Saturday, April 22, 2017

Artnotes: It could snow again...

Green beneath a dark blue sky   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/linen  12 x 8"  30 x 20cm   

 Striped Eggplants     Laurie Fox Pessemier     Acrylic/linen   12 x 8"  30 x 20cm  

After the Saturday Market  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen   12 x 12"  30 x 30cm    

  Begonias in the shade    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen   12 x 12"  30 x 30cm

Yellow Peppers  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  12 x 20"  30 x 50cm  

We had snow this week!  That's no April Fool’s joke, either… followed by frost four mornings in a row, so far.  Just when we believed that it was summer, and I planted my seeds.  

It didn’t stop us from having our snow tires changed for summer rubber – in Italy one must have snow tires (or chains in the trunk) from mid-October to mid-April, or face the legal consequences.  And those handsome Carbinieri, in their boots and good-looking uniforms, regularly perform spot checks.  I won’t say we are above reproach, but generally after the first few words emerge in our stumbling Italian, we’re free to go.

We spent Easter day (Pasqua) and Easter Monday (Pasquetta), basking in the sun. Our table in the back yard bears vestiges of Easter egg dying:  pink, blue, yellow.   The roses are quite close to bursting open.  I’ve seen others in warmer locations in the neighborhood, in flower. Harika is parading about in her haircut.

Italian lessons are back in force, with new refugees, and some old.  I am living on the cusp of the New World.  I feel like I reside in Spain in 711, or during the rise of the Greek Civilization, or America in 1620 – there is a whole new culture falling into place.   I know people are saying “no new immigrants”, but in fact they are already here.  It reminds me of protesting new development in Seattle:  we were always a day late.   Marine lePen, or Brexit, or Donald Trump are never going to stop the wave of civilization.  They may as well be Xerxes, with his slaves whipping the sea.

Effort spent trying to turn back the clock, is likewise a complete waste.  As the world marches toward renewable energy, the measures to rekindle the coal industry, or dig for more oil, border on laughable.  It is like trying to wear clothes you outgrew as a child – you might have had some fun in those shoes, but they just don’t fit anymore.  

I always want to find a new way of looking at things, and the era we are living in is perfect for that. To witness a new society, a new set of values, adapting to an existing one is a rare opportunity.  Blair and I have elements of both cultures: we are immigrants, like the refugees, but hold many of the same Western values as the Italians.   The refugees are full of hope and optimism but have no home.  The Italians need revitalization of their dying towns and the corrupt government; and people to work at jobs locals won’t take.   It should work perfectly, but who knows?   I feel lucky to be living and alert in this period of great change. 

It may snow again before the roses bloom, but miraculously, life goes on.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Artnotes: Noisemakers

 Orchids from the Gypsy   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  10 x 12"  25 x 30cm

 The Metal Bridge   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  18 x 24"   40 x 60cm

Blossoms in the Yard  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm

 Crabapple in a big blue Vase  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  10 x 19"  25 x 50cm

The Green Metal Bridge   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/linen 12 x 10.5"   30 X 50cm

At the bottom of the big hills leading to Modena, there is a pull-off by the side of the road.  It was here I stopped to await  further instruction as to Blair’s whereabouts.  The phone connection was feeble while he was on the train, and I didn’t know if he would be in Bologna or Parma.  He was on his way home from the USA, training from Milan.

I rolled down all of the windows; it’s been pretty warm.   Then I heard the most peculiar sound; actually many sounds.  It sounded like New Year’s Eve noise-makers.  Harika wasn’t flinching, so I knew it wasn’t dangerous.   Frogs.  It was frogs, at the side of the Panaro river.   I spent some time there, listening, to the frogs and for the telephone ring.

It brought me back to the days we would paint at Giverny in April and May.  The frogs would create a cacophony so distracting, it was hard to keep one’s mind on painting.  They would be in Monet’s waterlily pond.  And exactly at the moment the sun would drop below the horizon, they would all stop croaking.

It was the same with Cicadas in the South of France:  their trigger was temperature.  The din would be intolerable – it didn’t surprise me Van Gogh had a breakdown there.  I couldn’t stand it myself.  But, like the frogs, the sound would disappear in a flash, when the temperature fell below a certain degree, right about dark.

Finally, an email came through on my phone:  Bologna.  Harika and I fired up the cream puff and drove off, lickety split to retrieve our fearless leader.

We are going to try to go to Monet’s garden to paint once again:  we’ll be keeping Harika’s friend, Atlas, company in Paris in early May.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Artnotes: Handful of Daffodils

 Handful of Daffodils  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  8 x 12"  20 x 30cm

 Sunlight in the Door Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  8 x 12"  20 x 30cm

 Oliver   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10 x 19.5"  25 x 50cm

Ponte di Tiberio (14 - 21 ce)  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 8"  30 x 20cm

The Old Carnell Company, Winsted, CT   Blair Pessemier  11 x 14"   28 x 35.5cm
 Elephant at beach 43   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm
The Beach Viserbella   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  8 x 20"  20 x 50cm

Artnotes:  A handful of Daffodils

It is so bright out I was forced to paint indoors this morning.  I love the look of the sun bursting into the dark interior.  Harika and I are holding down the fort here, while Blair is in the USA.  He comes back on Monday (arriving Tuesday).  One never realizes how much another person does until you must do it all yourself.  Harika is zero help.

When I went to the USA, neighbors took Blair out for lunch, checked in to see was ok, et cetera.  Me?  Just call me “chopped liver”.   Must be a just for boys thing. It’s ok, I actually have a lot to keep me busy and my Modena chums checked on me.

I finished my writing.  I have moved the barbecue with the hornet’s nest inside to a location on the other side of the house, and put rocks over the hive entrance.  It’s a bit unnerving to step into the side yard, where those left outside are looking for home.  I feel very brave and hope not to have nightmares.

H and I spent a few days in Rimini.  I painted a four paintings, and we went to the beach a lot.  It was so surprising I was the only tourist.  Nine miles of beach, and not another person or dog in sight.   I went to the city one day, but I loved the giant expanse of silky sand beach too much to make the trek into town.   I blogged from there on  

Our new trees all have leaves and flowers.  In fact, when I arrived the yard made me think of a chia pet – all green and fuzzy.  It seemed smaller, like when you put a carpet into a room.   I waded through the tall grass and picked a handful of daffodils.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Artnotes: Uncivilized

 Lemons in Black Beret   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm
 Lavender  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   12 x 10  30 x 25cm
 Trees in Flower Marano   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas     12 x 20"   30 x 50cm

Forget-me-nots   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 20  20 x 50cm

 By the Panaro River in March   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10 x 20"  25 x 50cm

In Blossom   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   10 x 20"  25 x 50cm

I am sitting in my sunny yard at 3:16 in the afternoon, listening to the children in the grammar school sing songs, accompanied by a piano and castanets.  Life doesn’t get much better.    My trees are growing.  The grass is cut.  

We bought a push lawn mower which is a constant source of entertainment to the Italians in the neighborhood.  As the fellow at the store says, only Americans and Germans buy these. 

I sit here working on this travel book – too many words, no structure.  Oh well.   I am going to the beach next week with Harika to finish it.  Blair is going to the US to pack up an art show for North Carolina.  We are holing up in a studio in Rimini. 

Do those kids know how romantic they are?  How magical?  Probably not.  Kids are just naturally that way.  Always busy, mostly fun, and ever so non-self-conscious. That’s it, isn’t it?  It’s when we start trying to make an impression, to behave, to act civilized we get in trouble.  Without too much civilizing, we can be spontaneous and happy.   Like my dog, Harika.  I am sorry she has no frontal lobe, and no opposable thumb, but maybe in the case of the frontal lobe she is better off.

It’s taken on the sense of a carnival up there at the school.  There seems to be a xylophone, and a drum, too.  Clapping; in rhythm.   The birds are singing.  I heard the cuckoo, a certain sign of spring, this week.

 I’ll go take a look with Harika in a few minutes.  I want to be one of them, but not the teacher.  Like parents, those authority figures can be the dream killers.   Italy is not as bad as some places we’ve lived, or maybe Italian kids are inherently immune.

Like art – ask any kid if they can paint, and they say “yes!”  Even as a professional painting grownup, I doubt myself.  

It’s taken me years to eliminate the tendency to make all trees brown.    If I were a tree, would I want to be brown?  I mean, is brown anyone’s favorite color?  OK, there are some acceptable browns:  curry, maybe, or amber.  In any case, if I were a tree I’d want to be red.  Green leaves are fine.  But they can lean toward turquoise or purple.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Artnotes: On Tuesday

 Begonia   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  19.5 x 8"  50 x 20 cm

 Daffy-dills   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm

Baroque Tree in Bloom   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  ​12 x 18  30 x 45cm

Trees by the Tennis Courts  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   10 x 14"  25 x 35 cm​  

Carrots  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 19.5 "  20 x 50 cm

Artnotes:  On Tuesday

Three people, on foot, were stopped in our driveway.  We were coming home from a walk with Harika.

Buona Sera, I shouted – after 3PM in the afternoon one says, Buona Sera (good evening).  They all smiled and went on to ask, because we were English speakers, would we be interested in trading English lessons for Italian lessons? 

On Tuesday we went to see the gas company about our bill – in our broken Italian we protested the outrageous price we are paying for heat.  The lady behind the desk pointed out that our consummation was nearly double the year before.  How could that be?  We had our windows sealed, some replaced, and made other heat-retaining measures.  You need to have your furnace looked at, she told us, in her perfect Italian.  And she took 800 euros, one third, off of our second bill.  Hooray.

The family wanting to speak English came by on Tuesday.   We toured our house, and assessed one another’s capabilities.   On Thursday, we tackled the subject of “the kitchen”:  names of appliances, how to read a cookbook.  The girl read aloud, in English, a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, which I made according to her instruction, and we all ate.

We went to an opening of a show of marvelous etchings by our Italian teacher’s late husband, held at the Accademia di Belle Arti Bologna.  The Accademia is the most beautiful building, built in the first half of the 18th century.  The main event room, which we occupied, was painted in very pale pink and blue.  The columns remained white, as did trim.  It was a departure from what we might have seen in France, and a refreshingly lovely treatment.   Baroque.

We took a cab to the show from the parking area, after having walked a half mile in the wrong direction.  I love to take taxis, and it was a sparkling clean electric cab.   I inspected the driver – he refused two calls while we were in the car; he charged us just 5 euros, even though it read 5.65 on the meter.   When we are in cab, Blair can look around, as well.  One can’t drive in Bologna, anyway, as it is a “no car” city, except for residents, buses and taxis.   We are strongly considering renting an apartment in Bologna for a week, so we could just study the city, and paint.

Bologna is a uniquely lovely place:  tall loggias, terrazzo sidewalks, everything in color.  On Tuesday night I saw a man in a café, with his dog on his lap, which would have made the nicest painting.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Forest Floor

While winding our way on spaghetti roads from Bologna to Rocca Malatina, we passed a carpet of white, purple and blue.   We pulled out our easels, and painted the magical pattern.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Artnotes: March on

House at Pieve di Trebbio  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   9.5 x 12    24 x 30cm 

 ​Blossom Blue Base   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  19.5 x 8"  50 x 20cm 

 Spring Trees  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 19.5"  20 x 50 cm

​White  Blossom   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  19.5 x 8"  50 x 20cm 

The Ides of March?  I am through worrying about bad times.  I am plunging ahead, swimming through to spring and happiness and everything wonderful.    Of course, I am aware of another giant heating bill; but spring has sprung.  I’ve turned the temperature down to 65.  Our neighbors tell us we must go fight the gas company – the bills can’t be correct.  We will see the gas brigade on Tuesday.  Anything we gain will make things better.  But I am not going to let a lousy gas bill ruin my life.  I’ll eat more spaghetti instead of meat.

Spring is clearly here in Rocca Malatina.  On Friday most of the fruit trees burst into flower:  almonds, cherries, apples.  It was so warm outside, we had to run for cover after eating our lunch in the sun:  too hot.   Our own persimmon is coming into bud, although the pomegranates are still without sign of life.  The roses have serious leaves, and the new trees out front have red and green sprouts.

Our paintings reflect the deep blue sky, clear as a bell.

I have been writing on my Slow Travel book:  I have nearly 100 book pages, but they are extremely scattered.  I have a terrible time going back to work on things like that.  I think it should have magically snapped into place – but it’s all over the board.   All those 90-day-publishing guru types never advised me that I would have to work THIS hard.  Nuts.

All I want to do is go on another trip.

We’ve packed all our remaining Sicily paintings off to our US company, Soicher Marin.  And the fabulous news is that SUMMERBALL – our baseball show (86 images and the book) are going to be used in an exhibit to launch a new sports stadium in High Point, North Carolina.  It gives me reason to paint again.

We went to the flea market today and bought a new oriental carpet.  We got a glass top for the faux-ivory carved Chinese table we bought in Sicily.  The place looks as spiffy as the yard.   March on.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Artnotes: Wanted

Skater sketches   Laurie Fox Pessemier  antique paper/acrylic  9.5 x 13.5"

Chalet in the snow   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 10 x 19.5   25 x 50cm

Mountains with Cablecar lines   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas    12 x 18  30 x 45cm

Mountains   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10 x 19.5" 25 x 50cm

I never thought I would really visit Switzerland, but I am so pleased that we have come.  We are staying with a friend, which makes it possible.   Switzerland reminds me of my life growing up in Connecticut (I loved snow until taught not to), at least the wintertime.  We’ve been spending time indoors playing games.   The views are incredible – snow falling, jagged mountain peaks.  And inside, we pick cards and move game pieces.

“If you didn’t just WANT another blue card, you might get something you could use,” one of the players tells me.  I shun him.  I tell him about luck, being with you or against you, and when you are not having luck, well, you are just not.  I come from a family of gamblers.  We played cards constantly when I was a child, and the cards were either with you or not.

He goes on to tell me I should be thankful for the cards I have.  Maybe they are the cards I need.  Eye roll.

But this morning, I am actually thinking about it.  I mean, why not?  What if I didn’t WANT so badly, but accepted.  Would I stop buying raffle tickets?  Or could I buy them, and just think that I made the seller happy, or the cause it benefits a little richer?  I kind of do WANT the car.

I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but you see, travel, being in a new place, being exposed, makes me more likely to consider this idea.

The game we play is called “Ticket to Ride”.  One builds train routes across the USA by picking cards indicating possible destinations, and colors corresponding with track.  You can play constructively, focused on your own path, or play offensively, blocking the paths of others.   It never seems that profound when you are playing, but I get pretty upset when people throw literal roadblocks in my way.   There is so much to learn in life, still, at my age of 62. 

Meanwhile, we’re planning our strategy to go up the mountain to eat lunch.

During my month in Sicily, I found inspiration and learned some history.  But a trip where I can be traveling and be with others, opens me up and provides input.  Not everything learned is right; some people are full of baloney.  But the right person, the smart person, the person who is there for you when you need it, makes a big difference.  It’s accepting, not wanting.

It's spring in RoccaMalatina:

Hyacinthes   Laurie Fox Pessemier     Acrylic/canvas  10 x 19.5" 25 x 50cm

Giacinti   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12" 30 x 30cm

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Artnotes: Too good looking

Spring View Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  14 x 20"  35 x 50cm

 Pussy Willows  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  20 x 12"  50 x 30cm

Willows in Spring  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/ canvas  12 x 20"  30 x 50cm

“That looks like a good nursery”, Blair commented on our drive home from Bologna.  We stopped.   I have been coveting Royal Empress trees (Paulownia Tomentoso), but getting ones of the right size has been impossible.  They are either two small, 18 inches tall; or too big, 12 feet tall with a root ball requiring a backhoe to plant.   Blair fell for four crabapples, pink and white, about 9 feet tall, with manageable roots.  They would deliver. 

We’ve been working on our yard here in Rocca Malatina.  Everything we have bought for the yard is flowering, or at least colorful:  two persimmon trees, two pomegranates, two butterfly bushes, 9 climbing roses and now, the flowering crabapples.  I’ll be 80 before they all reach maturity, but I am assured there will be some result the first year.

The trees at the lovely Villa Luisa across the street, have been cut back to look like clubs – no branches at all. It is so ugly, I can’t bear to look over there, but am forced to if I try to leave our house.  People say things, like, “it had to be done”, “it’s so much brighter”, “it will grow back”.  I say “HA!”

 I am reminded of bad haircuts at Norma’s Beauty Salon as a child:  it will grow back, they’d say.  I tell myself it was because my mother wanted to make me look ugly; maybe they were afraid I would fall victim to the evil eye if I looked too good, or I’d be kidnapped.  Who would kidnap ME?  I think they were jealous I was so good looking, and it’s the same for Villa Luisa – it was a nicer house than most, and it had to be wrecked.  I knew someone who won a new car and his friend shot it up with a shotgun because he was jealous.  You get the picture.

We have actually hired a gardener to do our work.  Vicenzo is a gentle giant of a man, who lovingly trims our existing roses.  He’s made a (hopefully) chicken-proof fence for the climbing roses.  Even Ludovico  our caretaker, seems impressed.  He had a talk with me about the dead geraniums in the basement.  I am planning to get a croquet set for the yard, and we just bought bocce balls.   Badminton is ready to fly.

I am thinking about Sunday lunches, with neighbors and refugees (not at the same time).  Blair and I and Harika ate outdoors today.   And then a game of quoits.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Artnotes: Ambassador

 Green Onions   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 20"    20 x 50cm     
 Oranges  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 20"    20 x 50cm     
 Spring View  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 20"    20 x 50cm     
 Across the Valley  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 20"  30 x 50cm
Lacy Primrose   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12   30 x 30cm

Artnotes: Ambassador

I have been writing a book about “Slow Travel”.   Much of my time is wrapped up in this, so I will share some excerpts on Artnotes in the coming weeks.  My goal is to have the book launched in the next 75 days, so I’ll keep you posted.  It has gotten me to think just how important travel is.

When you travel you have a mission, chosen or not.  You represent who you are and the elements of yourself to the world.  I represent women, sixty-year olds, artists, cooks, writers, wives, dog owners and Americans.  And each of those categories gives you the opportunity to make an impression of what Americans, or cooks, or dog-owners, are like, apart from the opinion they form from TV.  You have a lot of power to change people’s ideas about who you are and who your group is.  I scoop.

This is particularly important to me right now, because I don’t feel the current regime in the USA represents my views.   I feel ashamed of what is being perpetrated in the USA – my art, my writing, my livelihood are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution;  I have the right to travel wherever I want with my American passport.   When I travel, or as I live my life in Italy, I project the most positive aspects of the America to the people I meet.   It’s my job.

One particularly late night, long ago, at the Petit Lux, a restaurant where we worked in Paris, we decided to take a taxi home.  It wasn’t a long way, but we hopped a cab near the Hotel Lutetia and directed the driver to our house on rue de Lille.  “Are you English?” he asked, hearing our accented French.  “No,” we replied, “American”.  “Ah, I have a hard time with Americans.”

I went on to explain that there are all types of Americans, and we can be pretty extreme in our behavior.  Really generous, really mean; very loud, or soft-spoken; haughty or humble.  We chatted for ten minutes about these things.  As we departed, he said, “you guys are alright, even if you are American”.   I said I thought of ourselves as ambassadors;  “Oh, wow,” he exclaimed, “you’re the ambassadors?”

We are ambassadors.   Now we are the American ambassadors to Rocca Malatina, Italy, population 575.  Stop by for coffee.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Artnotes: Pippistrello

The days are much longer here in Rocca Malatina than they were before we left. 

The house was positively frigid upon our return – the furnace had some sort of problem and shut off.  Despite being here for three days, the interior temperature has still not reached 68 (20C).  I move around with a little electric heater and my fur coat.

It’s good to be back.  Almost all the neighbors are happy to see us, and we’re “in” at the café.  We’re planning our summer garden, to accommodate badminton and croquet:  a few shade trees, and flowers a la Monet.  Ah, Spring…

I bought the most beautiful lettuces today:  red, cream colored, green, red stripe.  The greengrocer, originally from Naples, has started selling me on the paint-ability of his product.  “This would be beautiful in a “natura morta””.  Mini-artichokes, interesting peppers – the fruits of the south are coming into ripe.

Which brings me to the harbinger of said season:  a Pippistrello.  You may not think of the lowly BAT as a sign of spring, but he’s out of hibernation!  Early this morning there was a bang in the library.  Harika was afoot, barking like a banshee.  We got up, I followed her into the red bedroom, and whoosh.  A bat.

Isn’t pippistrello just the most wonderful word?  Blair opened a window and he escaped.