FAITES ATTENTION! Stop whacking people with your backpacks!Photo © Ann James Massey

Coming to my studio on the metro after church one Sunday, I had my own rude “Parisian” turn.

I was seated comfortably in the open section of the coach where the doors part and the seats unfold down. A couple of tourists arrived with their backpacks in place. It was not crowded so I remained seated, as did others.

Paris Métro Photo ©2022 Ann James Massey

Suddenly, whack! I yelped in surprise and pain. One of the tourists standing in front of me had turned to her friend. Her large backpack, filled with rocks or books (so it seemed), hit me square and hard on my upper right cheek, missing my eye by only a centimeter. Not a pip from her, not an “excuse me,” nothing. I reached up and punched her well covered arm to catch her attention. She looked at me blankly and I angrily stared…

It has always been in my mind to pay homage to the presence of animals and spiritual support in my life (not to forget family and friends), as well as to the techniques, composition and extraordinary art left to us by the artists of the past. The seeds were planted in the late nineties for the perfect integration of these major influences when I heard of the Blessing of the Animals service in my spiritual home in Paris, The American Cathedral.

The Blessing of the Animals ©2017 Ann James Massey17in x 23in | 43.2cm x 58.4cmOil on mahogany boardHover over the image to zoom in and see the detail or Click to view the full size image in a new tab

This yearly service is held in innumerable churches on or near October 4th to celebrate the feast day of St. Francis of…

Shortly after I moved to France, I complained to Henri Bérenger (then friend, now my better half) that the French spoke too fast. His dead-on reply was, no, they did not…I just did not understand. 

One Sunday some weeks later, I was coming out of my church (The American Cathedral) and walking down Avenue George V when a bunch of schoolboys ran up to me and asked me something in French. I did not have a clue as to what they said, so I answered simply, “Je ne parle pas français,” which means I do not speak French…in French. Rather an oxymoron when you think about it.

As I turned and continued on my way, I heard one of them say, “What’d she say?” “I don’t know. She spoke too fast.”

The American Cathedral in ParisPhoto © 2001 Ann James Massey

I whirled around and walked back to them talking in an exaggerated drawl, “Hi, I’m from Texas. Can I…

Just six days after my father’s passing, another man in El Paso who had a profound influence on my art passed away. 

Tom Lea with his painting “The Price” ©1944 This is one of the paintings from Tom’s World War II illustrations for Life Magazine. He was one of the few studio artists (as opposed to photographers) embedded with the troops on assignment and saw and sketched the horrors of War first hand. Image courtesy of The Tom Lea Institute

Unlike older generations in my family, I had almost no direct contact with Tom Lea, but his art was no less a part of my life.  When I visited my grandparents, instead of playing with the neighborhood children, I would pull out the 11” x 14” x 3” scrapbooks (ten of them!) my grandmother created on art and artists.  I spent magical hours studying art from Albright to Zurbarán.  And there, nestled between Sir…

There is no doubt I love Paris, but there are some things a girl from Southwest Texas misses. The hardest part is the sky

Growing up in the wide-open spaces of the high desert city of El Paso, Texas instilled a passion in me for the sky and the stars. As a teenager, at times I would go out onto our top deck and sleep with the immense universe above me. During the peak time in August, the reliable Perseid meteor shower would offer me plenty of opportunities to wish upon those falling stars and dream.

View from Devil’s Tower of the back of our family home with the top deck on Titanic Avenue in Mountain Park, El Paso, TexasPhoto ©2018 Ann James Massey

When I designed and built my own home in Santa Teresa, New Mexico (a suburb of El Paso) in 1986, I put in all the essentials: an art studio, a library, more bookshelves in every room (one can never own too many books), and of course a 4’ x 4’ (1.2 m x 1.2 m) skylight above our bed so…

When I was growing up in El Paso, Texas, it seemed to our family as if the whole world was friends with my grandfather, Paul Orion Moore. He had been the President and then Chairman of the Board of Mutual Savings and Loan in the city and therefore had been intimately involved with a growing number of young families getting loans for their first homes after the depression and the war. Naturally, he was well known in El Paso, but we also had numerous experiences when we would be in another city or state, and someone would walk up to “Pop” and greet him enthusiastically. It became the family joke that he could walk into an igloo in the north and an Eskimo would hold out his hand and say, “Why Paul Moore, how are you?” 

Opening of the Paul O. Moore branch of Mutual Savings and Loan in 1981. My grandfather is the third from the left on the…

Today Paris has a multitude of ways and venues to feed the less fortunate, though history has not always proved so generous. For example, the four-and-a-half-month siege of Paris during the Franco Prussian war was devastating and some ways of staving off starvation can only be described as uniquely French.

Still manna from above is always welcome.

After all, in his early days in Paris, it has been said that Ernest Hemingway found that the city provided cheap sustenance when he would capture pigeons in the Luxembourg Gardens to supplement his diet.

As a youngster from 1935-1941, Henri Bérenger (my better half) lived on the Avenue de Paris leading to the Palace of Versailles. Therefore, the gardens were his playground. He remembers well riding the ancient “carrousel” there and spearing the brass rings with his stick, but he does not remember going there during the Read more Manna From Above in Paris and Versailles