"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in Véronique Mesnager (2)


"I Love You Touch My Pieces" (Surrealist Translation)

Artwork © 2014 Madame Moustache. Additional art © 2014 Pole Ka.

After a three-month break for other writing projects, we're back. Here is an interview in French, by writer Sophie Pujas, of the collagist street artist, Madame Moustache. (Thanks, Veronique Mesnager, for the link). 

Although we understand the French, I wanted to translate it (quickly) for those Paris Play readers interested in wonderful street art, especially collage. So I ran the article through Google Translate. There is something surreal and delightful to us in this fractured translation.


Richard's photographs were taken on a recent morning outing with Madame and her paste-up buddy, Fred le Chevalier, that began with a civilized morning espresso in an 11th arrondissement café. Madame requested that we not show her face.

Here you go:


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Madame Moustache: "I do not pretend to be outlawed" 
Art - Street Art

Madame Moustache, currently exposed to Sète in the K-Live festival, poetizes streets surrealist collages perfume and retro. 

Where are you from?

I come from a family of artists. My grandfather and my father were painters ... I have always refused to do. Although I've always drawn, I did not feel my shoulders to carry the family tradition ... I was an actress before becoming a designer. I made small drawings, collages, travel diaries when I was traveling, where again I stuck stuff ... I started to collage, because technically, with drawing, I could not express what I wanted. At the same time, I was hanging out in Paris with lots of graffiti. I made my first collage to the Canal Saint-Martin there is a little more than three years. It was a big monkey with an elephant's trunk. It is so fine that it has done me good, I found it easy. It was not crooked, I asked where I wanted ... I started small, and bigger and bigger.

Artwork © 2014 Madame Moustache

Artwork © 2014 Madame Moustache. Additional art © 2014 Pole Ka.

Artwork © 2014 Madame Moustache

Designer, was already an appropriation of space. He left something in your street work? 

I realize that yes. Especially since recently, I rotated on many objects - things that I can touch to act on it, slightly changing the meaning. In the same way that I am influenced by the images of Epinal. I always like this is a bit hidden, what does not discover at first glance. Hence the fact of choosing objects can I divert, lit and extinguished lamps, build boxes ... I love being surprised. When I like an artist, I like to be surprised that he changed support, colors ... I hate boredom, and I hate that I think of Lady ... So I try to diversify although I think I'll stick still in the street - I love it too. 


Why this retro universe?

I grew up in the workshop of my grandfather, full of old things, and I had the chance to let me touch it. Brushes, palettes, I tripatouillais ... There was a large buffet in his studio, under a large canopy, and I see myself with a book of gold leaf in hand, I had dug there, and he let me browse the sun ... I've always been in the permissive handling is also why I love you touch my pieces! I've kept this messy side - there is always something behind ... I'm very attached to the nostalgia, the taste of childhood ...

But it is a nostalgia plays with irony, offset ...

Always. I do not like people who take themselves seriously. I can not imagine work without me laugh. So I feel that people are laughing looking at my items. Since I put on the street, I need to create something. I did not want to stick something and people do not understand. Even if there is a double or triple meaning in one of my collages, I feel that the first reaction of passers-by or smile. They feel that there is something funny. I stick express day to see the reactions. I just stuck the night, at first, and it did not fit me at all. I am not a vandal, I do not claim to be outlawed. I claim nothing, if not tolerance or questions. I like to discuss, even with some who do not. I understand - I needed something sticky on the street!


Artwork © 2014 Madame Moustache
Why the question of identity, such as you take to heart?

Since forever, I asked a lot of questions about it. I think it goes back to a childhood trauma. I had very long hair and one of my friends asked me to play at the hairdresser. I thought she would pretend, and she cut my hair flush ... For several months I was treated boy! I hang with a lot of guys, I do not let me piss ... My work is also related to the fact that today I do not understand how anyone can still judge people on their identity or sexual preferences By what right? I think we're both in us, a little masculine, a little feminine. It is not necessarily predestined to love someone of the opposite sex, we have the right to try both, to test ... You brought me in tolerance.

Mustache with which you sign, it is the emblem of this claim?

Of course! I love bias borders. I like from saying stuff man, or vice versa this very girly picture: a very big makeup guy who rips the heart by saying ultra sensitive stuff you. I really like to mix the two, while trying not tired, not systematic or become redundant. In my cultural journey, I was also influenced by the punk that my brother loved or images transgender 80s.

Where are the images that you use for collages?

Magazines of the early twentieth century until the 70 maximum. After, colors and materials change. I like to keep some obsolete thing. I like the idea of ​​craftsmanship, this is a little damaged, we do not know quite where the image has been edited or not. This is still a story of transgression: transgression of the time, the style ...


Artwork © 2014 Madame Moustache. Additional art © 2014 Fred le Chevalier.

Artwork © 2014 Madame Moustache. Additional art © 2014 Fred le Chevalier.
You feel close to a certain tradition of collage - surreal or Dada, for example?

Not at all. Of course, I was in the museum when I was little, and surely I have certain things. But I purposely avoided looking at, I do not want to be influenced. I do not want to dada! When I look at the pastels I did at one time, I think it looks the Chaissac. I did not do it consciously, but I had seen too kid because my parents loved ... And I do not want to spit out something that I was taught there a thousand years! I am afraid of being influenced, but also to compare me. I like to go see something else feed me art that does not look at all like what I do. I love art brut, for example, or photo.

Why decline on objects?

If it runs, is that it touches. I sell very expensive products, not as bags or serigraphs, so that it circulates. I do not pretend to live ...


Artwork © 2014 Fred le Chevalier
You feel in dialogue with other street artists?

Especially with Fred Knight [Fred Le Chevalier]. It much glue to one side of the other. Suddenly our dialogue works, and we're both big on words. He and I, we are very tortured, and is found on many points, such as the genre. But I do not necessarily seek this kind of dialogue. At the moment I tend to go to places where there is nothing. I'm a bit tired of places where garbage, when you arrive, there is already stuff loosely bonded, and finally where you can not see anything, there are more surprise. At first I tried a bit of dialogue with what was there, now it interests me less. And then I make bigger and bigger, so I need walls where there is nothing!


Artwork © 2014 Madame Moustache



Corps Blanc Dans La Rue: A Night with Mesnager and Mescal


Date night! The plan: we’ll walk a half-hour to the Art Jingle gallery in the Marais where Jérôme Mesnager’s show is opening. Richard suggests a dinner afterwards at a favorite Mexican restaurant just half a block away, “even though it’s not Sunday night.”

It happens so often now that it no longer surprises me. I’ll be thinking of something and without a word exchanged, he’s on the same wavelength.

I’d been musing on the odd resonance between France and Arizona. So many friends and acquaintances who grew up in Arizona have ended up living in Paris or southern France, or visit as often as twice a year. Mort, Edith and Don, Amy, Audrey and I and others. Yet Arizona and France seem to have so little in common.

Growing up in Arizona, my family went out for Mexican food every Sunday night. It was a sacrament. Mexican food is childhood in the Sonoran desert to me.

We squeeze into the elevator, Richard sideways with all his camera equipment in a pack on his back.

“You look like a camel,” I say.

He makes a noise exactly like a camel, a talent I wasn’t aware he had. All the way down to the ground floor, he groan-bleats like a camel. I’m laughing imagining our gardien rushing to the elevator door in alarm.



We set out at 5 in a steady rain, laughing at the unlikelihood that we’d be walking half an hour anywhere in the rain if we still lived in L.A. Our only concession to the weather is the choice of a less scenic route across the Pont de Sully and up Blvd. Henri IV to rue de Turenne—it’s faster. 

We are the first to arrive, Richard’s preference so that he can photograph the artwork “without a bunch of people standing in the way.”



A young woman in blonde braids shows me around the gallery, describing each painting, including its colors. As a former art dealer, I’m tickled by this approach. A blue background, you say?

In comes a Frenchman who circles the gallery, then asks me which painting is my favorite.



Coup de foudre,” I say. We examine a brown canvas on which Mesnager has painted one of his corps blanc, reacting in awe to a small yellow plaque that bears the image of a man struck by lightning--a sign warning of high voltage, which we see often on Paris electrical switching boxes. 

Richard had chosen that image in 1999 as the cover of his second chapbook, a book of love poems, written after we’d both been hit by the coup de foudre of love.



“Buy it!” says the Frenchman.

I’d already checked the price. “We only buy paintings before the artist is famous,” I say.

He corrects my French: “Célèbre,” he says.

Ah, oui, merci.”

Other people float into the gallery. Everyone seems to be in the lightest of spirits, as if they’ve inhaled the joy of Mesnager’s buoyant dancing figures.

The artist blows in, an ebullient elfin face, faded red jeans, champagne spirit.



Seated at a round table in the corner, on which are a few books of the fifty-two-year-old artist’s work, including his autobiography, I survey the paintings and the people. He takes a seat, and one by one, I watch the gallery-goers come up to him to pay their respects.

Jérôme Mesnager (the "s" is silent) is one of the original modern Paris street artists. He began in 1980, and created his first painted white figure in January 1983 as “a symbol of light, power, and peace.” They have since leapt continents, his work can now be seen on walls around the world. There is even an image of his Corps Blanc climbing up the Great Wall of China. Stories tumble from him, he is entertaining his fans. Men unfurl works of his on paper they’ve had for years, and ask him to sign.



Richard, wearing black, is dancing around the room, a corps noir, capturing every image and face.

An odd sort of date, huh? For us, though, these luminous figures perfectly capture our own joy at arriving in Paris two years and two months ago. We found this image on a wall on rue Mouffetard, long before we knew Mesnager or his seminal role in Paris street art, which Richard photographed for our second Paris Play post, “The Bell of Light."

And we’ve used his work in other posts, here, here and here, for example.

The champagne is flowing, the gallery buzzing. Jérôme selects a brush from a can, dips it into a pot of white paint, and approaches the inside gallery window. He lifts his arm and with sure strokes—les bras, les mains, les fesses, les cuisses, pieds, tête, oiseau—transforms ebullient spirits into ecstatic image. People crowd the sidewalk, snapping photos from the outside. I stand behind the easels and watch.



Richard brings me a glass of champagne, and introduces me to Véronique. She is Jérôme’s older sister, and a more protective, loving sister you cannot imagine. In his autobiography, he writes that she was the first appreciator of his art, and that he gave her his very first creation. It’s impossible to go to an important opening by any Paris street artist now, not just her brother’s, and not run into Véronique Mesnager, blessing other artists and supporting the growing community.


Véronique and her brother Jérôme 

Richard has his photographs. We glance at each other: we’re starving! The restaurant is open, and it’s authentic Mexican food, the way it’s made in Mexico City.

We communicate with the waiter in a ridiculous mix of French and English and un poco de español

The guacamole is one of the only two we’ve found in Paris that tastes like real guacamole, the chips so fresh they’re fragrant. We sit on a banquette next to the bar, and talk about the dark and the light in our lives and the joy that runs through all of it. The waiter, hair in a pigtail, brings chicken flautas for me, chorizo and potato tacos for Richard, and black beans.



At the same event, Richard has seen the faces, and I’ve heard the stories. We swap impressions. Richard is struck by the fact that Jérôme has such a charming, joyous, elfin face, yet that he is most famous for characters that have no face at all.

And, the waiter interrupts, would we like dessert?

No, but how about a shot of that Scorpion Mescal above the bar?

The waiter, grinning, takes the bottle down, and places it on our table.

“What happens if you eat the scorpion?” I ask. “Isn’t it poisonous?”

“It won’t kill you,” he says. “It’s strange. France won’t allow in tequila with worms in it, but scorpions? No problem.”

“Who orders it, mostly Americans and Mexicans?”

“No, it’s the French who keep coming back and ordering shots, hoping to get the scorpion.”

The level of liquid is low, within inches of the scorpion. Shall we have a shot or two in honor of the Sonoran desert, right here in Paris?

Later at home, wondering if mescal is another name for tequila, I look it up and find: Mezcal is made from the maguey plant, a form of agave plant native to Mexico, whereas tequila is made from the blue agave. The saying in Oaxaca is: “para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también” (“for everything bad, mescal, and for everything good, as well”).  

But this is what slays me: “The maguey was one of the most sacred plants in pre-Hispanic Mexico, and had a privileged position in religious rituals, mythology and the economy. Cooking of the “piña” or heart of the maguey and fermenting its juice was practiced. The origin of this drink has a myth. It is said that a lightning bolt struck an agave plant, cooking and opening it, releasing its juice. For this reason, the liquid is called the “elixir of the gods.”"

coup de foudre kind of night, everywhere we turn.