• John Diamond-Nigh

Radiant #women, #spaces to match

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

At the end of a solo day in #Paris, I’ve turned my feet into whining adversaries, eaten too much chocolate, seen some fine galleries, some resplendent architectural spaces, a garden or two, and whatever else my erratic tramp has turned up. I’m usually pooped.

To rest, I’ve taken a chair in a mid-sized #cathedral. A shocking blizzard of light pours in through the stained-glass. First one #nun, and then another, enter from a small side door, with low, wooden benches in hand. The benches lift them a few inches, but their posture is still that of kneeling in stony, pensive rectitude. In time, thirty nuns would fill the chancel. Their medieval #singing, as pure as that of the Vienna Boy’s choir, would make up most of the Mass.

What luck. As darkness overtakes the nave, candles glow like jittering planets. I’m not a Mass sort of guy, but when performed with this minimal perfection, and in this richly plural #environment (architecture, music, furniture, poetry, angels) it exemplifies, for me, the ancient #instincts of beauty ten times better than any museum. I was entranced, and even joined in the final procession around the perimeter of the church as the nuns sang and the candles glimmered, hoping I wasn’t defiling too much #sanctity.

Midway through the Mass, the nuns dispersed among those of us sitting in the nave, holding out their hands to grasp ours and smiling with courtly #radiance. Later I e-mailed Lynne that I’d seen the face of Simone #Weil thirty times over that night. No, not a modern conception of empowerment, but had someone told me then that their modesty and meditations did more to re-align the #soul of the world than a hundred virulent rallies, I might have nodded.

Are #museums on their way out? It kills me even to wonder. Contrasting the haunting complexity of the Mass with the white rooms of a museum, where rectangles of art hang shoulder to shoulder on the wall, barely knowing each other and aborted from any meaningful context at all–well, you tell me.

But one museum that does work is the new Frank #Gehry museum, also in Paris, though I choke a bit to utter its name, the #Louis Vuitton Foundation. The sticky marriage of luxury and art is a topic for another time.

Still, Gehry is Gehry, and his spaces are 3magical, unorthodox, and instinctively attuned to the fluent, crazy, cubistic, anti-ism-ism of art right now. And yes, they are oceanically expensive, leaving me to bow for the moment to my own tangled hypocrisy.

Occupying the entire museum was an exhibition devoted to one of my #furniture idols, Charlotte #Perriand–life-overflowing, humane, utopic, a paramount modern woman and for me an embodiment of what #modern still means in our acerbic, manneristic, after-modern moment.

Woven into a sublime mesh, were the building itself and all the artists and architects that Perriand had worked with. One could look over her austere, revolutionary furniture at paintings by Picasso and Léger and digest in a moment what William #Blake meant by the near-divinity of the human #imagination when liberated from the traditional anxieties of mainstream society.

True, in time, those recalcitrant anxieties are apt to close back over any fresh and redemptive vision. But for a decade or two, that luminous planet did appear and altered the gravities of the world for good. Those of you who have come to our home can easily, and even without knowing her work, pick out my devotion to Perriand. I should have a small altar. Maybe I do.

#Medieval and modern. Both enjoyed within a couple of days, in one city; both curiously alike; both enacted in an ethos of fluid, many-armed aesthetic delight.

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