Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thierry Weyd's Blogs

When I was a kiddie back home in a boring, humid and gray bourgeois French town, the one thing that saved me from perpetual ennui was the local fine arts school where I took evening classes. Which explains everything, in case you wonder why I'm into that art thing so much.
It was a safe haven from a too eventful family life and an oppressive school atmosphere.
There was a great sense that the grown-ups there at the fine arts school were dealing with us kiddies at the exact right level, neither patronizing not burdening us with responsibilities far beyond our maturity. What else? Oh yes, there was that art thing. They got me hooked. I learn the word "conceptual" when I was 10, and saw my first monochrome around the same age. After this, I never looked back.

It was a degree-granting school (the fine arts schools in France train people at college level), but also a State-sponsored one, and as such received subsidies. Evening classes were inexpensive, and during the first few years they provided art supplies free of charge. If you know how expensive paper and paint are, you understand better why a community-oriented economy has its advantages .
Once a year they piled up on a bus to go see some art, either in Paris or, if budget permitted, some more exotic locale like the Netherlands, to see some great show. In any case it was dirt cheap, and I remember vividly my first trip to the Pompidou and the Louvre, for which our families had to pay the incredible amount of 10 francs, something like $2 now, or make that $5 with inflation.
On that bus were also gathered a few college-level students, with whom we usually never mingled for the good reason they were a) studying in a different building and b) older, duh.
I was something like 10 years-old, so conceptually speaking, hanging out with 18 years old seemed really remote. They were grown-ups!
But hang out we did, and I believe it was the first time I got to meet Thierry Weyd. I seem to remember now he was wearing a jacket the style I presently associate with early Talking Heads record covers, but at the time it was odd in a sea of denims. I don't have that many memories of Thierry on that trip, but I do recall the grown-up students "les grands" were rather nice to us little tykes, though I'm not sure their conversation made lots of sense to us.

After this trip I saw more of Thierry, he was a familiar figure on the streets of my hometown (the center of which being tiny, it's easy to meet and greet people there). I never really knew him well, but as I grew up I got to discover what he was doing, essentially running a small press called Cactus, where he was publishing exquisite and desultory artists books. I have a vague recollection of a series involving sugar cube wrappers, other than that Thierry introduced me to the technique of silkscreening. More accurately, I think he told me what it was and I subsequently took a class to learn the basics, an essential skill for my future training as an art historian. Any idiot I catch explaining how it is such an easy technique of reproduction and that Warhol was therefore just appropriating images will have to read the complete works of Jean Baudrillard, and eat the boiled books/pulp after*.

He was also a fan of the band The Residents, which I started to listen to thanks to his influence, and someone I must credit for my love for exquisitely crafted artists books. His were always fun to open, sometimes in boxes, sometimes things you had to unfold, books that came with surprises inside. I think the "domino" ones (the sugar cubes wrappers) came with real cubed sugars in it. I think I also knew him because we were also frequenting the same bookstore, which was divided in 2: the ground floor for literature, and the top floor for comics. I spent a fair amount of time there (I skipped school a lot, now you know) and I inevitably ran into him discussing with the clerk, Isabelle James (I credit her for my love of Literature in general and Virginia Woolf in particular).
I think he introduced me to lot of "arty" comics, showed me issues of Raw magazine, and I'm not certain but I think he's also the one who told me about classic comics, such as Milton Caniff, Windsor McCay and the Buck Rogers strips. Now that I look at this list, wow, I realize I can credit him with plenty of my visual education.

Which I never realized until now, and aside from that, I didn't really know him, because, you know, he was a grown-up, but I can assure you he was one of the few cool persons in my hometown. My hometown is a place I tend not to think about too much, except these days I receive rather bad news from my family there. I don't know how but somehow his name surfaced out of the corners of my memory tonight, I Googled him, and yeepee! He has a blog.
More than one actually, so you can navigate through them and practice your French. If you never learned French, don't panic! Because Thierry is an artist, his blog is heavily image-oriented. There are pictures about the graphic design of 1940s Penguin books, bridal shop storefronts, a post about Desiree Palmen, a children book that is a collaboration between his wife and his daughter (it's adorable), the history of recorded sounds, and his own work, which I understand is now performance/sound-oriented, etc.

There's plenty for you to discover on his main blog, and there's also a beautiful second blog about the house he and his family have had build.
I'm posting the link for that blog as well because I'm certain my architects friends are going to love looking at it, and also see how the building process and techniques differ in France. Note his house is made of wood, which is normal here in the United States, but very uncommon in France (new houses are commonly made of concrete and cinder blocks, old house of stone).

So I'm happy to introduce my readers to Thierry's blogs, and I'd like to encourage you as well to look at his list of links, there's plenty for you to discover. And for those of you who thinks, hey, he's an unsung hero of cultural education, please note he keeps on influencing younger minds as he now teaches at the very same fine art school through which I met him. He blogs about teaching as well, and if you look at his posts about teaching, you will also witness a French culinary phenomenon that I don't recommend you try at home: in France, you can buy baguette sandwiches stuffed with fries. Yes, it's gross. To recover from the shock, go to his Cactus Press website and buy yourself some nice present, or prepare the holiday season by ordering the whole back catalog for your family.
Merci qui? Merci Frenchy!

* dear erudite reader, who is the artist who ate Clement Greenberg's Art and Culture? The most accurate response will get the right to buy me a meal. I'm unemployed, after all.

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