NICE, FRANCE -- Unlike the horrid weather of late in the south of France, when my partner and I and his children were there in the late summer of 2013 for a wedding, it was spectacular--sunny, dry, clear.
I remember turning my face up to the sun and closing my eyes and being astounded I could be so lucky to just feel such light. Then to open my eyes and actually see and be in that light was something I will not ever forget.
The artists associated with that region might at first seem like they missed the plot, given how they are known for their abstraction of what the light so clearly lays bare in that place. But, Matisse, Picasso, and even Van Gogh, whose relationship to light was through the prism of his interior borealis of smeary greens, would have been utterly swaddled in the paradoxicaly soft, but pure--and thus light that is hard, like Picasso's cubed and angular faces.
Cezanne, who approached color as essential to a thing's dimension, makes the most sense to me when I consider my own experience of how the sun meets the earth there, since the clarity of the light, if you stand still and look through it, shows you every single glint on each surface, and so every line becomes etched and every color cuts through you, and floods you with a luminousity: are you radiating or reflecting the light? I do not know, scientifically or otherwise. I just know that it was the first time I had truly every considered that color is not something that fills a thing, but is the armature of the thing, too.
It was one of the happiest moments of my life, one I will cherish for as long as I remember it, to steal a quiet little respite to myself in Cannes, even though it was simply in front of the busy train station, where I observed everything quotidien--the buses, the scooters, the taxis, all made holy in that light.
Although my photos of Antibes where the light was most memorable, are lost, happily I have rediscovered where I had tucked the rest of my digital memories. What is not lost is the astonishment I felt when, after having wandered away from the pack, I followed a wild, guttural, feminine sound--ullulating elders of a Tunisian family celebrating the marriage of a plump, young bride, whose family and that of the groom's were circling around her in the street singing, dancing, and making that strange-tongued cry. There was again so much color! Ribbons of every hue and in gold, too, tied to their percussive pieces and in their hair, and even their wrists.
And the brown-skinned bride, her raven hair sleek and glimmering with glittering ribbons, glistened with sweat as she danced round and round, the din around her rising and everyone who passed by stopping, arrested by the pounding feet, the clapping hands, and that tribal, primitive sound resounding off the walls of the ancient town, just like the light itself. And then it stopped, and everyone bust into a cheer before it all began again.