I was in Paris during November, 2016 and had the pleasure of meeting artist Milène Guermont at a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by expat and mutual friend Michael Kurcfeld, a producer of an ongoing series of video profiles of top fine-art photographers. Milène spoke of her sculpture project, “CAUSSE” installed in Montparnasse Cemetery; and I shared with her my life-long passion for Père Lachaise. With the juxtaposition of our creative interests in burial monuments, I am happy that we have stayed in touch across 6,000 miles. May her work be an inspiration to those considering a memorial tomb. It gives me great pleasure to share details of her recent artwork in Paris here on the City of Immortals blog.
Vernissage at the Cemetery
“In the history of the art of the burial tomb, it is today quite rare, if not almost impossible, to be able to express oneself artistically for a contemporary funerary artwork because the norms have come to constrain this ancestral expression. While we enjoy walking in our cemeteries, these new places are becoming boring. Except for “monuments to the memory of …” or commemorations of a famous person or a dramatic event, artists have deserted this direct reflection on death and one of the traditional rites, the burial.
Douglas Keister is an author and photographer I have long admired. We met in person at a book signing recently in Los Angeles (he lives up north in Chico, CA) and he agreed to share an excerpt from one of his many fine books on cemeteries.
“Cemeteries are virtual encyclopedias of symbolism. The symbols on a person’s tomb may help to tell us something about the life of its inhabitant. Dead men may tell no tales, but their tombstones do. Besides informing us of the person’s name and dates of birth and death, a tombstone often tells us a person’s religion, ethnicity, what clubs he was a member of, occupation and what the person’s thoughts were on the afterlife.
Jeanne Hébuterne (April 6, 1898 –January 25,1920) was a French artist, best known as the frequent subject and common-law wife of the artist Amedeo “Modi” Modigliani. Sadly, she took her own life on this day.
Hébuterne’s family had brought their daughter to their home after hearing that Modigliani had died, but the distraught Jeanne threw herself out of the fifth-floor apartment window, killing herself and her unborn child.
Los Angeles-based artist and writer Carolyn Campbell is paying tribute to the City of Immortals, the massive and visually astonishing Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
Launched on November 2nd in time for All Souls Day, Campbell’s project is two-fold: an extensive, beautifully rendered online tribute to the cemetery, and a detailed, print map that features three tours including the resting places of the most celebrated spirits in the park. Both the writing and photography are hers. (more…)