Happening upon Art Nouveau

Firebird by Niki de Saint Phalle

Firebird by Niki de Saint Phalle

Characterized by eccentric features with an expressive use of symbolism and rich ornamentation, no straight lines or flat surfaces, with primarily organic themes, “Art Nouveau” appeared on the scene at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

Yesterday while I was in Charlotte for a Tourism Ireland luncheon, I took time to look around the neighborhood.  I had decided on the drive down that I would take time to see the Mint Museum.  I had an hour to kill before lunch so I parked at the Westin on College Street and walked around the corner to find I was only a block from ALL the wonderful museums and performance venues.

I took this selfie outside the Bechtler Museum on South Tryon Street.  After lunch, I went back and toured the only museum open on a Monday, much to my chagrin.  I saw several modern artists’ work at the Bechtler.  The selfie piece is called L’Oiseau de Feu sur l’Arche  or Firebird (literally, Bird of Fire on an Arch) by Niki de Saint Phalle. It is 17 feet tall with 7,000 mirrors. Andreas Bechtler, Charlotte resident and chief patron for the museum, bought this piece and unveiled it November 2, 2009 as a key icon for the arts in downtown Charlotte.

Born in France in 1930, Niki de Saint Phalle grew up in America and lived all over Europe.  Late in life, she claimed California as her home, where she died in 2002.  Mother, grandmother, sculptor, painter, actress and model, her art is boldly expressive.

I found out while reading about her work that she was influenced by my favorite Spanish artist, Antoni Gaudi, a celebrated architect with mosaic sculptures and buildings all over Barcelona. Here is a picture of his Guell Park, the very definition of Art Nouveau.

Antoni Gaudi's Guell Park in Barcelona Spain

Antoni Gaudi’s Guell Park in Barcelona Spain

I also read how popular Niki’s work is in San Diego, California.  Then I remembered taking several pictures of these two sculptures, Nikigator and “Poet and Muse” outside the Mingei International Museum, when I zoomed through Balboa Park last month.  Duh!!! Light bulbs go off!!!  It was her work.  Things started connecting in my brain.

Suddenly I remembered being in Nice, France several years ago and admiring a sculpture of Miles Davis outside the Hotel Negresco. It was a voluminous brightly colored tile and mirrored mosaic of the musician. Her work again!

I personally love highly saturated color and I love, love, love happy art.  There’s enough drab and drama in the world.  Make me smile!  Gaudi and Phalle are my inspiration!  I’m collecting broken tiles and colored glass to build my own sculptures.  Watch out back yard!

Balboa Park

Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Poet and Muse” in San Diego


Nikigator by Niki de Saint Phalle at Balboa Park, San Diego, California

Nikigator by Niki de Saint Phalle at Balboa Park, San Diego, California

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Penelope Moseley