Paris Street Art: meet Miss.Tíc

Despite the incessant rain we blog along, my photographer unfazed. Apparently he and his camera are waterproof, just like our extraordinary street artist, Miss.Tíc.

Dangerous in every aspect!

What she really looks like I have no idea, but her spray paint alter ego is a stunner!

I only break hearts.

‘Go ahead and break mine!’ some of you out there in virtual hyperspace are no doubt thinking. Miss.Tíc must live in our Butte Aux Cailles neighhood!  That’s my hunch and I’m stickin’ to it. We don’t see her work anywhere else. In fact, my best guess is that she’s friends with local shop owners, because nobody seems to paint over her ‘graffiti.’ One of her best works frames a very popular local café:

One man hides another  …  Bomb Alert!

If any of you readers can render better translations, please send them in. My French is unpardonable and I know it!

Life passes quickly, but time slowly.

What the heck does that mean?  I think I get this one:

I’m on my moon time, so get lost!

My interpretation, probably way off. Miss.Tíc seems to go for sexy poster boys:

Desire is created in our secret gardens.

This one decorates the wall of another local café, just down the street:

That was a helluva day!

Yikes, I found out all about Miss.Tíc when I googled her just now! She’s famous!

that’s Life… it’ll pass!

“Born in Montmartre of a Tunisian immigrant father and a French mother, [whom she refers to as] an enlightened peasant,” Miss.Tíc grew up on the hill, Butte aux Cailles, “neighborhood of poets, painters and prostitutes…” (Hey, that’s our neighborhood they’re talking about!) Miss.Tíc came to be known for her street art; “she often refers to this district  in her works and performances.” (Wikipedia, my translation from the French)

another version

Miss.Tíc spent a couple of years in California in the 1980s. She must have been impressed with California style graffiti — God knows there’s plenty of it!  She returned to Paris after a devastating break-up, and around 1985 began to channel her feelings about life and love into street art. Using red and black spray paint and stencils, she uses random walls to frame her work. Despite no formal art training, Miss.Tíc’s self-assured and sexy heroine is knee deep in talent and expertise.

Miss.Tic’s cat?

“For years Miss.Tíc has bombarded the walls of Paris with her subtle and ambiguous stencils. And all this time, the owners of these same walls erase them….  So when we find one intact, it is a pleasure, a great pleasure …  You can find her works enhancing walls throughout the 13th – particularly the Butte-aux-Cailles neighborhood.”  (from

Each gives but who picks up the tab?  Miss.Tíc’s sketchy self-portraits, enhanced by sardonic humor, chronicle the feminine wisdom gained in encounters with the other sex.

You only love me in passing.  Her street-smart style playfully questions modern femininity, subjectivity, and sexuality.

Book of doubts. Notice how only one eye is behind the veil? How like a woman is that? and how interesting the oblique reference to veils. In the last few years Miss.Tíc has begun to create works off-the-street. I love the way she is beginning to use more colors to express her feelings!

Time is a serial illusion.

One should only declare love to love itself!?

Illusion is stronger than passion.

You make me dream… I better go back to sleep.

To the walls … let the art girl play!

If you told me of your thirst… is it to calm mine?

Bomb Alert! … Art Rock

Art and Life are one and the same!

We love you Miss.Tíc! Keep it up! Back to the walls! Women Artists United! We have Nothing to Lose but our Illusions and Delusions!

How does it feel to be posterized and put up on a wall? Hmmm, let me think … Fun!

Meanwhile, still looking for Dalí…

and keeping my eyes open for those divine moments when I spot Miss.Tíc on an obliging wall! And waiting for that magical Peugot to show up at midnight …

Ciao from Paris!

Catacombs and Celestial Spheres

Paris is positively popping with Tango! Wednesday night we danced in Napoleon’s former hunting lodge, Chateau du Lac, on a pretty pond in the Bois de Vicennes. They call it the Milonga Imperial. I wonder if Napoleon ever danced here? Judging from his supersized ego, he was probably one of those unfortunate types who always seem to be dancing with themselves. Doesn’t he know it takes two to tango?

Napoleon hunting in the forest of Fontainebleau, 1807

I did manage to come up with a picture of Napoleon hunting… seems like he had a whole regiment tagging along. Wouldn’t that scare off the deer? If Napoleon had been the humble sort who took the time to make offerings to Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, he might have had more luck bringing home the bacon.

Diana, mythical huntress

No hunting at this la Milonga Imperial, only shy cabeceos. After three weeks in Paris we have danced at a variety of milongas. Paris Tango dancers are a friendly bunch, despite the language barrier. They seem to be quite as addicted as we are, and they come in all colors and flavors, the usual package mix, from beginners to…  well, let’s say experienced but not quite ready for stardom, with no plans to morph into instant tango teachers anytime soon — in other words, dancers just like us!

la Milonga Imperial

Parisians can milonga every afternoon and evening at a multitude of venues. There’s lots of milongas to choose from: at least 10+ choices on your average weeknight, and on the weekends, wow! <> lists 0ver 80 milongas every week, a handful of which also have prácticas every day! At least half of these are what we call Matinee Milongas; from 4 or 5 pm to ’round midnite. Parisians don’t tend to milonga past 1, because the Metro quits running at 1:30. And don’t think you can just grab a cab if you’ve missed the Metro; you will definitely turn into a pumpkin or worse; ’cause cabs are scarce, except near luxe hotels. And soooo expensive. But evenings in the City of Lights… just amazing! Especially when atmospheric conditions fuse with technological genius… voila!

The nightly Paris light show is brought to you by an elite team of high tech engineers. Way to go Paris!

Tangueros here use some variation of the cabaceo; however, when it comes to dance floor etiquette… it’s the Tour de France! There seems to be very little interest in maintaining your own little bubble and going round and round in the bigger bubble. All evening long people are passing on both sides, bumping and bulldozing. Ben says it’s amazing they have as few collisions as they do; but then the French have always been good drivers. Unlike San Francisco and Buenos Aires, Paris motorists don’t try to run you down in the street!

Tour de France 2012

A rather swell 4-pc Tango orchestra played for 2 whole hours at la Milonga Imperial. I didn’t catch their name… blame it on my nonexistent French! I don’t savvy word one except merci and vin rouge. It’s a girl group:  3 women (bandoneón, piano, violin) and a token male (contrabajo). They were pretty good! Live music gets a star rating from us! We also like milongas with a good floor and great atmosphere: give those 2 stars. A bar, café or restaurant adds a star; and top-notch DJ’ing gets one too. Maybe we could create our own milonga rating system and sell it to TripAdvisor? Tango Tours R Us? Seriously, though, our friends in several Tango communities are going to be asking… what do Parisians wear to milongas? The answer is: Parisians dress more or less the same as they do in LA, New York, Buenos Aires, or your local dance studio… from boho chic to very elegant. However, no jeans were spotted at Napoleon’s chateau-restaurant.

Porte Saint-Denis

The other night we walked by Porte Saint-Denis on our way to Milonga 323. It’s an historic area full of beautiful old buildings. Porte Saint-Denis, built in 1672, was one of the gates into Paris, like the Arc d’Triomphe across town. It replaced a medieval gate built on the same spot by Carlos V in the 1400s. Milonga 323 has a good floor, but there were only 4 or 5 couples there. The organizer was a petit young woman with a mop of golden-orange frizz; she fussed over us like a hyperactive poodle! She seemed to be trying very hard to attract more people to her milonga. Apparently we missed a big tango event that same evening; thus the poor turnout.

milonga l’Esprit

Milonga L’Esprit has a crazy guy that dances in the center of the dance floor, although you couldn’t really call it dancing: he just bounces back-and-forth from one side to the other, and jerks his don’t-know-any-better partners around. I guess he’s famous cause we were warned about him before we left Buenos Aires! Yep, he exists! Probably wears an invisible shock collar so if he tries to leave the middle… Zap! Ouch!

There are plenty of workshops and classes around, and they cost plenty. We see a lot of PR announcing, for ex: Milena & Miguel, fabulous tango dancers and teachers, etc… but we’ve never heard of them. If you speak Spanish AND French, and dance tango fairly well, you could make a decent living in Paris! (Sorry, no sick days, holidays, vacation time or pension!) We’ve only met up with one Argentine tango teacher, Coco Dias. Reincarnation of Napoleon? Friendly guy, though, invited us to a private party and tango event but we couldn’t make it. Catch you next time, Coco!

Coco’s the Porteño in Paris

There are some darn good DJ’s in Paris. Some are really good (la Balbutiant, Casa de Tango, Milonga Imperial). What I mean by really good, is a milonga that sounds like the milongas of Buenos Aires. Like, the Tango Tunes Top 400. If you occasionally DJ, like I do, you know the drill. First, select your favorite tunes by your favorite orchestras, off the internet or your CD collection or your iTunes; next, you organize them, in tandas and cortinas, to make your playlist. Well, if you make up your playlist with your least favorite tunes by the same great tango orchestras, and put them all together into tandas and cortinas, that’s what I call the music at a not-so-good milonga. Lacking a certain passion, that essential flavor, el sabor del tango. 

Tango Passion

The tango scene is not the only Paris underground: there’s also the Catacombs.

going down?

We toured the catacombs a few days ago: so many bones and skulls piled everywhere, damp stone passages, very poorly lighted… that place gave me the creeps! Ugh! Spooky! You go down down down a spiral cement staircase, 134 steps down to be precise. Not nearly as attractive as these 108 steps in our building. No indeed. They’re dank, smelly, creepy. The bones are mostly laid out in a distinctive pattern, maybe you can guess it from these photos. Are we scared yet?

I’m goin’ in…

death procession

I’ve seen the catacombs under Rome and also under St. Peter’s, so I was somewhat prepared for it, (listen to me lie!) but what surprised me was how small the skulls are. My first thought was, OMG, these are children! But, passing each niche, punctuated by plaques writ or engraved on cold stone, and an occasional puddle underfoot — water dripping thru layers of porous limestone which underlies all of Paris — I finally realized that all the skulls were small, cause people were littler back then! And their average life span was about half of ours today.

Some of the quotations etched in stone are priceless, like the one about how death equalizes kings and beggars alike.

One of the workers at the Catacombs had been a prisoner for many years. During those years he came to be very fond of the view of the city from the prison. He was eventually released from bondage, and found work stacking femurs and tibia underground in the 1770s. In his spare time he chiseled the view of the city he had gazed longingly at for so long. He was killed by a cave-in; his final resting place the Catacombs.

the underground city

do you see what I see?

I was more than happy to climb up the 100 winding stairs and be back in the sunlight! We went to a busy boulangerie-café, had sandwiches and coffee and watched the world go by for an hour or so till we recovered from that subterranean nightmare. Ben kept making silly jokes, talking to the skulls, you know, like, hey, what happened to your brains? geez, you really lost your mind! The guy has a sick sense of humor!

After a couple of hours underground I was so over it. Here’s a cheery hasta la vista, baby!

Be seein’ ya!

Ready to climb the stairway to heaven? Back to the realm of the living?

this train is bound for glory…. praise the Lord!

Now that we’ve had a quick armchair trip to the underworld, how about putting the spaceship in reverse and heading up to the finer celestial elevations? Nothing like a little music to elevate your spirits in this earthly paradise.

Notre Dame

A few nights ago, a packed crowd at Notre Dame time-warped us back to medieval nights, thanks to a wonderful choir of all ages singing Bach’s Magnificat. There was musical accompaniment: several violins, contrabajo, tambourine, organ… really I’m not exactly sure because there was a crowd up there on the temporary stage, in front of the main altar. The conductor, a young black Frenchman, took care of business gracefully, dynamically, and with a reassuring smile. The thousand-year-old cathedral radiated sound like only a thousand-year-old stone and glass cathedral can do.  It felt like we were lifted up into space and touched down on the intergalactial mother ship, i.e., heaven! An unearthly celestial blue glow diffused over us pilgrims gathered to hear the choir sing Bach. Radiant joy pulsed through every single molecule I own. An awesome experience, 5 stars!

choir at Notre Dame

The Magnificat (also known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary) is a song of praise set to music. It is one of the most ancient of Christian hymms and perhaps the earliest hymm to Mary. The name Magnificat comes from the first word of the Latin version of the canticle’s text, which comes from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:46-55) Johann Sebastian Bach composed music for a version of the Magnificat in 1723. In 1724 he finished setting the canticle (i.e., the words of the hymm, in German) to music. Pretty awesome stuff! Ben took some nice photos.

stone reaching for the sky

We’re still having that tempestuous spring weather here in Paris. It’s been raining off and on for almost a week, and the forecast calls for more of the same indefinitely… maybe forever. That line about “springtime in Paris” is totally bogus. I recently discovered that Paris is north of Albany, Boston,  even Bismarck, North Dakota for chrissake! Cheyenne, Chicago, Denver, Montpelier, New York, even Seattle! Geez Louise! We had just enough warm days to figure out which milongas had functioning AC, and now we’re back to going out with jackets and umbrellas! Who planned this vacation, anyway?

Open Studios in Paris this weekend!

Have a good weekend, everybody! And remember, if you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own!

Ciao from París!

On Getting Lost and Finding Dalí

In the last week we’ve covered a lot of territory: the Luxembourg Gardens, the Paris catacombs, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Pont Neuf, Montmartre, Sacre Coeur and Espace Dalí. We’ve also found time for milongas, checking out more boulangeries and patisseries, and getting our Paris Metro passes. First rule of thumb for Paris newbies: try to avoid getting lost in the Luxembourg Gardens. I wandered off from Ben one fine day, looking for the w.c., and I couldn’t find my way back!

a beautiful day near the Luxembourg Gardens

This beautiful fountain (Fontaine de l’Observatoire, 1874)  reminds me of the Fontana di Trevi in Rome, which predates the Luxe Garden’s fountain by 112 years. The Romans tended to build fountains where their aqueducts converged. This fountain is a natural spot to meet up with someone, cause it’s so large you can’t miss it. Plus, it’s right at the south entrance to the Gardens.

the horses have fish-tails!

The water spilling over the edge and into the still pool is just lovely. Above them four nymphs are circling, symbolically representing the earthly sphere, with its four directions and four colors of humankind. The figures hold aloft a circular band with the 12 symbols of the Zodiac. Pretty cosmic stuff! You might say it prefigured the hippie era. Farther on is a long strip of green lawn edged with shade trees and dotted with sculptures.

give the guy a drink! he’s thirsty!

The lawns were busy with families, kids playing, couples romancing, and teenage girls in bikinis on beach blankets getting a head start on their summer tans.

The Luxembourg Gardens were built in 1615 by Marie d’Medici, Queen consort of France. She was the second wife of Henry IV. The palace was modeled after the Palazzo Pitti, in Marie’s hometown of Florence, Italy. Following the assassination of her husband in 1610, which occurred the day after her coronation (yikes!) Marie acted as regent for her son, King Louis XIII, until he came of age. She was noted for her involvement in the ceaseless political intrigues at the French court, and also for her extensive artistic patronage. And we thought our era was full of Sara Palins, Andy Warhols and Sarkozys?

Club Luxe Med?

If you walk past the huge reflecting pool, where pint-size sailing ships stage battles, there are acres and acres of trees, planted in straight lines that crisscross like a grid. Beneath the trees are dozens of park benches, also set in rows and interspersed with more sculptures, fountains, a carousel, an apple orchard, a café, pony rides… it’s an enormous invisible labyrinth! Every time you stop and turn around, it looks the same… trees and benches all around you. Are you getting that lost feeling yet? A bit dizzy? Like, too many giros? Not to worry, along came an avenging angel on horseback to save the day!

with his trumpet blazing!

With his cell phone beeping, is more like it. The tall guy was glad to find me, and plenty pissed off about my being lost for two hours! Here I am looking lost (but not really lost) on a rainy day in our neighborhood:

I admit I get lost easily..

especially if I walk into a Macy’s or even Target! Right brainers have more fun but we get into more trouble, too!

stay in your cubicle or get lost in the garden!

Anyhow, he got over it and his reward was a beautiful baguette!

make ’em eat bread!!

After my traumatic day I was in serious need of caffeine and sugar. Luckily, that’s not a problem in Paris.

how about a latte and a little something…

passionately sweet!

the fruit is real!

And if you really want to get lost, how about a delightful cobblestone street to find yourself in?

just follow the path!

So one very pretty day we found ourselves in the Metro, heading up the hill to Montmartre. We got off at Abbesses, and a big elevator took us several flights up to a beautiful plaza. We walked up curvy cobblestone streets, past dozens of adorable cafés,

Chez Marie

tourists by the dozen

more cafés

climbed up hundreds of stairs

you’ve got to be kidding!

are we there yet?

past free art on display

Adam offers God a drag?

finally arriving in the artsy tourist mecca, with its plaza packed full of artists sketching, painting, and displaying their works.

plaza des Artistes

Montmartre is a charming picturesque art enclave. Of course, it was a real artists’ zone back in the late 19th / early 20th century, and later re-engineered as a tourist destination. And there really is a population of artists making a living every day in Montmartre, though the game has changed. A village of artists, by artists, for artists, now that’s a different animal. Unfortunately there are precious few such places left these early 21st century days. Maybe in San Telmo? San Luis Obispo?

a busy painter

The Plaza des Artistes is just a stone’s throw away from the huge white monolith of Sacre Coeur, built into the top of the hill.

Sacre Coeur Cathedral


returning home from the Crusades?

We blinked as we caught sight of Paris spread out before us in the distance, huge and glittering like a medieval dragon about to take flight.

After somewhat restoring our much abused strength with some crunchy sweet pralines purchased from a street hawker, we walked up a few more flights of stairs into the cathedral. Mass had just begun, and we weren’t sure if we should take seats and pray or just follow the tide of tourists coming in one set of doors, circling and gawking (no photos please!) before exiting out another set of doors. But then we saw a regiment of nuns who began to march up the aisle singing, followed by six priests walking their timeless procession. The singing was beautiful, as singing by women who have the time to practice and rehearse should be, so we found seats, stood up, and sang along with everyone else. It was quite stirring and wonderful.

After partaking of free blessings on the house, we made our way back to the main plaza in search of the Musée Dalí. Properly known as Espace Dalí. We found the petit musée and spent a couple of hours looking at some of Dalí’s best drawings, paintings and sculptures (bronzes). We took time to read all the commentaries (in French and English, side by side, how thoughtful!) and we both enjoyed learning the background and thought processes of the artist on each piece. I didn’t know that he illustrated several books, including an edition of Alice in Wonderland and the Romance of Tristan and Isolde.

Alice in Wonderland

Dalí also did some work for Walt Disney and created the dream sequences for the Hitchcock movie Spellbound. I’m a fan of Hitchcock too, so it was interesting to learn of the Dalí connection.

Salvador Dalí 1939

I already knew something of Dalí’s friendship with Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel (check out Los Olvidados, his classic 1950 documentary on street kids in Mexico City), along with Man Ray, Garcia Lorca, Picasso, Modigliani and the other artists and assorted groupies who lived in Montmartre in the early 1900s.

Dalí & Man Ray, 1934

It was noted that the long twirling moustache Dalí developed (after the above snapshot) resembled that of 17th century Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. Perhaps Dalí appropriated those curls to call forth Velázquez’ ancestral artistic spirit as a kind of inspirational muse? Or maybe they were proto-rhinoceros horns? Dalí called his method of creative design a “paranoic-critical method” of “accessing the subconscious” for creative inspiration.

Velázquez self-portrait

Is that the Jungian collective unconscious or the artist’s personal subconscious? According to exhibit notes, Dalí’s iconic “melting watches” are “a rejection of the assumption that time is rigid and deterministic.”

We think Dalí was influenced by Einstein’s theory of relativity, which was published in 1916 (remember MC2?) and won Einstein the Nobel Prize in 1921. Einstein postulated that time is relative and not fixed. Their paths may have crossed. Einstein emigrated to the United States in 1933, due to the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany. Dalí had his first New York gallery opening in 1934, entitled Persistance of Memory. Let’s just say it’s possible that Einstein was aware of the Surrealist Movement, and Dalí had most certainly heard of Einstein.

father of modern physics

self-portrait with butterflies

Dalí is so much fun! He is portrayed as being wildly egocentric, but I don’t really get that from his work. Sensitive, yes… creative — wow! off the charts!! but also loving… of nature, of women, of literature, of classical painting, of humankind’s creativity and contradictions.

I see… a rhinoceros!

I was delighted and astonished by actor Adrien Brody’s portrayal of Dalí in Midnight in Paris. He really brought Dalí to life for me! Apparently he saw a kind of cosmic geometry unfolding in the horns of a rhinoceros; as others see geometric designs in crystals, snowflakes, drops of water, honeycombs… you name it. And I don’t doubt that the universe truly has been formed in a perfect, geometric, yin/yang sort of unfolding. If the fundamental nature of matter in our universe can be traced to a handful of subatomic elements, then even the molecules of your mind spring forth from the patterns instilled in us from the beginning of time. As authors of our own stories, we play a director’s role, enabling us to pursue the perfection of our selves in a search for meaning that evolves in the context of natural harmony. I admit I’ve always been a fan of surrealist art–some of it LSD induced. “I don’t do drugs… I am drugs!” proclaims a t-shirt at the Espace Dalí gift shop.

I am Dalí!

I could go on and on about Dalí, but our 20th century genius is not in need of PR. The Art here in Paris is absolutely dazzling, to say the least. There is an amazing Degas exhibit at the Musée d’Orsay right now:

a woman bathing

First Sunday of the month is free admission day at about 150 Paris museums, so that will only take us, let’s see, 12 first Sundays a year…. 2 museums in a day…. no way, that’s too tiring…. 1 museum per month… looks like we’ll have to stay here another 12 and a half years to see it all! The pressure is on!

Dalí’s St. George and the Dragon

Looks like I don’t have enough space in this post to cover the catacombs (spooky!) Paris milongas, Paris tango fashions, Paris tango etiquette, Paris DJs and Paris milonga music! Stay tuned for all that and more. And what about about springtime in Paris? She’s a fickle one, to be sure. Sunny and up into the 80s one day, absolutely gorgeous; chilly, windy and rainy the next; then hot and humid with thunderstorms! Isn’t that just like a woman?

Au revoir from Paris!