One of the small pleasures of my life when I lived in Paris was stumbling on a fresh work by the stencil artist Miss.Tic. A typical Miss.Tic piece was a black and white stencil of a dark-haired woman, usually wearing only underwear, accompanied by a short phrase and signed with the artist’s distinctive signature. The accompanying captions were quirky, often puns that acquired a double meaning when you read them aloud. An image of a furious young woman holding a handgun was accompanied by the words “L'art me ment” – literally, ‘Art lies to me’, but read aloud it becomes “L'armement”, ‘the weapon’. Another read “Je t'aime temps”, which could be read as ‘I love you so much’ or ‘I love you, time’, depending on how you read it.
Some were philosophical. “Faut-il prier pour que Dieu existe?” was another that played on an ambiguity in language, offering “Should we pray that God exists?” and “Do we have to pray (in order) for God to exist?” as possible alternative readings. During the 2002 presidential campaign Miss.Tic took to signing her works “Miss.Tic, President” and offering up slogans such as “Go out into the streets or end up on them”, “Poverty for everyone!” and the brutally-realistic ”We're neither right nor left, we’re in the shit”.
Even her name, Miss.Tic, was a pun, playing on alternative interpretations of 'mystic' and 'Miss Tic', from the French 'tic', meaning a quirk or an obsession.
Her other recurrent theme was cats: you might come across a Miss.Tic cat stalking away from you, tail raised to display its butthole in true cat fashion, or even a pair of cats watching each other from adjacent walls. Cats were an appropriate choice: there was something very cat-like about her playful, independent creations.
Miss.Tic died yesterday from cancer at the age of sixty-six. I never met her (my roommate did, and said that she was delightful but crazy), but she brightened my life and that of many other Parisians with her art.