By Jennifer Sicking | Photos Courtesy Paula Temple
One hour from Paris in the Aube, Champagne, region of France, Paula Temple (Knoxville ’72) works in her studio creating paintings using reds, blues and yellows—brighter colors than she used to use. She also incorporates mixed media now into surrealistic and expressionistic watercolor and oil paintings.
Retired after 30 years teaching at the University of Mississippi, she allows herself to experiment and play in her studio in the village of Marnay-sur-Seine. For the past year, she’s created new pieces, exploring painting figures. But, due to COVID-19 restrictions, she has missed her weekly meetings at the café L’Expressoire in Paris with other members of La Salonistas—an artist group of women from various countries—to discuss art. She misses visiting galleries.
She decided to do something about it. Much as La Salonistas members displayed their art behind windows or from balconies in Paris, Temple brought her art outside the studio to her small town with her Galerie du Trottoir, the sidewalk gallery. She began displaying it on the wrought iron fence enclosing her house.
“France is an incredible place, especially for artists,” she says. “It’s not just the other artists who are interested in you as an artist. It’s everyone.”
From weekends when the entire country celebrates poetry, art and music to children regularly taken to art museums and galleries, Temple says, “They have a really strong affinity for the arts.”
Growing up in Memphis, Temple turned to art early as a career. After graduating from Memphis State University, now the University of Memphis, she journeyed across the state to UT Knoxville to study painting—the only woman in the Master’s in Fine Arts program at that time.
“It’s very immediate as opposed to sculpture and printmaking,” she says. “I like to draw fast. I like to paint fast. It was just so much more scope in painting for experimentation, for color materials.”
After graduating, she backpacked in Europe for six months, seeing the art she had spent years studying. Teaching led her to California, then the Peace Corps took her to the West Indies where she met her British husband before she landed in Oxford, Mississippi, teaching drawing and painting. Decades later, she received an invitation to apply for a residency in France. She first went in 2013 to Marnay-sur-Seine. In 2014, she returned to France for a residency at La Maison Verte. In 2015, she retired from teaching at Ole Miss and moved to France.
With her house located close to the botanical garden, café and bakery, the townspeople regularly stroll by and for the past year—except the winter months—on the weekends expect to see about 10 of Temple’s pieces displayed on the fence.
“One time I was over at a neighbor’s house, and the work was out on the fence, and then it started raining real quick,” Temple says. “I mean everybody in town was out here taking the work down. It was a real scramble.”
Though she closed the gallery for the winter months, she reopened it in March.
“Who knows, but it may continue after COVID-19 is under control,” she says.