Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fine Art or Decorative Art? It Makes a Difference!

Made of Wood.  How Can This Not Be Fine Art?

Three things happened to me when I lived in Paris off and on for a decade in the 1990's.  First of all, I sat at the feet of Pierre Ramond and sucked up all the valuable knowledge he was happy to throw at me.  Secondly, I got to meet many of the most important furniture and museum conservators as well as discover their suppliers, like Patrick George.  However, the most significant aspect of those travels was being accredited by ecole Boulle to receive their students in my workshop for a "stage" of work.

"The Shack"  by Patrice Lejeune

In total, I received 18 different marquetry and ebeniste students, and each one was a valuable experience for both of us.  They got to work in an American workshop.  They got to live in San Diego, which is, in my opinion, one of the nicest places in the country to live.  I got to speak French and teach as I worked.  It was wonderful, but terminated suddenly when Pierre retired in 2000.

"White Cockatoo" by Patrice Lejeune

I had just about given up on having any other workers in the shop at that time.  After all, I had worked alone for 30 years and I had a comfortable routine.

"Gaetane" by Patrice Lejeune
Then I was contacted by Patrice Lejeune, who had already graduated from ecole Boulle and was working in Paris. He had just gotten married and they both wanted to leave France and live in America.  He had heard about me from one of his friends at school, who had spent a stage here.  When he wrote to me, my immediate concern was could I afford to hire him and what was the process for a work visa (H1-B)?

"No Child Left Behind" by Patrice Lejeune ($50 shown for scale only)

The short answer about the visa is that it was time consuming and expensive.  Believe me.  First of all, I had to prove the "equivalence" of his education and that he would not replace an American worker who could do the same work.  As to his education, we spent a lot of money hiring a professional search team and they could only find one school in the country which would provide his education: the American School of French Marquetry in San Diego!

"3ism" by Patrice Lejeune
As to him putting an American out of work, we were required to post the job requirements in many different places.  We got a lot of calls.  However, the job requirements were that they know how to make and restore French marquetry, and are proficient in French polishing and traditional restoration.  Nearly every applicant said the same thing: "I can learn that!"  Sorry, but I needed experience in the field and Patrice had already both the education and the professional experience.

"Four Different Aspects of a Nebulous Thought" by Patrice Lejeune

He now has his green card and is a full partner in the business.  He has really contributed to our success and the level of our work has been dramatically increased, since we both criticize each other's work and we are both obsessive about perfection.  Sometimes at the expense of cost and deadlines...

"Dance Muse" by Patrice Lejeune

There is one thing that Patrice has done here that I would never have thought of.  He has made modern marquetry art.  Lots of it and in many different styles.  He has also pushed the process of marquetry into a new direction with new techniques that he developed.  He has also won awards and sold several of his pieces.

"Circle of Life" by Patrice Lejeune

In France, where marquetry has a long and respected tradition, there are often shows in different parts of the country which feature marquetry "art" and these shows are well attended by the public.  Readers of this blog should know by now that I consider marquetry, and specifically Painting in Wood, to be a fine art.  Unfortunately, the history of this field in this country is that, unless you glue it onto something functional, it is not appreciated.  That means that if it hangs on the wall it never sells.

"Cherry Blossom" by Patrice Lejeune

That is a crime.  Art made with wood as a medium is just as valid as art made with oil paint, or water colors or chalk.   It takes just as much talent.  It should be considered, at least, as "mixed media" which is a legitimate form of art, and can be quite valuable. In my opinion, marquetry art is a fine art.

"3ism #2" by Patrice Lejeune

That is why I thought it was time to post some of Patrice's work.  After all, it hangs on the walls of the workshop and school, and I get to enjoy it every day.  I thought I would share it with you.

"Summer in the City" by Patrice Lejeune

In particular, he has developed a series of contemporary mosaic designs which are abstract.  They are new and colorful and evoke images of modern life.

"Tide at Torrey Pines" by Patrice Lejeune

Finally, in case you like dogs as much as I do, here is a portrait of a dog in wood.

"Orpheo" by Patrice Lejeune


JC said...

Holy crap! Patrice is even more talented than I had previously thought. I particularly love "The Shack".

W. Patrick Edwards said...

When he made the shack he made 4 copies, each one with the same shack but different treatment of the clouds and sky. There are three methods he used: the shack is piece by piece, the grass and bushes are a mastic of wood shavings and glue, and the sky and clouds are layers of veneers which are partially sanded through.

That is why the sky is different in each one.

The shack is one of his most popular works.

Angostura Bitters said...

yes i've been enjoying your last few posts regarding Mr. Patrice's work. I especially love the 4 part series on nebulous thoughts.

has he found a gallery or agent to help find buyers? May I be so bold as to ask if he's interested in selling any of his work?

Thank you.
Adam of Oakland

W. Patrick Edwards said...

He has sold several pieces over the years, most notably the Shack, the bird and the tulip, as well as a few of his contemporary abstracts.

All of these sales were through direct contact or through woodworking and art shows.

He has no agent or gallery representing him at this point, and that is one of the reasons I decided to post examples of his work. I believe he could justify making more art if he actually had a venue to sell.

I will tell him tomorrow to contact you.

Thank you.

Renewable Community Power said...

Are the really fine white highlights on the tulip also from sanding through a layer - some of them just seem too small to be separate cut pieces?

Angostura Bitters said...

Thank you Mr Edwards, I wish to clarify that I am not a gallery owner or dealer (looking at my previous comment might have made that ambiguous).

Adam of Oakland

Patrice Lejeune said...

Thank you Patrick, this is a pretty cool post.
I usually sell directly at the workshop where it is on display at the school.
I also participated to different shows where I had some success selling but also very good critics which is always encouraging.
Until we find a agent or a gallery it is sold here, and frankly it is really nice to have a direct connection with the collector.
The "fine white highlights" you see on the tulip are from a bigger gray pieces that had been sand through to just leave some of those appearing to give a more natural look.
Thank you for your kind comments, it is always appreciated.

Anonymous said...



Chuck said...

Patrick and Patrice,
Thank you for posting these elegant works of art. I have looked at them each day since they were posted and still cannot find the right words to express my admiration without sounding stupid. I find myself wishing I could see the works "up close and personal" to get a feel for the techniques used.

"The Shack" is in a class by itself. And I find "Tide at Torrey Pines" exquisite and conveys motion and presence, It very loosely calls Jackson Pollock to mind but without the dribbles.

We are very pleased that you posted these. Please convey our admiration and comments to Patrice who we hope to meet one day.

Chuck Walker