Sunday, October 23, 2016

Waiting for Chutney

 Cyclamen on the porch    Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acryilc/canvas   14 x 20"  35 x 50cm

 Quinces in a black bowl   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 15 x 18"  38 x 46cm 

 ​Fall Scene on Glass Window   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/glass 10 x 38"    25 x 96cm  

Saturday in Venice    Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10 x 12"  25 x 30cm

Waiting for Chutney

Quinces are a beautiful, aromatic fruit, but what to do with them?  I am making a quince and pear chutney as we speak, an amalgamation of various recipes.  No onion, a little salt (will that inhibit the gelling process?), raisins, ginger, basalmic vinegar.  We’ll see.  My general feeling is that if it smells good, and you let it settle for a few weeks, it will be delicious.

I painted three times this week – slightly larger works for me.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday rushed by.  I painted on a window -- we had windows replaced in our corridor.  I know, nobody lives in the corridor, but our landlady and the carpenter decided that would help keep the heat in, and it can’t hurt.   We convinced the carpenter to use the help of one of our classmates at Italian lessons – the carpenter could never have done it without him.      

I have always lived with immigrants around me:  my own grandmother came from Poland.  When I moved to Seattle, there were many Asian immigrants, and waves of Vietnamese were arriving about the time I did.   Blair and I frequented “A Little Bit of Saigon” almost all the time that we lived in Seattle.  The best prices on clams and pork were at the store next door, and we ate Durian fruit (looks like a football with spikes, custard-y inside).  One of our first dates was at Chiyoko’s Japanese restaurant, where Blair spilled miso soup in his lap and I laughed.  Then I knew we could get along.  When we moved to Paris, there were Tunisian grocers, who were always friendly.  Our favorite Tunisian merchant, ultimately, was Omar at the Tourne Bouchon.  I still miss him, and the Algerian flatbread seller in the Tuesday/Friday Raspail market.  But there are many new immigrants here, for whom I am grateful.  I am not the only  outsider.  

Harika is an immigrant.  Blair and I are sort of immigrants ourselves.  We moved to Paris in 1993, and have only lived in the USA four years since then.   Our status in Italy, is “elective resident”, which is different from people who MUST stay here.  We’re used to the place now, and couldn’t imagine any other.   We’re hoping to a get a two year visa on 31 October.

I added some cardamom, nutmeg, lemon, cloves.   They all come from someplace else (well, not the lemon).   The house smells like Christmas.  I put all the chutney into six jars, and wait six weeks for the result.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Artnotes: the Whole Magic Show

 ​Cat (from the archives)  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  13 x 16  33 x 40 cm

 ​The White Rabbit    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   12 x 16"  30 x 40cm 

The Way Out   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm

The Top Hat   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  16 x 12"  40 x 30cm 

The Whole Magic Show

A Greek-Cypriot-Brit who we worked with in London would say:  catching the rabbit isn’t so difficult, it’s holding onto him that’s the thing.  This was an analogy for finding work and keeping it, as well as commentary on his early life in Cyprus.  This was the case with Ludovico and the white rabbit: he had him by the scruff of the neck, and tried to stabilize his legs.  Luckily, we got the fellow down to the grassy part of our yard, and boom, the cage was placed over him.

I really wanted to paint the rabbits.  I’d hoped to paint a large canvas of a group of rabbits, but based on this experience with one, it seems I might have to depend on photos.    Ludovico, our caretaker, has many rabbits, but the idea of all of them in the yard is impossible.   I think they must know their ultimate fate, and routinely plan an escape.   The chickens, on the other hand, run free, and miraculously stay out of the road. 

We’ve been having a casual show of paintings here at our house.  It’s an excuse to get together with people we know, eat cookies, drink prosecco (THIS is the best one I have ever had), and sell a painting or two.    We had a dozen guests on Saturday, and plan on more today.

The Castagna (Chestnut) festival is going on today in Rocca Malatina.  Chestnuts are significant here:  they were the staple of a farmer’s food before the turn of the last century.   Most farmers worked the land on behalf of their landlords, and were required to surrender 70% of their production.  So when little vegetables were left for them, chestnuts became their bread.    It wasn’t until after World War II that things changed:  farmers went into town to work, and farms, at least here, were less common. 

We live in the “working” part of Italy.   Ceramics, cars (Ferrari) and motorcycles (Ducati)  are made within 50 kilometers of us.   It makes for a fairly happy population who have enough money to buy a painting from time to time.  I do a lot of work here, too: now that summer is finished, I’ve been sewing (a new hat) and putting up fruit and vegetables.  I’ve learned more about how to fire my terra cotta figures, thanks to a woman who came to our show.   

Someone asked me if I get nervous having people come to the “mostra”…  I had to think about it for a minute, because I used to go bananas with anxiety when we had a vernissage in Paris.  Here is more like just inviting people in – it is a much easier crowd.   And friends bring their friends – which greatly increase the chances someone will relate to my paintings.   There are many people who like my work, because they like me, or like Blair’s work because he really captures the feeling of Modena or a Paris waiter.  But it is a rare and special situation when my heart, my work, touches someone else’s heart.   I had that happen yesterday, and am thrilled to the core.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Artnotes: Harvest

Monte Corone  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 24   30 x 60 cm
Sassi Painting Workshop  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  14 x 60   35 x 40cm
Monte Corone  October 8     Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 17.5   30 x 45 cm
Painting from il Faro    Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 17.5   30 x 45 cm
Painting October Workshop   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30 cm
Pear Tree   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  17.5 x 14"  45 x 35cm

Apples   Laurie  Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14  25 x 35 cm

Apples on a gold tray   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvs  12 x 9.5"  30 x 24cm


 The Hurricane of Guests has lifted!  at last I can breathe a sigh of relief and start to harvest all the input.

I had some great guests these past two weeks:  a painter from Alaska, a group of four from New England, and three from the Washington, DC area.  We ate a couple of times at the Acqua Solferoso, a local restaurant chock full of marvelous, homemade food.   Large tables with families surround, and one can’t help but feel loved.   It almost feels like church to me, eating all around, visiting, smiling, laughing, praising life – but without the unsolicited advice.    

We have our share of churches here, which dot the Italian countryside like gas stations in America.   We peeked in the chapel at the Sassi, visited the 10th century Pieve di Trebbio, and actually attended a mass at the parish at Rocca Malatina.    We went to the church at St. Petronius (5 October is his feast day, a holiday in Bologna), the patron saint of Bologna.  

On the recommendation of our Italian teacher, we saw the best ever attraction in Bologna:  Il Compianto de Niccola dell’Arca (otherwise known as the screaming Maries).  It is a sculpture of the Lamentation, executed in Terra Cotta, the preferred sculpting medium this side of Italy.  The multi-character work of art was created in the late 1460s, but its power gives it an almost contemporary quality.  It was shockingly wonderful, deserving an entire article written about it, and the brilliant sculptor.

We have increased our exposure to the Italian language by signing up for “Italian for Foreigners” classes in Vignola.   We went to a mostly Italian-speaking dinner last night.  I thank all the people who put up with my halting, sometimes stalling, conversation.  We are “getting there”.

That said, we picked up six boxes of book donations this week for the English Language Lending Library I am launching at our house.  We advertised (free) for book donation on AngloInfo, an internet expat publication, and drove the 50 minutes south of Florence to pick them up (if you have any books you’d like to donate, here or in the US, please contact me).  Books range from classics like PG Wodehouse to Doris Lessing.   A box of maps were among the lot.

We are socked in by fog today, and I am picking through the forgotten details overlooked in favor of the guests.  Amazingly, I enjoy doing things in my house:  cleaning, primping, arranging.  I formerly hated to clean my house.  I haven’t stopped drinking or quit any bad habits, found religion or lost weight.  I have just started to like home.

Sketches in October


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Between Now and Then

Apples on the tree (with supports)  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  9 x 12"  24 x 30cm

Sassi with Geraniums   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   16 x 16"  40 x 40cm

Last red geraniums   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   10 x 20   25 x 50 cm

Gold decorations   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas 12 x 16   30 x40cm

Sassuolo   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 24"  30 x 60cm

Between Now and Then

In my heart, I know I shouldn’t focus on the future, but all I can think of right now is winter when Blair and I are left to our own devices… we’re talking about a few weeks in the city of Bologna, and some time at the beach.  I love the beach in winter, when no one is there, and the sand is open for running and playing with Harika.    I make up games, and Blair and I throw rocks at targets.  Blair skips rocks on the ever-flat Adriatic.   The sky is all turquoise and pink, reflecting colors of the sea and evaporation.  The Mediterranean has more waves, but is still a far cry from the giant Atlantic and Pacific.  We used to go to the Pacific year-round when we lived in Seattle:  world’s largest ocean, right there.

I’ve been thinking about Christmas (no advertising yet, I just thought it on my own), and I added gold decorations to four Christmas trees I painted last winter.  I am trying to remember the words to carols.  We’re planning to get a big tree.

I know that fall is a favorite season for many, but it’s never been so for me.  I like the angle of the sun, finally we can paint again during the day; but the shortening days send me into a panic.  We painted yesterday with two new friends.  We all headed up to the Sassi, our BIG ROCKS, and painted from the deck of the closed-up restaurant.   The geraniums were still in raging red bloom, and we arranged ourselves so they figured in the paintings.

Fall is a worrying time for me, with the disappearance of flowers and butterflies.  All I feel is the END of things.  Even though the coloring of leaves is lovely, I feel happier when we’ve transitioned to winter, and the trees show their limbs.  Then, I keep an eye peeled for pussy-willows.  Light abounds once more.

Fall smacks of new leather shoes and sharp pencils, the aromas of school.   Our yards smells of ripe fruit; I paint the apples.  The tree is assisted with more props than limbs, thanks to Ludovico.  He collects errant branches all year long and turns them into tree-crutches.    I’ve made plum jam and roasted pears.  The grapes are ripe, and the chickens jump in the air to capture them.

The sun is out today, despite our cold nights.   Camilla, at the café, says the snails have burrowed underground already, a sure sign of a cold, snowy winter.   We ate lunch at the backyard table yesterday, with the world’s most delicious tomatoes I “canned” from a friend’s garden.

Grasshoppers with pink and green skirts fly among the dying grasses, living up that last little bit of summer.   

Saturday, September 17, 2016


​Venice from Arsenale/Giardini    Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 18"  30 x 45cm 

Tuesday we went to Venice for the day…our guests, Blair and I, and Harika.  We’d all been to Venice before, but who can resist a spontaneous visit to that beautiful city?   We drove in air conditioned comfort (our friend’s rental car) and parked just outside the city.   We could have left Harika in the cool, shady garage, but she seemed to know at once where she was.

It was a flurry of trips with guests this week:   on Monday we toured Bologna.   I was so impressed by these visits, I decided to include them in my painting workshops.   In fact, this week, we set up a workshop totake place 17 -24 June in Cortona (Tuscany) Italy!  

​Montalbano from Verucchia  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 18  30 x 45cm

We hopped on the vaporetto and headed toward Accademia.  These waterbuses are one of my favorite things about Venice – one can just ride around looking at the most beautiful, decorative facades in the world.  It is almost unbelievable how wonderful it is.

We got a seat on the vaporetto, but soon succumbed to standing out on the deck…   Harika travels in a sack on the boat, and had a muzzle (a requirement).   Dogs are king in Venice, where there are no cars or bicycles.  

House near the Giardini in Venice  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 12 x 16"  30 x 40cm

At the Accadamia stop we took a right toward a sandwich shop we ate at when we spent a month there in 2015.   We ordered a large collection of sandwiches and cold white wine.  It was about 90 degrees outside and the airconditioning was struggling to keep it below 80.   Harika sat in the wood booth, trying to steal my prosciutto.  Usually she is more restrained, but Venice brings something out in her.  A smaller white dog barked and took a snap at her on our departure.

We walked from there to the Seguso, a pensione where Blair and his friend stayed 40 years ago when they were in their “year abroad” program with Notre Dame’s architectural school.    They took pictures.  The small white dog was sitting out front with her owner.  After the picture, Blair walked by and the dog tried to bite his ankle.  Hence the muzzle law.

​View from Verruchia and the cheese store   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 24"  30 x 60cm 

Harika tried to lead us back to the house where we once stayed on via Piscina.  Instead, we took the vaporetto from Zattere to Giardini, where our friends wanted to see an architecture show.  Blair and I painted.  It was a hazy day.  Harika and I sat in the grass (I had to spray mosquito repellant on me – I am a mosquito magnet).  Just sitting was so hot, we eventually retired to a café and I ordered a liter of water.  Blair had lemonade.  Harika was served water in a large bowl before we got our things.  See what I mean?  Venice is for dogs, or is that doges?

​End of the Island   Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/canvas  16 x 32"  30 x 80cm    

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Artnotes: If the shoe doesn't fit...

Dancing Shoes (with gold)   Laurie Fox Pessemier  12 x 16"    30 x 40cm   

These shoes won’t fit.   Every few days I try them on again – if my feet were really, really cold they might slip in.  I trim my toenails very close. 

Sometimes no matter how hard I try I can’t be the person I think I should be.   I am not always the painter I want to be, the salesperson, the hostess.  I wish I were thinner, didn’t drink so much, didn’t let people get on my nerves.  I want to speak Italian right now, laugh more, see the bright side.  I want to know the answer (and it better be good).

Grape Vines in the Back Yard  Laurie Fox Pessemier 12 x 18"  30 x 45cm  

My friend Y and I visit every Wednesday morning on Skype.  I look forward to it.   We try to improve ourselves.  We are suckers for self-help, and we spend a certain number of minutes every day trying to reach our goals.   I know that works, because I have two musically gifted nephews who learned multiple instruments, under the eye of my sister, practicing 15 minutes a day.  If they can do it, I can master Italian, write, paint, and promote our artwork -- and, oh yeah, exercise.    Y sells calendars for her 3 and 30 day goal materials on Etsy.  I use them.

Grape Vines at Castello di Serravalle   Laurie Fox Pessemier   12 x 24"   30 x 60cm  

But, no, the shoes really don’t fit.  I can’t even get them on, much less walk in them.  I got the shoes at the flea market at Savigno.  I didn’t pay too much.   They are Italian shoes, beautifully made, with little rubber divots in the heels to make them last.   So I there’s still time to figure it all out.

View from Castello di Serravalle  Blair Pessemier  12 x 16"  30 x 40cm

I can paint the shoes…maybe someone will come along who likes them as much as I do and they will fit (a man’s size 8).  Or, I can plant posies in them, carnations maybe.   I have thought of constructing a “dancing” mobile.  I have terrifically high ceilings here, and a mobile could be just right.   Top hat, gloves, shoes, a record hung from a shiny black cane…a swoopy chiffon scarf?   Just don’t step on my toes.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Artnotes: Touched to the Heart

 Montepulciano   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   8 x 20"  2 x 50cm
 Montepulciano in the distance   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   12 x 20    30 x 50cm
 Cortona Italia   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  18 x 14    45 x 35cm
Lucky Gypsy Plants   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/antique ship log   8 x 14  20 x 35cm
 Harika in the Yard    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/wood   7 x 9.5"   18 x 24cm
Sunrise with Ludovico's house   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   14 x 18"  35 x 45cm

Artnotes:   Touched to the Heart

As we pulled up to park at our Italian lessons on Friday, there was a horse on the sidewalk adjacent.  She was a beautiful white horse, with a whiskery chin and delicate spots.  She had  three or four extra long eyelashes around her eyes.  The man, who looked like he had been with her a long time, stroked her head, reassuring her.  He kissed her on the nose.   I sat in the car while Blair made a run up the street to the Centro di Frutta, to buy juice.

The rider told me he never used a car.  “I am horse” he told me, in an oddly accented English.  I asked if she were an appaloosa.  My friend in Montecorone has appaloosas and I imagined she could be related.  “No” he answered, “she is part Romanian and part Andalusian.  I leave her free on my land.”  We chatted a bit about the area, animals.     I felt the luckiness of the horse and the man, and could faintly smell her grassi-ness.   He started singing a song to her about a “cavallo” (horse, in Italian).

Blair returned and I wished them Buona Sera, proceeding into the community center at Zocca for the lesson.   It was too hot to use the conference room so we sat in the entry way, with an assortment of tables and chairs.  Students trickled in.

Kone arrived and handed me a plastic bag.  Kone is a tailor, looking for work, living in Zocca, hoping someday to bring his wife from Mali.   We copy off one another's’ papers from time to time.   He speaks and understands Italian better than I do, but I am a better writer.

I looked into the bag.  He made me a shirt/dress!   It was of green flowered fabric with a deep purple-red striped lining.  I held it up.  It fit!  Thank you, thank you I told him: a million times thank you.  It was such a surprise, and I was touched to the heart with his kindness.  I honestly don’t know when anyone ever made me such a nice present.

Sometimes, at school, I have the impression these young people think of us as parents.   I am so honored by their respect and friendliness.   I think we all go to class as much to see each other as to learn Italian.

We missed class on Monday, when we drove to Cortona (south of Florence) to talk to someone about tutoring a painting workshop.  It was a wonderful trip, and made me sure we would be teaching painting workshops once again, here or there, or a variety of places in Italy.   Our video and a link to our painting workshop site follow. 

This morning after coffee we ran into Piero, one of our early friends here.  “Do you think you’ll stay much longer?” he asks.  At least seven more years, we tell him.

Pessemier Workshops - ITALY

Laurie and Blair Pessemier

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Artnotes: Persimmon, Mustard, Cantaloupe, Rose
In the Mountains   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 16"  30 x 40cm   

All week went by without me writing a single word.    Well, that isn’t exactly true, as I wrote to many people who were worried we were affected by the earthquake in Italy.   We live more than 200 miles away, and while it is possible Harika felt the shake (she got up from bed about that time), we didn’t feel a thing.  It was quite a disaster, all those stone houses crumbling like sand castles, to the ground. 

​ The Tree out Front   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 16 x 12"  40 x 30cm   

We went to our landlady’s house for dinner that evening.   Our Italian teacher came, too.   It was an Italian language dinner, always a bit challenging for Blair and I.  We understand a lot, but at a dinner table of six people, it is daunting to chime in.   It was a table of stories -- life stories, and everyone found it delightful.  It was very different from the subject-oriented French table, where the man at the head would have been responsible for guiding the conversation.  Here, women predominated and the table talk was pleasing (and a great pasta dish – a la confit d’onion).

​Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 16"  30 x 40cm   195.00

We visited Modena twice this week, once to film a bit for our upcoming video, then to see a friend/look for a gallery space.   Modena is still in the throes of summer, and one of our destinations was closed, both times:  on vacation, no firm dates set.   Rolling metal grills close up the shops, so sometimes we can’t even tell if we made it to the right place.  We consoled ourselves with an Aperol-Spritz (Aperol, that delightful Italian drink – made from a secret recipe).

The weather has been incredible here: providing those dark blue skies one hardly ever sees.  It is a strange phenomenon one associates with van Gogh paintings, but I am witnessing that sky-darker-than-the-trees image frequently.  

When I think of color, I think of Bologna (persimmon, mustard, cantaloupe, rose) where we also went this week.  I I bought new gold paint there – not as good as the Lascaux brand I used to get in Paris, but it is still fun to have.    I had a “Pimm’s Cup” at a sidewalk café, and it was delivered with three small sandwiches, potato chips and olives.  
Tophat  (with Gold)   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 12"  40 x 30cm  

When we lived in Tunisia, certainly the hottest clime we ever experienced, women used to walk as slow as snails.  Wrapped up in white, sheet-like coverings, the edge of the cloth held in their teeth, they would proceed along the sidewalk at a pace I could never match.   Really, very sensible, protected from the sun, not breaking a sweat.   But then, what about the burkini?