Forum.  I  say it was amazing because Gabe and I each both ordered a marvelous bone-in steak. We aren’t used to good quality beef in Switzerland.  It is typically small, expensive, and underwhelming.    We tend to get excited for eating out in other countries and Arles didn’t disappoint.

A highlight for me beyond the steak was sitting in sight of the café in the scene of the Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night. About the night cafe, Van Gogh said, “”I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad, or commit a crime.” (source: Wikipedia)

Recognize this scene? The Café - taken with my own camera - the source of my goosebumps!

When I was learning to paint in college, this was the second Van Gogh that I imitated, trying to recreate his brushstrokes in effort to learn the impressionistic style.  I have been lucky enough to travel to other cities that have been the scenes to famous paintings.  However, standing in sight of this little café in Arles sent chills up my spine.

The cafe one that I speak about is in the top left, but also included below are some additional paintings that Van Gogh did while in Arles:

Images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons


In addition to the Van Gogh sights, Mama Mia, The Gladiator, Gabe and I visited Les Arènes, the ancient Roman amphitheater.   Arles thrived during Roman times.  So much so that they needed a stadium to hold 20,000.  In this stadium were executions, bullfights and other gory events of which the Romans were enamored.


Les Arènes

After the fall of Rome, Les Arènes remained but transitioned into a fortress and then later an entire town fit within it’s protection.

Les Arènes, circa 18th century. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Les Arènes is still used today for shows and bullfights.

Throughout the trip, we also enjoyed strolling down Arles beautiful streets and window shopping.    Mama Mia and I picked up some provençal goods…linens for me, and some souvenirs and gifts for her.   However, we all just enjoyed walking along taking in Arles. To me, the buildings were so gorgeous…

Streets of Arles

Arles is said to be the most creative portion of Van Gogh’s career.   Now, I see why Van Gogh liked it so much.  I am grateful to have experienced it myself.

Bon weekend, everyone!