Around France

Deviation: Language Barrier Ahead!

The Barefoot Blogger is still not learning French. Although I have at least three online courses and two books on French open at any time, it’s just not sinking it. Well, maybe a little.

Now I’m beginning to think that, perhaps, I understand some of the French words that are around me.

That’s dangerous.

Take for instance the new art exhibit of my friend, Francois Lewandrowski, along with artists Jean-Marie Memin, Guy Mouriame and Lionel Mathieu. It’s named “Deviation.”


The exhibit started a few weeks ago; but before that, Francois sent out a small preview of his work to his Google group. My first impression of the new pieces was that they were “dark” and depressing. In fact, when I saw Francois at the tourist agency soon afterwards, I asked in my poor French, “es tu malade?”

He didn’t have a clue what I’d said.  Because he was curious, I guess, he walked over to the only English-speaking person behind the desk and asked her to translate for us. “No, no!” Francois replied after learning I thought he was sick. “It’s an art movement” he said … or at least that’s what I thought he said.

“An art movement?”  Hmmmm….

When the show started I ran into Francois downtown again.  I followed him to the gallery so that I could have a personal, guided tour. He handed me a pamphlet that was sitting on a table near a group of the pen and inks. It was about the book “Outrage” written by Stephene Hessel

“I get it,” my little brain said to myself. Now I know why they named the exhibit “Deviation.” As I went through the gallery, looking at each piece of art, I began seeing the “hidden” messages. It wasn’t hard to do.  These pen and inks by Lewandrowski were surely intended as an “outrage” about something. “If only I could read the print behind the images.”


Artwork in iron by Mouriame was certainly a “deviation.” An up and down staircase. Is it up? or is it “down?”


Work in iron by Mouriame in Uzes

Work in iron by Mouriame in Uzes

Same for Memin’s pieces, like “Je te port en moi.”

"Deviation" exhibit piece by Memin

“Deviation” exhibit piece by Memin

How could this painting of a bird hatching out of a strange shell be anything but a “deviation?”

Duck and Avocado

Bird out of the shell

Being the “journalist” that I am, I decided to check my theory about the exhibit’s name before I printed it as a “fact” in the blog. I downloaded and read Hessel’s book “Time for Outrage -Indignez-Vous!” It is one of his award-winning writings about the occupy movement that, it is said, inspired the “Occupy Wall Street Movement.”

Was “deviation” another word for “outrage?” I thought to myself. “Was the fact that some of the artists’ work pictured “normal” things in an abnormal way an outrage of sorts.” I returned to the gallery to visit the artists. I was certain they would be amazed and impressed at my deep understanding of their work.

Painting by Mathieu, Deviation Exhibit, Uzes

Painting by Mathieu, Deviation Exhibit, Uzes

Painting by Lewandrowski, Deviation Exhibit, Uzes

Painting by Lewandrowski, Deviation Exhibit, Uzes

Memin and Lewandrowski were in the gallery when I went in to confront them with my brilliance and my theory on their event theme.

“Where did you come up with the title for your exhibit, ‘Deviation?” I asked the two artists.

They hemmed and hawed.

Memin was the first to speak: “It’s very simple,” he said. “It’s because this gallery is out of the way, not on a busy pathway of the town.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “The gallery is on a pretty secluded side street. “Surely that’s not the only reason for “deviation,” I insisted. “There must be a deeper meaning,”  I prodded, incredulous.

“There’s no other meaning for me,” Memin said, matter-of-fact. “Let’s ask Francois,” he urged. “The theme was his idea.”

“Ah… yes,” Francois said when we called him over to ask him to explain his choice of the word “deviation.”

“It’s like a road sign,” he explained, using his hands to draw a rectangle in the air. “We simply wanted passerbys to see the sign “deviation” and “deviate” from their usual route,” he said.

Memin nodded in agreement.

“Really!” I said in some form of French or English while trying not to show my disbelief and my disappointment.

“Really!” I said to myself, “all this time, all this mental energy! These imaginings?  for naught?”

Deviation. A road sign. Guess that’s what I get for spending too much time thinking about French words. Perhaps the French language isn’t as hard as it seems.

"Deviation" Exhibit in Uzes

“Deviation” Exhibit in Uzes

La Verriere in Uzes

La Verriere in Uzes


La Verriere

8, rue du Docteur Blanchard a Uzes

Open 1-8pm through August 31, 2015


9 replies »

  1. A friend just lead me to your blog. Oh, I loved reading this posting. I could so identify with you about how languages have their own often hidden meanings. When you are not fluent, it is so easy to miss a point, even a simple or direct point. I look forward to following your blog and exploring it further. 🙂

  2. Dear Deborah,

    This is one of your best postings yet — way to go!



    PS I am guessing that you have sent it to Jean-Marie ….


  3. I’d stick to English if I were you Debbie. I’m still trying to get round all the transatlantic differences, with words such as chips and rubber often causing a problem, so I’m not surprised that trying to translate it all into French is difficult…

    p.s. Seriously now, well done for trying. I’m sure the effort is appreciated and even speaking the poorest French will win a lot more friends than it loses. Despite my banter, above, I’d make the effort too. If I was living in France.

    • How funny! Love the link! Someone said their brains now are like Teflon. I think that’s a great explanation for my problem. It’s hard to get what I learn one day to stick til the next!

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