“I used to spend hours on the rocks watching the waves splashing, smelling seaweed, collecting shells…,” Nicole Bigar wrote briefly about her strict childhood in her 2011 book, “Koukoumanias,” which is a colorful conglomeration of her then 45-year career as an artist.
To this day, she loves nothing more than the ocean and creating art. It was painting that consoled her when she was a new arrival to New York.
Bigar immigrated from Paris to New York City, during World War II. She was 14. In between high school and college, she took time to study anatomy and drawing at The Arts Students League. Later, she studied philosophy and Spanish at Barnard College.
“Then I had children. When they went to college, that’s when I seriously became a painter,” says the 88-year-old. “I met my husband in New York when I was 17. I got married when I was 19. He just died.”
And it is art, which is again helping her heal – this time from losing her husband of 65 years. Her love of art has been a part of her as long as she can remember.
“I always wanted to sketch, look at beautiful work – I see beautiful things around me – especially nature,” says Bigar who spends her winters living in New York City, and her summers in East Hampton. “I want to do paintings that I have never done before. I travel a great deal. Everytime I go to a country, I like to paint it. I’ve been to Egypt, Norway, India…and I’m still very attracted to the beauty of France.”
Presently, she says she’s painting a whole series on Times Square.
“When I went to the theater, I was fascinated by the lights,” Bigar recalls. “So all winter, I’ve been working on that. I might do a book with it.”
In her current show, “Muses: Past and Present,” exhibiting now through the July 26 in East Hampton, Bigar says she used ceramic, sand and paint on canvas in creating her pieces of art.
“My inspiration was that I love East Hampton,” says Bigar. “I love to give joy. People look at my paintings and it makes them happy. I use a lot of bright colors. Painting is my happiness, and whatever happens, if I’m not feeling well, or I’m aching, it helps my morale.”
She adds that one of her muses in her current exhibit was inspired by a continuing education class at Barnard College about French novelist Marcel Proust. She started to paint a lot of characters from his novels.
“I think the secret to getting old is to be interested in something beyond your day to day life, and then life is not boring,” says Bigar, who also loves to exercise and swim. “You always have a project.”
She says when she was younger, she always had a lot of things to do. When she was married, as well. For her, the advantage of her age is that she can now devote all of her time to painting.
Her one piece of advice to her younger self:
“Always have a passion. Always have a project that you love to do. Always learn…Also, slow down once in a while and meditate and live in the moment.”
And for a long and happy marriage:
“As my husband became older, I thought I don’t need to take care of him – I want to take care of him. I then did my best to have him have a happy life.”