Art criticism, tribute

"Je vous aime"

Lydia Peelle is an American fiction writer. In 2009 the National Book Foundation named her a "5 under 35" Honoree

Dear Laurent,


The sadness that I feel on learning of Andre’s death is tempered by the gratitude that I had the great fortune to discover him and his work in time to meet him in this life. Thank you, Laurent, for connecting me. The love and respect underlying your friendship with him is evident, and my heart is with you now that he has left us.


In the few short years since I learned of him, Andre’s art and his remarkable adventure of a life have inspired me in profound ways, both in my own art and in my own life. In fact, I struggle to find the words to capture what he means to me. I take solace in the fact that this feeling, like all the greatest and most complex, ultimately transcends words, anyhow.  


Words failed me when I met him, on that lovely May evening of the exposition in Bordeaux. Dizzy with the beauty of the room, and in awe to be finally face to face with this genius of a man, I became tongue-tied in my elementary French. Looking into Andre’s kind and brilliant brown eyes, I was suddenly unable to express all I wanted to say about what his work has done for me; or, more precisely, anything at all. But looking back on it now, the one thing I could manage to say to Andre that evening was perhaps the purest essence of the multitudes I desired to communicate.

“Je vous aime" I said to him that evening, over and over. “Je vous aime”


"Je vous aime" My understanding of French is enough to know that this is something of a contradictory statement: one cannot love a stranger. It is a paradox, a statement both impossible and true. But what are Andre’s works if not exquisite paradoxes, both impossible and true. A painting created deep under the ocean? Unimaginable! Yet, there it is: incredibly, it exists.


As I write this, one of his paintings is in front of me. As always, it is alive and breathing, in a state of constant change. Every time I look at it, it is a new painting. Like the sea it depicts, it serves as an exquisite symbol for all that is both constant and fleeting. Which is to say: life itself. 


For me, Andre’s undersea work also serves as an apt metaphor for all great art. Because a true artist, at no small risk, must always dive deep; she must disappear into the depths of both the physical and psychic realms. If she is attentive, prepared, and lucky, she will find a way to express what she discovers there. And if and when she resurfaces, bringing with her to dry land the work she created, it will capture, for those who experience it, something of the beautiful mystery of the place to which she descended. 

"Je vous aime" To return to that statement, impossible and true: as I contemplate Andre’s painting today, it seems that, perhaps, this is what it whispers to me now. Perhaps, at base, this is the message of all art, in one way or another: "I do not know you, but I love you". Here through my work I reach out to you, I connect with you, I offer you a piece of my heart: you who is here on earth just as I am here on earth, separate but together, sharing this same human experience with all its beauties and mysteries, its griefs and pleasures.

I am so grateful for my chance to share, in a small way, in this great man’s human experience; to have met a man who created, among so many other joyful and wondrous things, paintings as infinite as their subject. And now he, too, is infinite.


Laurent, I send my sincere condolences to you, and to Andre’s family and friends. And I send thanks to you and to Marie-Helene, and to all at Maecene Arts. Often and fondly I think of that evening in Bordeaux when we were together under the sea, submerged in Andre’s beautiful and mysterious blue world. I hope we meet there again soon, Laurent. I know that when we do, there with us in the depths will be Andre.


With love and sympathy,

Lydia Peelle      

October 19, 2018