Picturing the Blues, Franco-American Style

October 7, 2013

Among the many charms of southern France are its bountiful sunshine and blue skies, making it an ideal setting for the Advanced Photography Workshop offered by SVA Arts Abroad each June. Along with other historic sites, this year the program took students to the Maison de Santé Saint-Paul, a hospital where Van Gogh painted Starry Night and over 150 other works between 1889 and 1890. The photographs they made there, and throughout the region, are on view as part of an exhibition entitled “A la recherche du bleu” (Looking for blue), curated by instructor James Vil.

LeighCelentanoAlong with views of the region’s unmistakable landscape, the photographs in the exhibition also capture the region’s residents—many of them dressed in blue. Through an ongoing partnership with the Valetudo Association, a women’s clinic specializing in art therapy, students had the opportunity to photograph some of the patients there as part of their assignment to make a “portrait” of southern France. The shoot was part of a workshop in which patients were asked to explore “the blues” in the emotional sense of the word. Their paintings and drawings hang in the same gallery as the students’ photography, under the title “La Note bleue,” giving visitors a multifaceted look at creativity, healing and collaboration.


Along with clinic’s chief psychiatrist, Dr. Jean-Marc Boulon, SVA Executive Vice President Anthony Rhodes was on hand to greet visitors for the exhibition’s public opening on September 14. “Looking at the photographs, you notice right away how well students took in the natural and historic beauty here. And you can’t miss the warmth and generosity of the people they met,” said Rhodes. For the occasion, the blues also got a musical interpretation, thanks to a performance by the local gospel choir Chor Amis.


Exhibiting work are Taylor Baker, Svetlana Blasucci, Leigh Celentano, Cheng Peng, Gabriella Pugachevsky and instructor James Vil. On view through October 15, “A la recherche du bleu” is the fourth exhibition organized by SVA in partnership with the Valetudo Association at the Maison de Santé Saint-Paul with the aim of increasing the awareness of art making as a therapeutic activity. Visiting information in English is online at avignon-et-provence.com.

Photo credits (featured thumbnail; top to bottom): Taylor Baker (detail); Leigh Celentano; James Vil; James Vil.

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