By Mic Porte
I love Paris, the city where people will stand attentively in line for hours to view an art exposition. Galleries, book stores and theaters are always packed. In France, food is art, clothing is art, life is art, and art is in their hearts from the beginning of recorded time– think of the beautiful Lascaux prehistoric cave paintings.
French children are taught art appreciation from day one and it reflects in the architecture and design and lifestyle all around the country. Visual art. The French invented photography and cinema to further the reach of art for the modern world. They are not afraid to expand the boundaries of acceptability, always challenging our perspective of the world, from Impressionism to Dadaism.
The 2014 Spring Equinox heralds the arrival of one of their own, Prune Nourry, young woman sculptress and multimedia artist, and her astonishing and powerful army of Terracotta Daughters, come to Paris to change the world. There is one word to describe this art show: Awesome.
Le Centquatre (The 104), a popular art and culture center in the northeast of Paris will host for three months the army of Terracotta Daughters. The Gallery Magda Dansyz is presenting until May 10 a collection of complementary pieces created by Ms. Nourry to complete her project, including an intriguing look at the process of molding the clay and bronzes figures.
That spring weekend is bound to be remembered as pivotal in history, as it will see the election of the first woman mayor of the city of Paris, and Prune Nourry’s army of art daughters beginning their world tour. Since their inauguration in Shanghai in 2013, they have opened their terracotta souls to Europe and the world, filled with hope for the future.
Ms. Nourry, whose works are inspired by social and bio-medical issues, turned her eye and heart toward China for this project. China, powerful and people-full, strives to balance demographics like a tightrope walker. Their one-child policy for the last generation, coupled with modern science, has left a shortfall of 120 million women because of selective abortion reflecting a traditional preference for male heirs.
It is an imbalance that has grave implications for the future of their country and the world. Testimony to this absence are the millions of young men seeking spouses. Paradoxically, the scarcity of women today is assuring them a social worth that they have never as yet had.
Embracing the iconic imagery of the Terra Cotta Warriors, Prune Nourry co-operated with Chinese sociologists and craft artisans in the factories of Xi’an, home of the 20 sq mile, 2,200 year old funerary complex, to create over the past two years this company of 108 life sized statues of schoolgirls. Ms. Nourry sculpted 8 originals modeled after Chinese girls from a rural orphanage under the protection of the world aid association, Madaífu.
The number 8 is an auspicious number in China, as well as being a symbol for eternity. The craftsmen of Xi’an then molded separate parts of the 8 originals and created permutations of the statues to enable the unique individuality of each clay daughter following the ancient techniques. The effect is stunning.
More surprising, after a limited world tour, the statues will return to China, to be buried for a generation, in the same vicinity of Xi’an as the Terra Cotta Warriors where they will remain as social statement, experimental art project and promise for the future.
The Daughters’ burial echoes classic creation myths which depict the creation of human kind from the mud of the earth, where humans return after death as dust and ashes. It also represents the ephemeral quality of life captured in art.
The diversity of themes that emerge from this art work are as complex as life itself: individuality vs collectivity, creation vs death, choice vs inevitability, men vs women, science vs nature, control vs chaos, tradition vs the future. The scope and scale of this art conception is awe-inspiring. Ms.Nourry, like an army general herself, has organized a world team to realize this project.
A master sculptress, Ms. Nourry, crafted her creations with that magic that gives song to stone. Behind the stoic expressions of the girl statues shine hope, innocence, even a sense of fun, as if instead of marching to tradition, they will suddenly start laughing and jumping rope.
Collaborating with the local craftsmen of Xi’an, Ms. Nourry learned many techniques of classic Chinese sculpture, and in exchange, she asked them to “break out of the mold ” and become artists themselves to craft each statue in a unique way.
Prune Nourry approaches each project with open lines of communications and co-operation, talking and learning from locals on every level, seeking to integrate her work into the culture that she is exploring. She strives not to shock, but to gently remind the people of themselves with their own iconography. Soon after the Shanghai opening, the Government of China relaxed the one child policy.
Inspirational sponsorship from the Gallery Magda Danysz, along with world collectors, and a dedicated global crew, lead by studio director, Gaelle Porte, have helped Ms. Nourry achieve her vision. Early sponsors, like Elizabeth Krief-Mandaro, who helped finance the project from the beginning, are delighted with the public reception of this art work.
At the opening in Magda’s Shanghai gallery in September 2013, collectors agreed to finance the continuing education of the girl models as a condition of the sale of the statues. After Paris, the 108 life sized statues will travel to Geneva, then to the new world– New York in September.
If you have the chance, if you happen to be traveling to one of these cities this year, this art installation is a wonder to behold, so don’t miss it.
A documentary film is in the making, with excerpts online, but nothing can equal the sheer magnitude and beauty of seeing this installation in person.
Seeking to value the role of women in male-dominated cultures, Ms. Nourry is the commander of an idea, enlisting every woman on the planet, and her company of Terracotta Daughters to be on the move, to change the world with art.
Micaela Shafer Porte is a San Diego beach town native, a Pacific Beach activist, and artist-illustrator.