This past summer I reached that pivotal point of my life as an artist: I went to France. For some reason, young creative-types crave adventuring abroad and I am no exception. College brought me three-hundred miles away from home but I needed three-thousand miles. I packed way too much and with the remnants of my four years of high school French, I was out of the country for the first time.
I spent two weeks on a school study trip in St.-Cirq Lapopie, a small village up on a cliff along the Lot River. It has been difficult to write about my time there, because I found that I was reacting to the place visually. I took hundreds of pictures and filled page-after-page in my sketchbook. Writer, poet and surrealist theorist, Andre Breton wrote the following about St.-Cirq:
Beyond any other site of Europe or the Americas, Saint-Cirq put the spell on me - the one which binds you forever. I have stopped wanting to be elsewhere. I believe the secret of its poetry is similar to some of Rimbaud's Illuminations and that it is produced by the extremely rare equilibrium of the most perfect difference of its levels.
It was my experience that after spending just two weeks in Southwest France, I could never look at anything the same. I had spent a total of eighteen days in France with my only obligation being to create art. All artists need to experience that, even if for a brief time. We look to these art-pilgrimages for changed perspectives, inspiration and simply a good time. As someone who hits the snooze button for an hour before waking up, in France I woke up at the same time every morning without an alarm clock and it was the best sleep I've ever had. I was in a place that had history that just can't exist in the United States because nothing here is that old. I saw 30,000-year-old cave paintings at Pech Merle! Often my day-to-day life in Chicago is systematic and time goes by quickly. Life was different in France, much more slow in a way that has allowed me to remember each bit vividly.