M.B.Seewagen Art Gallery, Paris

Meeting Unexpected People
By Gail McNaughton, August 22, 2007

By chance we ended up staying overnight in a town called Meyrueis, which was an unexpected treat at the end of the Gorges de Tarn. We lodged at the Grand Hotel de France and had superb French cuisine. As is traditional in France, one eats late and the stores are also open late. After our lovely meal, we walked around the immediate area of the hotel and came across a Galerie d’Art and stepped inside. As the walls were covered with brightly coloured paintings, I fell in love with them right away and identified with them as being my style. Many of the paintings contained animals – cats and a dog, women and passionate interpretations that depicted friendship, love, the feminine and flowers. We developed a rapport with Evelyne, the salesperson, who spoke no English except a few words, and through Bob, we were able to converse. She explained some of the paintings, one being of a cat who had a bad eye and in poor health and in three parts it told the story of the cat having the eye removed and sewn shut. This same cat showed up in other paintings. Evelyne was insistent that we meet the artist, Michelle Seewagen, so just phoned her up. The next thing we knew, we would meet Michelle at the gallery at 9:00 am the next morning and she would take us to her home where we would see many more paintings. We bought three postcards of paintings with cats on them and left to go back to the hotel. Evelyne was a wonderful and expressive, loving person and in the tradition of the French style, we were kissed on the face, on our cheeks with three kisses – right, left, right. I didn’t know what to expect but I was very excited to meet Michelle.

We arrived at the Art Gallery and she was there and had ridden her bike over. She was pure energy, bubbly, outgoing and expressive. She had genuine warmth and a gracious spirit with a tomboy appearance. We walked with her to her home, which was a few blocks away and she explained that this was also her husband’s office and he was a GP. We went through the side entrance into their home but learned they also had another wonderful house that they’d been fixing up for a year and had moved in a month prior. We met Michelle’s husband but he was in the midst of seeing patients.

Michelle took us upstairs to several rooms of paintings and I was in 7th heaven going from canvas to canvas and then I found a huge painting that spoke to me, and even though there were many more I loved, this was the one. She offered us a free painting if we bought 2, but as Bob liked this one, we would just get it, as the cost was 500 Euros, or $750 Canadian. It was decided that she would take the canvas off the frame and we could see that this would take her an hour to do as she had to pry up each tack. She also said she would take a cheque dated for September 15th. A bond of trust had been created between us and I learned that we were her first Canadian buyers, so we felt privileged. It was agreed we would come back in an hour so we toured around, got our car, and went back to her place.

Upon our arrival, she asked if we would like to join her for a drink at their other house and she would ride her bike and we would follow her, so off we went. The house they lived in was filled with many of her paintings, had many rooms, was kind of Victorian, and we loved all the windows. Without even going in the front door, we saw her 3 cats in a downstairs, glassed-in sunroom. She toured us through the entire house and then we went to the cellar to get munchies and drinks and we left this area via the cat-sitting room as it consisted of 2 rooms – one with a bed and furniture and the other a paradise for cats to sit in the sun of the sunroom. Michelle has a dog – a beige Lab, and we had already met him at the front door and he was out in the yard already. I took pictures of the cats and I met the cat with one eye.

We sat in the sun with Michelle and talked, going back and forth in French and English. I learned her birthday was in February, she was 58 like me, this was her 2nd marriage and she had 7 children. Her previous husband was an artist and we had seen some of his artwork as well. Michelle has always been athletic and continues to this day and, in particular, swims 2 hours every day. Her husband works long hours so she has a lot of freedom to do what she wants. I see this as working well for her because she needs time to paint. She has another cabin, which we did not go to, where she paints and she says that she paints from the heart on a daily basis. Her subject matter includes swimming scenes and rounded, robust people. The dog in her paintings is her happy dog so she paints still life around her and doesn’t do scenery unless it is to develop the control character feature of the painting.

We met a couple of friends who, she told us, would stop by and they were picking up paintings. We sat in the sun and ate chips and olives stuffed with anchovies, which were delicious. She had mint syrup that you mixed with gas water and another apple drink. None of us had opted for wine. Michelle is interested in selling her paintings in Canada and we exchanged some ideas and we told her about the Gallery in Calgary that I could connect her with. She promised to write and we gave both she and Evelyne our business cards. These ladies like to write and e-mail/the Net is not their forte. It was time to say goodbye and I hated to leave, but we knew the distance we had to travel and with this delay, an unexpected meeting with two lovely ladies, we would not be going back to the farm, but staying somewhere else in our travels. We kissed the traditional French kisses and off we went. Michelle didn’t want us to help clean up, saying that some of her family was coming over tonight. Off we went, leaving our lovely artist friend at the large entrance gate to her home and I took the opportunity to hug Michelle one more time, knowing she has inspired me and that we would connect again.

Gail McNaughton © 2009PowerFlower WebDesign