Aix-en-Provence, France en Juillet

Aix-en-Provence, France en Juillet

Summer has arrived! Clear, hot sunny days, colbalt blue skies, cigales (cicadas) doing their wall-of-noise sound, à la Phil Spectre. Tourists descending like locusts, devouring all the pleasures in sight, determined to enjoy themselves at all costs.

Sculptures in Aix No.1Sculpture in Aix No. 1/ ©2010 Robert D. Hale.

Sculptures in Aix No.2
Sculp­tures in Aix No.2 / ©2010 Robert D. Hale.

Provence is abuzz with activity. In Arles for example, lying about a hour and a half drive northwest from Aix, ‘Rencontre d’Arles’ the annual photography festival began this week. Perhaps one of the largest events of it’s kind in Europe, and certainly the most popular; this event brings photographers, and those who love photography, together to participate in a month long visual feast of images and discussions highlighted by evening musical performances and light shows. Be advised that although Arles lies on the banks of the Rhone River, it’s quite hot during the daylight hours. You’ve been warned!


Petrol '08
Petrol '08 by Skomos / ©2010 Robert D. Hale.

Currently, in the streets of Aix, there are several massive installations by the Polish artist Igor Mitoraj. Spread throughout the city center, mainly surrounding the famous fountain La Rotonde at the foot of cours Mirabeau. These large bronze castings of heads and torsos are bold and enigmatic pieces – all being the subject of conversations and photography by tourists and locals alike. In addition to the outdoor art, there have been several exhibitions in various galleries around town. The most recent one I attended was by a young artist who goes by the name of Skomos. His work reminded me somewhat of Basquiat with his use of symbols and figures to simply express what are often time complex ideas. One image in particular resonates today with the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. The artist explained to me that his aunt was an early outspoken critic of “big oil” and the threat to the environment here in France long before it became fashionable to do so, and this piece although created a couple years before the current crisis; was in tribute to her.

The artist and gallery ownersThe artist and gallery owners/ ©2010 Robert D. Hale.

American Gallery No. 1 / ©2010 Robert D. Hale.

American Gallery No. 2
American Gallery No. 2 /©2010 Robert D. Hale.
American Gallery in Marseille
American Gallery in Marseille / ©2010 Robert D. Hale.

On the 3rd of July I attended an ‘American Style’ barbeque, and the opening of the American Gallery at the home of Pamela King, the president of Democrats Abroard, a group founded to aid in the election of Barak Obama. The residence sits overlooking the Corniche President John F. Kennedy, which runs along the Mediterranean in Marseille. Ms. Kings home is a hop-skip- and a jump away from the home of the American Consul General, whose barbeque I had attended just a week before. The art was the work of two American artists, both living in Marseille, and the show the first showing for this new gallery.

My exhibition has been put off to September, which actually gives me more time to find some additional images for the show. And though it’s vacation time for most, work continues unabated for most artists. As it should.


Robert Hale/Photographer

Aix-en-Provence, France en Juin

Plasticiens. What does this word mean to you? Give up? Well, I almost did. When I would see the word printed at various exhibitions around town, used to describe the genre of the artist, I just couldn’t get the reference. I mistakenly thought it referred to an artist who worked in plastic, yet I could discern no plastic in their pieces. I persisted in my quest to solve this ancient riddle, and after questioning different artists, I got it.

Aix-en-Provence, FranceAsilah Mural

Asilah Mural / ©2010 Robert D. Hale.

By Robert D. Hale
Pub­lished: June 10, 2010

Plasticiens. What does this word mean to you? Give up? Well, I almost did. When I would see the word printed at various exhibitions around town, used to describe the genre of the artist, I just couldn’t get the reference. I mistakenly thought it referred to an artist who worked in plastic, yet I could discern no plastic in their pieces. I persisted in my quest to solve this ancient riddle, and after questioning different artists, I got it. What the word means has little if anything to do with plastic, but rather is someone who uses mixed media to create art. There, riddle solved. Ah, language!

Artist and Shop Owner

Artist and Shop Owner/ ©2010 Robert D. Hale.

Gallery medina in Tangier
Gallery Medina in Tangier / ©2010 Robert D. Hale.

On the 12th of May I flew to Tangier. Although I loved Fez, where I went on my first adventure in Morocco, and will return there soon, I had read about a village in the Rif mountains called Chefchueon, the “Blue” city, The images were remarkable and I wanted to go there to photograph. As it was closer to Tangier than to Fez, Tangier became my destination. Although initially disappointed, as Tangier had none of the wonderment and beauty of Fez, I soon began to discover the artists. It was on my second day there; deep in the Medina “Old City,” that I happened upon a gallery. Finding it closed, and continuing on down the narrow passageway, I saw posters for other exhibitions outside a shop. Inquiring inside, I met the shopkeeper who was also an artist. He shared with me a bit about the art scene in Tangier. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to visit the other artists and galleries he told me about; however, when I return in August, I plan on spending more time in the city doing just that. Venturing a couple hours south of Tangier along the coast is the old fort city of Asilah. While staying there with a friend, I was introduced to a local artist and her gallery. Seems that Asilah is a well-known artists’ town, with an annual festival featuring “mural art.” I was fortunate enough to see some of last year’s work before they are painted over for this year’s festival in July.

Larry and DeMaris arriving at Nice Airport

Larry and DeMaris arriving at Nice Airport/ ©2010 Robert D. Hale.

The Artist at Work/ ©2010 Robert D. Hale.
The Artist at Work/©2010 Robert D. Hale.

My friend Larry Richardson and his wife DeMaris stopped into Aix for a short visit a couple weeks ago, so I was impressed into duty as a tour guide, (really a chance for me to see lots of sights too) and host. After picking them up at the Airport, we toured Nice before heading up to Aix. Larry is an artist from Southern California and DeMaris an actress, so their agenda was my agenda, lots of art. We began by visiting some of my artist friends, galleries, and museums, in the process touring the countryside, and eating well. Eventually ending up in Arles, where we spent a warm and sunny day walking around the old ‘Roman’ town on the Rhone River checking out more art and historical sites. The final stop on their last day in Provence was at the “art” hotel in St. Remy de Provence. The next day they left for Paris, and the continuation of their journey.

I, on the other hand have begun preparations for an exhibition of “Water Abstracts” at the end of this month. This will be the first exhibition of my new series. Wish me luck.

Robert Hale/Photographer

Aix-en-Provence France

The African-American artist Tony Ramos having lunch with another American artist Charlotte Novitz
©2010 Robert D. Hale

Image from my first exhibition in France
©2010 Robert D. Hale

Aix-en-Provence France

I had been coming to Provence every six months since 2006, it was only in July of 2009 that I finally made the permanent move; so you see I’m still finding my way as an artist, and as an legal alien. The biggest hurtle for now, is the language. Although I studied French in high school and in college, I never put it to practical use. As all of you who have moved to a country where your mother tongue is seldom heard, it’s a bit daunting. I’m learning though. The incentive to build a career and reputation here pushes me forward. I used to say that I knew enough to get into trouble, but not enough to get out.

I arrived in Provence for the first time on July 4, 2006, for the opening reception of the African- American painter Tony Ramos. That summer the city of Aix-en-Provence was celebrating their favorite son, Cezanne, by hosting citywide exhibitions based on his famous paintings of Mount Sainte Victoire, the mountain that dominates the city’s skyline. My first impressions were probably the same as thousands of other artists and creative types who ventured south for the warmth, but especially for the light! Provence is very much like Southern California, in that it has a similar look and feel. I knew immediately that I could live here.

That first summer was dominated by heat, color, sounds, food and wine. It seemed that everyday offered more food, more wine, more visits to homes of friends and fellow expatriates who celebrated life with a gusto not often seen in the States, even in California, and they loved and appreciated my work! I was able to get my first offer for an exhibition in a very short time.

One observation I made was that one gets two free passes in France, if you look at it in a certain way; one is that your skin color doesn’t matter in the same way as it does in The United States, and the other; they respect and admire artists. For the first time I realized why artists of color would choose to live and create here. There is a certain freedom that just doesn’t exist any other place I’ve been, and I’ve lived in other parts of Europe, and spent time in Asia. Think about all the artists, musicians, writers, and dancers, singers who have lived and prospered creatively in France.

Robert HaleNow those are some of the good parts; but you know there has to be a downside. There is. France like most of the world is becoming increasingly difficult to live and work in. What was relatively easy 15, 20 years ago, has become more difficult. Some of it you can blame on 9/11, but more importantly times have changed. The world’s economies are shifting. Some formally so-called third world countries are now first world, and prosperous Western countries are declining. Art has always been a difficult proposition. If you don’t have a patron, or a marketing firm behind you, the prospects are daunting, and France is no different. While it will be easier to exhibit, once you make inroads into the system, don’t expect to make a lot of money. I think what most artists do here, is to live, be creative, produce, and sell abroad.

So that’s it for now. In the future I hope to give you more information and insight into how you can make contacts here, as well as the neighboring countries of Spain and Italy. Be well, stay creative, and remember that complacency is the enemy of success.


Robert Hale/Photographer

Photo Essay of Los Angeles by Leo R. Barrera

This is a photo Essay of the city we now call Los Angeles by Leo R. Barrera for Atelier Visit. It illustrates a sliver of the city’s many faces who more than 3.5 million people call home. The city originally named “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles de Porciuncula” in 1781 by Spanish settlers has a rich history going back thousands of years. In 2010 there still exists a tapestry of culture, people and communities.

110 North from Bishop's Road
"110 North from Bishop's Road" / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
Chinatown Decorations
"Chinatown Decorations" / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
Cruising Figueroa at 11th St.
"Cruising Figueroa at 11th St." / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
Houses on Kellam Ave.
"Houses on Kellam Ave." / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
In Memory of Linda Armenta
"In Memory of Linda Armenta" / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
La Placita at night
"La Placita at night" / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
Vendor's Wares on Olvera St
"Vendor's Wares on Olvera St." / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
The Los Angeles River from Elysian Park
"The Los Angeles River from Elysian Park" / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
Interior of Philippe: The Original
"Interior of Philippe: The Original" / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
On Sunset
"On Sunset" / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
Los Angeles Central Library
"The City Of Los Angeles Central Library (and other buildings)" / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
Original Tommy's on Rampart and Beverly
"Original Tommy's on Rampart and Beverly" / © Leo R. Barrera 2010
"Untitiled" / © Leo R. Barrera 2010