“"Discover the Unexpected" is a project I created as part of the SCAD Alumni Atelier in Lacoste, France during the summer of 2023. SCAD is an art and design university based in Savannah, Georgia, in the United States, and its satellite campus in Lacoste, France is located in The Luberon Valley of Provence. One the first things that struck me upon visiting the medieval village of Lacoste was how flowers seemed to grow in the most impossible of circumstances – fragrant oleander growing along rocky walls, bright red poppies in the middle of a stone path, wildflowers blossoming everywhere and anywhere, and of course lavender.
I was immediately charmed by these and all the other little discoveries I made walking around the village and exploring. As I considered what type of project to develop for the Alumni Atelier, I began to think of how my work as a public artist and muralist often allows people to make unexpected discoveries in their everyday commutes, by incorporating bold color onto walls in residential neighborhoods and urban cityscapes. For this project, I wanted to channel the same energy. However, since Lacoste is a historic village with protected architecture, it made it difficult to consider painting a mural. Where and how would it be feasible to create public artwork in such a place? This led to thinking about viable alternatives for a material that could function as a canvas. I decided upon the idea of using plywood to make giant illustrated cut-outs that would interact with the existing architecture in the village. Discussing with the SCAD Lacoste team, we felt it was important to direct and focus visitors to the small street of Rue Basse, where a new fashion museum recently opened. The street has been overlooked in the past and this was the perfect opportunity to create a special project for the area, and encourage visitors to stop by the museum.
This installation is consists of two parts: The Main Installation and Illustrative Wayfinding. Both are placed at various points on the same street.
For the Main Installation, giant wooden cut-outs of flowers give the impression of sprouting from the grey cement and stone. Placed in a ground-level niche of a building, the spot provides the perfect setting for this unlikely "garden". Above the main niche, two smaller niches in the wall are used to accommodate my signature female characters – in bright pink and yellow, they wear colorful sunglasses and wild hairstyles. They observe and enjoy their garden space, encouraging visitors to stop for a photo. Freestanding flowers are layered behind the female characters to create a tableau effect.
My Illustrative Wayfinding uses quirky and playful phrases in French and English, and are cut and painted from 3mm particle board. Lettering was added to the shapes by using vinyl adhesive stickers. “L’eté te va bien!” (”Summer Looks Good on You!”), “Art This Way”, “Laissez le bon temps rouler!” (”Let the Good Times Roll”), “Les Beaux Jours Arrivent” (“Good Times are Coming”), and “Flower Power” are a few of the expressions that are used to lend a light-hearted mood to a walk down Rue Basse. Shapes consist of colorful arrows, a pointing hand, local flowers, a smiling mouth, a big pencil, and other illustrated objects. I strategically placed the finished signs at eye level or lower to allow visitors to easily interact with the pieces. I also installed a few pieces on higher windows, balconies, and windowsills of buildings on the street to encourage the eye to move around and to play with scale and the architecture of the street.
I drew my designs directly on large sheets of 8mm plywood and then cut them out with a jigsaw. After a coat of primer, they were hand painted with wood paint. Support stands and wooden gussets were added so that the pieces could be freestanding or could hang easily from pipes or railings.
One of my goals with this project was to bridge the gap between the University and the local community. In this case, public art is available and accessible to everyone: University students, visitors and locals alike. I wanted to engage people and offer them a sense of surprise and delight as they walked the village streets.