Rachel Cobb, Mistral: The Legendary Wind of Provence
Mistral: The Legendary Wind of Provence is a portrait of Provence seen through its legendary wind. It funnels down the Rhône Valley between the Alps and the Massif Central mountains, gaining speed as it reaches the Mediterranean. I have been going to a small Provençal village for the past forty years, and I became captivated by the mistral because it was so often present in our lives and so much a topic of conversation by neighbors and friends. The mistral is not just a weather phenomenon: it is an integral part of the fabric of Provençal life. Nobody who lives or spends time in the region can escape it. It slams doors, lifts roof tiles from houses and tears fruit from trees. It is a gremlin wreaking havoc. It is everywhere. It is nowhere to be seen. My work takes place where an invisible force makes itself visible. A leaf takes flight. Waves breach a sea wall. Trees bend. My images illustrate the ways in which this unseen force profoundly effects life in Provence in both concrete and indirect ways. Houses have few or no windows on the northwest, windward side and the main entrance on the southern, sheltered side. Heavy stones hold down terra-cotta roof tiles. Rows of trees lining fields create windbreaks to shield crops. Artists have long been drawn to the area for the clear skies that follow a mistral, and many painters, like Van Gogh, have painted scenes with wind raging. The mistral has also entered the psyche of the people: in a folktale, the wind-tormented locals finally capture the mistral and imprison him. The mistral as a living character. The mistral as a spirit, the spirit of Provence.