As mentioned in the “about” part of our blog, we are a family that treasures cultural diversity, multilingualism and living abroad as a way of life. We are world-citizens. Our lifestyle has its challenges, but also its benefits. While our daughter grows up within three cultures, three religious’ systems, four languages, she also has to learn from very small age that, in order to see her grandparents, she has to travel to two different countries. She is learning to cope with missing someone dear before we have even enrolled her to a school.
But our story is not unique and the scope of this interview series is to introduce our readers to families that live the same experiences and share the same set of values as ours.
The first person I chose for our project is Jessica de Vreeze, a French-American visual artist, born in Paris and now in New York. I had the pleasure to meet her in June, when we met for a photo shoot in Amsterdam. She came with her Dutch husband and I with my very international little daughter. We talked and laughed and though about how small the world is becoming and how intertwined our cultures are (You can follow her on Instagram @hopeje @jessicadevreeze)
Why New York? Ps you’ve moved, right?
Thank you for choosing to start your interview series with me. Your questions resonate with those coming back to my mind every so often. New York is where my father is from and, even though I was born and raised in Paris, I kept this beautiful city close to my soul. The connection that I built with it, both I and my sister, defines who I am (we are) today: French American girl(s).
Ps: Yes. I moved to Miami.
How is it to live internationally?
It involves a lot of traveling, phone calls and Face-time. It’s also about always missing someone dear, someone you love. At the same time, it’s about meeting new people, learning new paths, discovering. Of course, visiting a place differs very much from living in it. Therefore, through my work I have always tried to bring the viewer closer to the local perspectives.
How is to be an international family?
It’s about everything I mentioned above. Nowadays communication is easier, due to all the development of technology, but also due to the lower prices of communication. Keeping in touch is affordable, even the flight tickets are cheaper. Happily, we have family and friends who are also willing and able to travel the world to meet us. This way of living makes us appreciate the value of love, friendship, family and health. Money is important as it allows us to enjoy “shared moments”, but it’s a mean to and end, it gives us the freedom to do more, not to have more.
Where do you feel at home?
I feel at home where I choose to live. It could be in Paris, Luxembourg, New York, Breda, Amsterdam and now in Miami. Home, for us, is where our families and friends are. In one word I feel at home where my heart is.
What do you miss the most from Europe and how do you and your family cope with missing this part of the world?
I miss my friends and my family, but as mentioned before, thanks to the progress made by technology, we “see” each other and talk often. I miss the food, but not only. I miss having a slow-paced lifestyle, taking the time to enjoy a coffee on a terrace. I miss what we know as the French “art de vivre”. I also miss different cities around the world, which hold a special place in my heart. Happily, we fly often, so revisiting them is possible.
How important is freedom of movement for you?
Twelve years ago, during my stage at the European Commission (in my previous “career” as a lawyer), I had a discussion with a Romanian lawyer. She told me that freedom of movement was more important than health. I argued that health is the most important thing in one’s life as we can’t do anything without it, but we agreed that all humans should be awarded with the freedom of movement. Therefore, It’s essential for all of us. My whole life I have felt the ocean was separating my world in two. As long as I can cross it back and forth, it’s fine. I am therefore very grateful to be able to enjoy my freedom. I also don’t take it for granted and I fully understand what people deprived of it must feel; people that have to migrate in order to built a better future, people who can’t bring their family over, people that can’t afford to visit their homelands or the ones they left behind.
Do you believe in a world without borders?
Yes I do, if it could exist, if freedom of movement would be for all, it would be a dream come true. In this Utopia, People would respect each other and not abuse situations or social benefits. Nobody would take advantage of the weaker…Even though we are not there yet, I hope humanity will keep making steps in the right direction.
One of my favorite quotes is « La liberté des uns s’arrête là où commence celle des autres » by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the “Social contract”. It describes the the freedom to be, without abusing the other.
How would you define yourself: An expat, an artist or a world citizen?
I define myself as those three and even more: an artist, an expat as much as an “inpat”, a world citizen, a mom, a woman, a girl, a daughter, a friend, and everything else that I am still yet to become.
How is living internationally reflected in your work?
Traveling is part of myself, it’s my way of live, I feel like a nomad, with roots everywhere. I don’t know yet where I’ll stop or if I’ll stop somewhere. I travel to see my loved ones, discover new destinations, culture, nature and the entanglement created between people and their surroundings. I would hate to be locked in a world where travelling is hindered.
Living internationally is fundamental to my work as I love bringing pieces of my world closer to others, especially those that can’t travel as much as I do. I’m passionate about cities and I love capturing the urban wilderness.
My work is like a symphony of textures, colours, lines, buildings, bridges, faces, shapes, movement that I put together in order to allow my viewers to immerse themselves in my work.
If you look around, art is everywhere, artist make our life better, it brings inspiration, introspection, happiness.
It’s thus very important to support living artist by investing in them. It’s a life commitment and it should not be restricted by economical factors. At my level, and being myself an artist, I support my peers buying what I fall in love with if I can afford it as much as I can.
What impact did it have on your artistic vision?
It evolves with me, with my memories, my moods, my emotions, my yearning desires, my expectations from the others. I’m trying to offer a wider perspective and a positive energy to others. I love to let myself create, I jump into my imagination, it is who I am and sharing is a gift, it gives a second life to what I create. It would get lonesome to create and never show it to others. I wonder what Viviane Mayer was thinking… maybe for her just capturing moments was enough….
My work is all about sharing. I love to see my photographs finding new homes and becoming part of the universe of their new owners. It’s like a smile passed from one to another. Art gives life a new density, while living beyond borders gives me wings…