Saturday, July 07, 2007

Magical memories of Marc Chagall

120 years ago today, Moishe Shagal, the artist who would become better known as Marc Chagall, was born in the town of Vitebsk in the then Russian Empire. His long life spanned years of revolution, world war, and great artistic movements. His art used vivid color and iconic imagery to evoke a deep spirituality. He painted in his own language of symbols and metaphor to portray a world filled with meaning. I have two small but personal connections to Chagall's work.

His ceramic mosaic "Four Seasons" graces downtown Chicago in what is now known as Chase Tower Plaza (once better known as First National Plaza, it's undergone a few name changes over the years due to various bank buyouts and mergers). I first saw and admired the large stone wall covered with small colored tiles at the age of 14, when I came as a tourist to the city that would eventually become my home. It was a special trip for me, because I was the solo accompanyist for my father on his business trip, having left my siblings and mother behind in Maryland. The memories from that visit will always hold a magical place in my heart, and whenever I am in the vicinity of Chagall's mosaic now, I make sure to pay homage.

My other personal encounter with the works of Chagall was on a visit to Nice in 2000. I had gotten a surprise last-minute invitation to a college friend's wedding taking place on the French Riviera. I don't get many excuses to fly off to that part of the world, so I accepted the chance invite. It was a fun adventure and a very happy time for me, embarking as I was on the start of my own personal partnership. Although there is much to see in the region, which is home to Cannes, Menton (site of the wedding) and Monaco, I was particularly drawn to the working class character of Nice. The city, it turned out, is also home to the Musée Nationale Message Biblique Marc Chagall, which focuses on his biblical paintings and stained glass. Viewing the art there was one of the highlights of the trip, and Chagall again became entwined with very pleasant memories.
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