Saturday, March 18, 2006

"None of these are 'overworked'," I point out to Blair. Each of the paintings we saw at the Phillips Collection show had a sense of spontaneity -- like the artist just put down his brush.

We are in a big art production mode. Our own spring flowers are busting out all over. We've been posting two or more paintings a day to our blog site ( and we've sold two already. The site itself isn't yet perfect, but my computer skills advance more slowly than my art.

Duncan Phillips and his wife Marjorie (an artist herself) personally selected most of the paintings in the Phillips Collection. While we just saw about 50 pieces, the entire group totals more than 2,000 works.

We went to the show, at the Senate Museum, late Thursday afternoon. There was no line because the neighborhood was virtually shut down. The students here are at fever pitch protesting changes to the employment laws. This is not your usual student idealism: this is their fight to keep their French entitlements.

After the problems in the suburbs last fall, the French government is trying to make it easier for the minority youth to find work. This current proposal would allow employers to fire employees in their first two years of employment, if the employees fail to perform. Currently, companies who hire "youth" are required to guarantee their job for two years, regardless of whether they show up for work or not. It takes more than six months of red tape to "fire" an employee who stops coming to work, takes drugs or drinks on the job, or is otherwise incompetent. The situation is not unusual, and we are intimately familiar with two such occasions. It discourages companies from hiring anyone.

The Phillips Collection show has the sense of an individual having assembled the works. You can tell Duncan and Marjorie LOVED these pieces -- they all have a certain joie de vivre, in tones of green and orange. The signature piece of the show, Renoir's "Lunch of the Boating Party", is brilliant green. We saw three Van Goghs we'd never seen before and several Bonnards. I liked a very modern piece by Pierre Soulages. Phillips took the chance on unknown artists, creating a broad, wonderful swath of modern art.

Teargas dispersed the crowds, not before they'd marked up buildings and broken windows. I could hear the big detonations in my courtyard. They try to liken these riots to those of 1968, which seemed to have global implications. These manifestations only benefit a few white French kids who will win the right to cruise through their first two years of work.

I put up our parasol and took out the lawn furniture this weekend. I am thinking of buying goldfish for a large tub I found at the side of the road. I am painting cats and dogs and flowers, working joyously day and night.

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

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