Sheila Hicks Moves Seamlessly Between Dreams and Waking Periods

The artist, who sleeps in four-hour segments, stays plenty busy, but often stops to observe the comings and goings in the courtyard of her Paris building.

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Interview by Kate Guadagnino

I arrived in Paris in the mid-60s and have always lived within three blocks of where I’m based now, in the Cour de Rohan, a series of three courtyards right in the middle of the city. It’s very picturesque, with its big green iron gates and its cobblestones, and at the entrance is the Tower of Philip Augustus, part of the old city walls built around 1400. This little area was the seat of the French Revolution, where people wrote and distributed Le Journal du Peuple, a run of pamphlets intended to get things moving in the right direction and inspire the elimination of all the aristocrats. It’s a place full of ghosts because of its history. But I mostly ignore all that; you can’t be haunted by the past.

I live on the upper floors of my building, and my studio’s on the ground floor. Still, work could just as easily happen while I’m in the stairway and looking out the window at how someone’s trimming the trees, or once I’ve stepped into the courtyard, which is where I hang out. To one side of the house is Le Procope, the oldest restaurant in Paris, where diners eat on the sidewalk, and on the other side live various creative people. One’s a designer for the opera. Another organizes fashion shows. And the Giacometti Foundation has moved into the building in front of my studio. So it’s a cloistered but animated existence.

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