Portraits of a Bag Lady ; Nathalie Lecroc Paints Handbags and Their Contents - Then Throws in a Little Psychoanalysis. MARGARET KEMP Empties out Her Alma and Bares Her Soul

By Lecroc, Nathalie | The Independent (London, England), June 11, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Portraits of a Bag Lady ; Nathalie Lecroc Paints Handbags and Their Contents - Then Throws in a Little Psychoanalysis. MARGARET KEMP Empties out Her Alma and Bares Her Soul


Lecroc, Nathalie, The Independent (London, England)


At 10am there's a staccato ring on the doorbell and in steps Miss Lecroc. "Call me Nathalie," she says, extending a cool firm hand. "And give me your handbag!" Forget the limited edition Chloe sunglasses, or a table at gastronomical hotspot Bon, hip Parisiens are trading either or both to rendezvous with the conceptual Lecroc. She not only paints your handbag in bright watercolours, she analyses you, delving deep into your contents.

Lecroc, Paris's uber bag lady, is the talk of the city. A 30- something graduate of the prestigious Ecole de Beaux Art, all she needs is good light and a glass of water. The rules of the Lecroc handbag ritual, entitled "Anthologies", are as follows, but may be changed at any time - by the artist.

No cheating, it must be your daily bag, the whole bag and nothing but the bag. No adding or subtracting when the appointment is set. "I once found a little piece of frazzled salad; the owner was furious that I painted it but she accepted to play," she reasons, with a Gallic shrug. Lecroc must be allowed to empty the bag completely - this is the tough part. "A lot of people find it very emotional, it's almost as if they were stark naked in front of me. I suppose in a way they are," she reflects. "My anthologies are a scrupulous examination of the banal, an ethno-sociological exercise destined to transform the spectator into participator."

Lecroc devised her ritual having stumbled on a wallet in the doorway of her apartment on the rue Saint Denis (Paris's red-light district). "It belonged to a soldier," she recalls. "Being a voyeur I took it upstairs and photographed the contents." The metamorphosis in the soldier from a fresh-faced adolescent to an aggressive, muscular, shaven-headed action man fascinated Lecroc. "I really wanted to find out why military service would change a person so much, but because he was in the army, it was impossible to find him." Lecroc finally spoke to the soldier's mother who was thrilled to have the wallet returned, but refused any other contact. "I'm sure it was because I told her I live in rue Saint Denis, she definitely thought I was a hooker with a kinky way of pulling in the punters!"

Surely it would be fascinating to persuade John Galliano to reveal the contents of his Dior saddlebag? Wouldn't it be fun to empty Madonna's Fendi baguette, Kate Moss's Lulu Guinness or Liz Hurley's Judith Leiber pink diamante rose number?

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Portraits of a Bag Lady ; Nathalie Lecroc Paints Handbags and Their Contents - Then Throws in a Little Psychoanalysis. MARGARET KEMP Empties out Her Alma and Bares Her Soul
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