The award presentation of Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters was followed by a champagne toast at the French Embassy’s beautiful building .
For a Tuesday night, we were all French. Tucked away uptown at the French Embassy, artist, composer, musician and film director Laurie Anderson and novelist Jay McInerney were awarded the insignia of Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by Bénédicte de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy.
Laurie Anderson may not be a name that rings any bells. But the artist is significant: she’s one of the leading avant-garde creators today. It began with performance art works in the 1970’s, in which Anderson began incorporating a range of languages, technologies, and visual treatments to enhance her art. If you know her for anything, it’s the pensive but optimistic “O Superman”, which peaked on the UK pop charts at number two.
Laurie is deserving of the recognition of The Order of Arts and Letters: besides being a woman in the men-dominated electronic music scene, she’s a pioneer in development of it. She’s invented devices, including the Voice Filter, which converts her voice to a masculine register. She seeks to develop characters using these voices. Her joyous, crowded sound isn’t for everyone, but she also invites introspection and concern with her warm, motherly tone.
Over the years, Anderson has accomplished a wide-range of things: she became NASA’s first artist-in-residence, has starred in films to creating a book of drawings titled Night Life. At the award ceremony, Anderson spoke candidly, grateful to receive the recognition but indicated her work is far from over.
Jay McInerney received his award and announced he was definitely a Francophile, dishing on his favorite spots and memories abroad. But McInerney is more than just his best-selling books. He’s a wine enthusiast: his essays on wine have been collected in Bacchus & Me (2000) and A Hedonist in the Cellar (2006) and he’s been a wine columnist at a number of publications. It’s not the first time McInerney has been touched by the hand of France, he has been honored in France on multiple occasions, receiving the Médaille de la Ville de Paris from the mayor of Paris in 2011 and being inducted into the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.
Suiting, as the champagne toast after the presentation was Pommery, hopefully up to snuff for Mr. McInerney.
The Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) is given out three times annually under the jurisdiction of the minister of Culture and Communication. American recipients of the award include Paul Auster, Ornette Coleman, Agnes Gund, Marilyn Horne, Jim Jarmusch, Richard Meier, Robert Paxton, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Uma Thurman.