Better than Halloween in Paris

October 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Square Samuel de Champlain, 18 avenue Gambetta , Paris 75020

I’ve never really been that into Halloween. I do not like to dress up because I can never think of anything interesting or creative to dress up as. I do not like candy (much as I love good dark chocolate and baked goods-yes I’m kind of a sweets snob). I do not like to be scared because I have terrible nightmares forever.

But I saw this on my morning jog up Avenue Gambetta and it seemed about as Halloween appropriate as anything I might see in Paris. I am not sure if I should call it a statue or a sculpture. It seems to have something to do with Victor Hugo but the inscription is so faded that it is mostly illegible. It is beautifully haunting though I think, if you can zoom in on the wall. Who is this woman, head thrown back in pain or in passion, surrounded by all these faces, staring out intently from the stone? And who are they? It is interesting that she is faceless and all body, whereas they are body-less and all faces. I love contrasts like that, the tension in the question of what is going on here?

Perhaps if I knew the work of Victor Hugo well I would understand. Perhaps this image corresponds to a story of his. Or perhaps the Victor Hugo inscription is being used more as a caption for the image. At this point I suppose the viewer is left to imagine whatever story or explanation she chooses. I prefer to be left with the questions. In this long, narrow, hilly park that dates to 1889 and backs up against Père Lachaise. To sit on the bench opposite and just look, trying to take in all the details. The longer I looked, the more faces I saw in the stone. The longer I looked, the more I felt the power in the woman’s body. The longer I looked, the more I thought about how a beautiful, old, city like Paris is teeming with questions and mysteries and secrets. And I guess I am seduced by the romance of that. That is why I prefer to sit with the question than to come up with my own answer, which may or may not have anything to do with whatever the artist’s or history’s truth(s) may have been.


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