16 Jan
Thu / 2014

The Muse of Provence: A Blog for the Dora Maar House
When the House Is Empty

Right now the Dora Maar house is empty, the garden trimmed down to the nub, the library put back into order, the kitchen cleaned out, and the shutters closed. But in my memory I can still see Marie’s (Ducate) brightly painted silks hanging from the stairwell, or how Kathy (Grove) turned the downstairs gallery into a giant pinhole camera. I can still hear Pola (Oloixarac) singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” after the celebration of our seventh year and 100th Dora Maar Fellow. I remember dinners in the garden with Asti (Hustvedt) and Jon (Kessler).  Actually, many dinners: like the one at a nice restaurant in Casaneuve with Helen (Longino), Richard (Festinger), Amy (Yoes) and Valerie (Miner); or the lunch and rush through the Chateau La Coste sculpture trail with Pam (Newkirk), Liz (Ward) and Amy—then rushing to the airport to get Amy minus her huge crate on to the plane to Italy; or sipping wine on the tabac balcony while Natalka (Bilotserkivets) and Mykola (Riabchuk) told us about outwitting the censors in Ukraine. If I am making a 2013 list, I will always be grateful for the understanding and support I received during a difficult time in the fall from Myriam (Bornand)Christiane (Paul) and Greg (Pierotti); and for the conversations with Jennifer (Grotz), Maud (Casey) and Kaui (Hemmings); and discovering the poems of Donna (Stonecipher) and Eric (Pankey); and the visit from two old friends who came back, Michael (Crowder) and Wendy (Owens).

The house is empty, but not quiet: on almost the final day of the year, Ménerbes residents Gerlinda Steiner on the viola and Eugenia Vendrolini on the Dora Maar piano held an informal concert. About 60 people gathered to hear the duet that ended with a graceful rendition of Schubert’s Sonata “Arpeggio” in D minor. A fitting musical ending, like the closing scene of a movie.

But it’s not the end and not just the past year that is still palpable, it’s all the history gathered here.  Just recently a friend showed me where Picasso carved 1941 in the stone table in the back of the garden. I had never seen it before.  In a letter from Aube Breton, daughter of Andre Breton, she told me of visiting the house in 1947 and having scorpions jump on her bed. Luckily that doesn’t happen anymore—

In France, one does not bother with Christmas cards. Instead, everyone sends New Year’s Wishes. And you have the whole month of January to do it. I like this, because there is none of the rushed stuffing of envelopes while trying to shop, and cook and go to parties. New Year’s Greetings can be done at a more reflective pace. So as I send out my New Year’s Greetings, I look forward to 2014. Who and what is coming to fill these rooms and gardens and add their own layer of history?  Even when the house is empty, it is full.