photo credit: Le Carrefour Européen du Patchwork
photo credit: Dorothee Schwolgin
As an adopted child, my inner life was full of fantasy and musing about my origins. I loved the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, especially the scene where Charlie blasts through a glass skylight in flight over terracotta rooftops of a German village. The scene stirred my imagination, interest in my own German heritage, and my desire to someday see those very red rooftops myself. In the subsequent 40 years I never made it to Europe, until now. I can't help but believe that my solo exhibit at Le Carrefour Européen du Patchwork is my own fantastic flight, a homecoming, and a childhood dream realized.
September 8, 2018
Amtrak Mt Pleasant, Iowa to Chicago > scam taxi ride > hotel strike at the Palmer House > relocated to another hotel > dinner at Italian Villages restaurant
September 9, 2018
Breakfast at Tiera Piano (at the Chicago Art Institute) with my beloved first art professor, Darlene Fahrenkrog (Concordia College, River Forest, Illinois 1985-86) and her husband > Blue Line el(evated) train to O'Hare airport > sleepless overnight flight to Frankfurt, Germany
September 10, 2018
Arrived in Frankfurt, Germany > 3+-hour ride to La Vancelle, France with our driver, Ramone > greeted at Hotel Elisabeth with a handwritten note taped to the open door of the hotel > walked through the village to the town church that's dedicated to the infant victims of WWI and WWII from La Vancelle > ended the very long day with one (of many)
September 11, 2018
Met Lysianne Held, Exhibit Manager I've worked with only by email for a year > drove in villages clearly platted before cars were invented (wonderful!) > hung my show in 8 hours with the help of my partner > came "home" to the hotel dog > had picnic dinner in park just up the hill from the village chapel at 9:00PM with food purchased from what became our favorite grocery store, the Super U, in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines
September 12, 2018
Left early and stopped at a boulangerie in Ste-Marie-aux-Mines for the most amazing plum tart en route to Reims (about 4 hours by car, during which we passed through the fields of Verdun and saw many WWI memorials along the roadside) > visited the truly awe-inspiring Reims Cathedral > ate lunch at an outdoor cafe with cathedral facade only yards away > safely back home to the bucolic view out of the hotel window > ended the day with another picnic dinner from the Super U
September 13, 2018
Opening day for of Le Carrefour Européen du Patchwork, my exhibition was hosted in the beautiful town of Sainte-Croix-aux-Mines >only exhibit I've ever had with a beer/wine/pretzel tent and other wonderful food vendors > was blown away by the attendance (20,000 people) met folks from France, USA, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Kenya, Italy, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Finland, and Russia > an enthusiastic, sophisticated, and appreciative audience all-around
September 14, 2018
A misty morning in Val d'Argent (Silver Valley) > more throngs of people at the exhibit > took the autobahn, and got to practice my European parking skills on a day trip to Baden Baden, Germany to relax in the waters of the Friedrichsbad Roman/Irish baths > came back to hotel for a delightful dinner (had my first escargot!) with my longtime friend and "Auntie Mame" (Jacquie Rickman) and her friend Suzi who came to see the show from Chicago
September 15, 2018
Gave my presentation, "A Piece of Me," to a small but mighty gathering > reunited with a dear friend from Germany, Dorothee Schwolgin, who I hadn't seen since 1983, when she was an exchange student at my high school (Quincy, Illinois) > made new friends from Australia (Linda Collins) and Belgium (Martine Poehlman) > ended the day with another wondeful dinner in Colmar, France with Doro, her friend Barbara, Jacquie, and Suzi
photo credit: Dorothee Schwolgin
September 16, 2018
Last day of the exhibit > took some time to wander around Ste-Croix-aux-Mines, meet a few other artists, and see their work > featured in a regional newspaper article > was bid a fond "au revoir" by the lovely volunteer pages who staffed the exhibit hall, all in tourism studies > until next time, beautiful Alsace...
I am so glad to have had this experience. It was one of the best in my life. So many dreams were realized in just this one trip - which was full of surprises and delight. I was so impressed by the French people's kindness and their laid-back approach to problems. To meet first- and second-generation children of parents who suffered the horrors of WWII was very moving, along with traveling through Verdun and seeing the roadside WWI memorials. War is not the abstraction for Europeans that it is for most Americans. It gave me a deep appreciation for what they suffered, for the strength of their culture as expressed in food and kindness, and for their enduring appreciation of the common good. The food was beyond words and made with so much love and care that I could taste in every bite. I am so thankful to the Le Carrefour Européen du Patchwork staff, and the staff of the Hotel Elisabeth who made us feel like family. I only wish I'd had more time to explore the area...so until next time...