Even as a child in Le Mans, France, Jeanne Bordeau felt the textures, colors and music of words. She has always conceived of writing as art design. She is a linguist who has worked as a journalist, an expert in branding design, and a university professor. She brings this training to her art, and also incorporates her emotion, kinesiology, and audacity. The result is a landscape of memory.
Every year, for the past twelve years, Jeanne has gathered words. She collects them from print media, billboards, broadcasts, conferences – anywhere they appear in public. She hunts words in many languages and many fonts, sometimes adding in her own distinctive handwriting. Finding up to 13,000 words a year, she cuts them out or prints them. Culling her pile to about 1000, she then places them on a canvas, shaping them into objects, overlapping them, creating a collage against a backdrop of vivid color. She arranges them by the same ten themes each year: society, economy, culture, environment, communication, women, politics, work, verbs, and – perhaps the loveliest category of all, “beaux mots” – inspirational words of beauty. She produces ten tableaux each year, laboring over word placement, mining her dreams for her choices of colors and shapes. The result provides a sharp, unsentimental view of the year.
Her premise is that amid the noise of our busy, over-sharing, clanging world, she can capture our language into images. She demonstrates that just as some phrases can sum up an entire era or movement, each year can take shape in words and color. Her work can be viewed chronologically by year, or by theme. Her word-portraits on a subject show how vocabulary has evolved. Her canvasses are both a mirror and an interpretation of events.
Jeanne’s largest vernissage is each January, when she shows all ten themes of the past year. Over the following months, she presents parts of her collection along chronological or thematic lines. Her tableaux have hung at a variety of public spaces, including: Le Cite des Sciences in Paris, the Alliance Francaise; L’Orangerie du Sénat au Jardin du Luxembourg; the French Economic and Social Environmental Council (CESE); Dico Plaisir au Mans; and l’Institut National des Métiers d’Art. Jeanne’s work inspires people of all linguistic backgrounds. While words form the building blocks of her art, her creations are amalgams of shape and color.
Many metaphors describe Jeanne and her contribution to summing up the zeitgeist of the Twenty-first Century. She provides a socio-linguistic fresco of the year. She takes the temperature of our times; putting her tableaux together, she charts the health of the era. She sews words like threads in a tapestry. She makes the words hum as she composes the tune of the times, the linguistic air du temps.