Living the dream

François Lemieux
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From Pierrefonds to the Louvre

Dutch-born artist Denise Buisman Pilger reached one of her dreams two years ago as one of her artwork was displayed in the Louvre in Paris. She recently completed another project in which she made composite pictures of every municipality on the island of Montreal using photography and painting. She is pictured above in front of Ste. Geneviève Church on Gouin Blvd.

Coming up with a dream, thinking about your dream, saving for your dream and making it happen… Dreams define our lives. They enable us to look forward with confidence, to get organized and to push ourselves to the limit in order to reach this great accomplishment which, when it finally happens, will hopefully be everything it should be. But what happens when the dream becomes reality?

The dream comes true

Dutch-born artist Denise Buisman Pilger has been based in Pierrefonds for five years now. She combines photography and painting to create her artworks. In December of 2011, one of her dreams came true. An artwork of hers was selected to be exhibited at the Louvre in Paris, one of the most visited and recognizable art museums in the world. Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa hangs there, amongst other amazing works of art.

Buisman Pilger was astonished when she was told her artwork was selected for a Salon de la SNBA (Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts) exhibition. Most artists tend to be plagued by self-doubt and getting her work approved for a prestigious show like this was quite a morale boost.

"I just couldn’t believe that my piece was selected at one of the most prestigious museums in the world! I was super excited and a bit overwhelmed," she said.

Considering she had only started working as a full-time artist in 2009, it was a lot to take.

"Most artists have to work decades to get that kind of recognition. It was only one artwork, and it was part of a show with hundreds of other artworks but it felt like a confirmation that I was on the right track," she said.

The dream gets real

Ms. Buisman Pilger got the news in September of 2011 that "Toronto", a black-and-white piece of hers that depicts a Toronto street scene, was to be exhibited in December at the Carousel-du-Louvre, an underground gallery attached to the museum. It has a particularly famous skylight, the inverted pyramid featured in a key scene of 2006's blockbuster hit The Da Vinci Code.

Despite the excitement, the up-and-coming artist came back to earth a little bit when she realized that she had to actually get her 48”x36” painting safely transported to Paris at her own expense.

"It's not something you can easily fit in your suitcase. I had to research different plane carriers to see how they dealt with oversized luggage, some of them charge crazy amounts," she commented.

She also had to think about how she would package the painting to get it to destination in one piece.

"I ended up building a wooden crate lined with foam. I attached wheels and a handle so I would be able to roll it from the airport to the subway and from the subway to my hotel," she continued.

The package was so big it got stuck in the narrow Paris subway gates, it didn't fit in the hotel elevator and she had to roll it to the museum but the painting made it there on time, and in one piece.

The whole ordeal cost the young artist $1,500 but she got her money's worth: her painting hung at the Louvre for four days, between Dec. 8 and 11. Even though it didn't hang next to the Mona Lisa, just knowing it was displayed in such a temple of the arts made the experience a defining one.

"When you enter that glass pyramid to see your own painting on one of those walls, all of a sudden, it’s all worth it," said Buisman Pilger.

Coming back to Pierrefonds

More than two years have passed since the Louvre exhibition and Ms. Buisman Pilger's career continues, much for better than for worst. The exposure she got as a result of the Paris exhibition increased the value of her artwork and opened doors to other galleries, in such diverse locations as New York City and the Pointe Claire Village.

In her most recent project, she created synthetic pictures representing each of the 34 municipalities on the Montreal Island. You can find more information on her work at www.denisebuismanpilger.com.

Organizations: Louvre, Carousel-du-Louvre

Geographic location: Pierrefonds, Paris, Toronto New York City Pointe Claire Village Montreal Island

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