The Pursuit of Happiness
The Pursuit of Happiness is the first exhibition in the United States of the work of Bordeaux artist Arnaud Faugas. Mr. Faugas is well known in France for his watercolors celebrating the country's most renowned wine region, as well as the history of his elegant city, including its special relationship with the United States beginning in the 18th century. The Pursuit of Happiness reflects the joys of life from the fruit of the vine to music to celebrations of history. Through his use of vibrant color, imaginative images and a whimsical flair, Mr. Faugas exudes happiness and freedom through painting and Stanford in Washington is delighted to share his creations, which will inevitably enchant audiences on this side of the Atlantic as they have in France.
In the universe of Faugas, there are often multiple connected tales being told in clever vignettes woven together in larger works.
Excerpts from A Conversation with Arnaud Faugas
with Pierre de Ferluc
Arnaud Faugas, tell us about your career path.
After a literary baccalaureate in Bordeaux, I followed my father's advice and began law school; however, I soon realized this was not to be my vocation, and decided to try my luck in Paris, where some of my friends had gone. As I parked my moped in front of the Cours Florent School of Theater, I let myself be dragged onstage. I never burned up the stage, but did discover a great deal about the expression of feelings, something new for me. From one stage to another, I left Paris for London, there to learn the language and become familiar with new cultures. After London came New York, where everything is possible! A few friends and I opened a restaurant on Martha's Vineyard. We worked mostly in the summer, which allowed us plenty of time to travel for several months each year. We would cross paths in London, meet up in Peking by way of Moscow, the world was truly our oyster. Then, ten years later, it was time to return to Bordeaux.
You are self-taught; how did you discover that you knew how to draw? Do you have any particular influences?
I still wonder what led me, one day in 1992, to go into my neighborhood newsstand and buy a sketchpad, a pen, a bottle of ink and a child's watercolor set; and with these instruments to produce my first drawings. Two years later I had my first exhibit at the Cité Mondiale in Bordeaux, and haven't stopped exhibiting since then, several times per year.
I didn't make my fortune overseas, but I brought back with me a precious memory of reading The New Yorker magazine. Its unusual tone, which mixes literature and illustration, freed my approach to subjects and helped me to find my own style. I fell under the spell of Hirschfeld and Steinberg, and their descriptions of American life. Although not wanting to re-create New York in Bordeaux, I wanted to treat my city as though it were a living being, vibrant and full of spirit.
What would you like to say to us with your paintings? Do you have a particular message?
My drawings are pretty talkative by themselves. If you stop in front of them they will tell you: take some time (for a coffee on a terrace), start a discussion (with a passer-by that you meet), smile (at the blue sky, at the sun), grab yourself in color, fantasy, lightness. If I had to give a message it would be: "Know how to take hold of the colorful moments life offers us." There are a lot more of them than we think. We have to be able to take off the glasses that we sometimes wear that make us see everything in dull shades of gray.
What attracted me about his art is that it encapsulates several very important aspects of Bordeaux and the Aquitaine region--wine, architecture and history.
Bordeaux, of course, is the capital of the largest fine wine growing region in the world. And, in the last 20 years, the city has been revived under the current mayor, Alain Juppé, who among other projects has cleaned up and illuminated its many architectural treasures. Both of these are much in evidence in Arnaud's work. For me he manages to capture both the spirit and the essence of Bordeaux's wine and the city itself. There is much about the French "je ne sais quoi" and their "joie de vivre" in his art that everyone can take pleasure in. There is also considerable history between Bordeaux and the United States, which Arnaud often references. Bordeaux was our first consular post in the world, due in large part to the fact that much of the French assistance to the American Revolution was channeled through its port. Lafayette also sailed from the area, first on La Victoire and then on L'Hermione, to fight in our revolution. Thomas Jefferson visited Bordeaux in 1787, when he was our representative to France, and he helped to instigate our long love affair with wines from that region. During WWI Bordeaux was the debarcation point for hundreds of thousands of American troops, training there before being sent to the front. And, Bordeaux is a sister city of Los Angeles.