My Athens

Rene Shoemaker Credit: Jean-Marc Gargantiel

People often ask how I ended up living in France.

“Perseverance furthers,” I answer, citing the I Ching quote that I live by.

But that answer often leaves them unsatisfied.

It’s not about having lots of money.

It’s not about being fluent in French.

I suppose it is about pushing the edges and the envelopes in life.

It is about a willingness to put yourself in situations you have no idea how to get out of… where there is no safety net.

It is about being willing to go on an adventure, and to live with an adventurous spirit.

So exactly how does it feel okay to sit in my little stone house in France (where the internet service is really good, and inexpensive, I might add) and type those two hashtags on social media without a feeling of misrepresentation?



Athens IS my hometown. It is not where I was born (which was New York, NY), but it is where I grew, where I matured, where I was educated, where I worked, where I loved. For 40 years. It’s where I put down (deep) roots. Athens has cradled me and helped me grow, and continues to do so.

Aubusson, in central France, is my newly adopted town.

Like any good adoptive family, it has welcomed me… even though there has been some tough love along the way. France has welcomed me to its community, its air, its way of life, its centeredness.

I thought I lived in a rural area in Georgia.

“Rural” is different in France, at least where I live. There are a lot of cows. And open fields. And beautiful views when you get to the top of a hill.

But the land use patterns are different. There are villages scattered around the countryside. Some of the villages have cafés and boulangeries (bakeries), and sometimes a butcher, too.

It’s nice.

The pace of life is different. More relaxed. Less stressed. 35-hour work weeks and Sundays off for everyone.

I had a dream

 to live in France.

  to exhibit my art in France.

    And now I do,

      And I am happy.

I have had French solo exhibitions in Paris (2014–2015), Felletin (2017), Felletin (2018), Paris (2020) and most recently Aubusson (currently on view through Dec. 31, 2022).

Perseverance furthers.

Athens, I love you.

You have supported me in my times of greatest need.

You have helped me grow; you have helped me mature; you have given me the strength to carry on in this life.

“The Doors of Athens” exhibition, currently on view at Athens Art and Frame, was my love song to Athens.

The current exhibition in France, “Places & Names,” is how I share, in Aubusson, my two worlds. The work conveys a sense of continuity through the symbolism of architecture and rivers. Our lives flow, the currents merge, then break off again for new investigation and discoveries.

The visitors to the Galerie des Marches in Aubusson have fun trying to identify the images as Georgia or France. The architecture, is it French? Or is it Gothic or Southern Second-Empire-style?

I landed in Aubusson, which is known for its tapestry production. I am surrounded by weavers and dyers and people who value textiles. Living in a tapestry town, how cool is that?

In the Mar. 25, 2015 issue, I shared my first Parisian exhibition with Flagpole readers.

I’ve discovered art and travel do not satiate; they only create more desire for more discoveries.

Athens, GA is my hometown. It is my center. It is where I draw my strength from.

Athens, I love you.