Building a bridge between two cultures through art and architecture

Dewey Rodefer is a French-American born in Paris. He is currently starting his masters in Architecture at ENSA Paris-Val-de-Seine. 

I am a 23-year-old French-American, born and raised in Paris. My father was an American poet and my mother is a French photographer. I want to tell you a short story about myself, how my bi-cultural education shaped me and nourished my love for art, especially photography and architecture.

In 2013, while traveling to California for my brother’s wedding, I discovered the work of James Turrell. The exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art blew my mind. His art was a complete sensorial experience.

Carefully placed projectors cast optical illusions creating 3-dimensional shapes. Turrell created a space out of thin air, simply with light. You didn’t look at the art; you were in it. It made me so aware of my surroundings and how it affects me. That day, I discovered what architecture really means. His art stroked my soul.

Not far from LACMA, I had a second revelation at Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall. It’s not only a building, it’s a sculpture. A moving building. Gehry successfully captured momentum in something as anchored as architecture.

A few years later, back in Paris, I realized these two experiences were the seeds of my interest in art and architecture. I had already started my architecture program in Paris and picked up landscape and urban photography.

Gehry’s new Louis Vuitton Foundation is one of my favorite places in Paris. The building floats in the middle of the Bois de Boulogne, like a cruise ship. It is an Invitation to the Voyage as Baudelaire puts it:

In 2020, I took a gap year in my studies and planned to spend several months in the United States. It had been a lifetime dream of mine. I was about to finally live and nourish my American side. Unfortunately, COVID decided otherwise – and so my ship stayed anchored by the Seine. But little did I know, a once in a lifetime voyage awaited me in my home city.

Paris was confined for three months. Restaurants, cafés, and museums were all closed. One day, I carefully ventured with my camera into the deserted city. I shot a series of pictures that I call Ghost Paris, conveying my experience of that special moment. It explores the center of the city from the Opera to the Arc de Triomphe, wandering through Rue de Rivoli and Place de la Concorde.

It was a breathtaking experience. It felt like I was re-discovering my own town. The blatant emptiness of the city only enhanced the beauty and grandeur of its architecture. It felt so unreal, it was like a fake decor – and suddenly I was back in LA at the 20th Century Fox studios. I was so happy. It brought me back where this all started. I never felt this much at home, as I was building a bridge between my two cultures.

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