Sunday, May 21, 2017

Artnotes: Ferrari

 Iris in the half sun   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  10 x 20"  25 x 50cm 
 Roses in a turquoise vase   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  16 x 11   41 x 27cm 

 Golden Iris   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  12 x 12  30 x 30cm 

Modena on Monday  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  11 x 16"  27 x 41cm

Modena May  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  11 x 18"  27 x 46cm

Photos of the Mille Miglia

The week slipped by like a Ferrari.   Ha!  we went to the Mille Miglia race this weekend, where remarkable cars make the run from Brescia to Rome and back, over the weekend.   The first time we saw the race was in Castelfranco, some years ago.  Blair still fondly recalls seeing 18 gull-wing Mercedes’, including the prototype.  This year we saw nearly 100 Ferraris, as they passed through Pavulla nel Frignano.   It was a bit cool, and off-and-on rainy, so we limited our time.   It can take nearly 2 hours to watch all these fabulous cars pass.  People dress in styles corresponding to the year of their car; goggles are evident.  I believe it is one of Italy’s finest events.

We went to the race to “paint” cars.  Not only was that unrealistic, but we often missed getting the speeding vehicle into the camera picture frame. This was a constant source of laughter, between ourselves and adjacent onlookers.   We were at the edge of the Pavulla leg of the journey, where cars would downshift, making that vroom-rumble sound before passing in front of the bigger crowd.  The race takes place on country roads.  

We drove our own cream puff along parts of the route, inspecting the crowd and waving.  What a feeling!   I wanted to go faster.  It’s hard to drive normally after 100 Ferraris.   Our car is red, anyway.

I catalogued the last of the 459 books in the American Library in the Apennines.  We painted in Modena this week.  One can’t drive within the city center, so we stood beneath the leafy trees and looked in.   It’s a lovely city, and the buildings are the most beautiful colors:  pink, yellow; pumpkin.  My own house is of golden hues.  We’re hoping to have some Modena images for our show this fall. 

Somehow, the flowers in my own yard seem most appealing at the moment.  And certainly more forgiving.  Flowers don’t have to stand up straight or roll on the road.  My Iris are impossible colors of violet; the grass behind isn’t quite so brilliant in the sun, but almost.   Roses bloom on and on, especially the ones planted before this year.  Only one of our new climbing roses is in bloom, but I am optimistic.  The house is full of the scent of cut roses. 

The people next door, with our dog friends Oliver and Camilla, have planted acacias, which smell like California to me.  I love to walk over there to pet Ollie and smell the trees.  The owners are reputedly of the Ferrari car family, but there are many of that name in our area, so I am never sure.  Rumors fly in Rocca Malatina -- at the speed of Ferraris.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Artnotes: Bloom Where You're Planted

Just Bloomed   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  20 x 24"  50 x 60cm   425.00

Notre-Dame-de-Haut  Blair Pessemier Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30   200.00

​Interior with windows  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 20"   35 x 50cm  

Tower and fountain     Blair Pessemier  Paper/colored pencil 11 x 7"  28 x 18cm  75.00

​Interior with bench   Blair Pessemier   Paper/colored pencil  10 x 5.5"  25 x 14cm  75.00

​Red Roses in a Vase   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12  30 x 30cm  175.00

Why is it some weeks nothing goes on and others?  Phew, we had one of those  last week. 

In Paris, we visited with more friends than we remembered:  one who converses with the trees and another that has been unraveling the secrets of life.  Our friend Vincent Gagliostro made a film, “After Louie” and we went to a showing at a wonderful apartment (with a screening room) in Paris.  It is a great film, with gentle answers to so many questions we all share.  

After days of feeling like kids in the candy shop, we took Atlas to the Luxembourg Gardens, for his last walk of our trip.  We packed up our car and headed for yet another stellar destination:  Ronchamp.  What, never heard of it?

​Ronchamp is home to Notre-Dame-de-Haut, a church designed by Le Corbusier.  A defining piece of Le Corbusier’s career, the building is set up on a hill, with a sweeping view of the Jura Mountains.  The footprint is triangular in nature; a large pivoting metal entry door was painted by the architect himself.  The walls are ten feet thick in sections, made of concrete, punctuated by small, contemporary, often single color windows.  It is breathtaking upon entry: from the brilliant sun into the deep darkness of the interior. It is a little like going into the barn, after being out in the field.  And as your eyes adjust, you see the brilliant points of color.   It is the opposite of the wide outdoor expanse: it is intimate, mysterious, beguiling.

You really can’t see the church until you are on top of the hill yourself.  It’s a steep walk, but short enough.  And that roof:  you see this billowy looking pillow floating atop the walls.  And it is nearly floating – supported by concrete columns, it sits above the walls themselves.   It provides a sliver of light to further illuminate the minimal interior.   The downspout which takes the water off the amazing structure is dramatic:  it creates a fountain when it rains.    There are three altars in this little church, all bathed in light from above.  A fourth altar, the oratorio, outside, is acoustically arranged so the priest might address 200 worshippers, without using a microphone.  A stone pyramid provides seating for the faithful.

We stayed as long as decently possible.  I spoke to a tree in the parking lot before we left for our 54 euro a night hotel nearby.  It was a deluxe truck stop on the border of France, Switzerland and Germany.  At the restaurant, Blair and Harika had the largest calf’s liver I ever saw.  There was a quite remarkable salad bar with celeriac remoulade and shaved, very fresh, radishes.   With a bottle of Bordeaux (I know, we should have been drinking a Bourgogne), the price was still less than 50 euros, although one of the truckers commented that he’d never seen a meal so expensive there.   It made me think about following a truck and painting along its route, but it was probably just the Bordeaux talking.

We came home to roses in bloom and the prospect of an art show in Modena, in September/October 2017.   We’ll bloom where we are planted.

Blair’s book, Paths in the Woods is doing well, thanks to all of our friends and family.  If somehow, you were left out of the announcement, take a look at:  

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Artnotes: About the Future

 Giverny 2017  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen   18 x 24"   45 x 60cm

 View from the balcony: Val de Grace   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/linen  

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

​Giverny through Bamboo   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  8 x 12"  20 x 30cm   

​I am writing to you from a rainy and grey Paris this morning.  The cool damp air feels good on my skin, even the occasional shower refreshing.  I recall a French woman, Mireille, from Paris, telling me how her first memory was of rain, on her face, in her baby carriage.   I was demonstrating Club aluminum cookware in Frederick&Nelson’s cooking department in Seattle, 1981.

We managed to get out to Giverny on Thursday, our first day here.  We painted after closing, for about an hour.  I knew I had to leave Paris, when I said, in 2015, “if I go to Giverny another time, I’ll shoot myself” …too many painting workshops.  Monet’s garden is really a glorious place.  It develops even now, with different flowers from two or three years ago.   The beds are planted to encourage flower families and have an ever-so-perfect casual look.

France has such a distinctive geographical appearance:  as we drove from Switzerland, the landscape flattened out and rolling hills punctuated by an occasional bright yellow rapeseed field, command our view.  The greens are ever so slightly emerald, and the sky damp and grey: a beautiful, slightly pinky grey.  There was no traffic on the highway, probably because of the extraordinarily high tolls.  This is an expensive place to be.

I have resisted coming back to Paris, for a number of reasons.  It confounds my language, for one thing:  Italian bursts to the forefront when I want to say thank you, or dog, or car.  When I return to Italy, it may be the opposite.  

But mostly, I have a very hard time going BACK to places.  There is such a big beautiful horizon of life looking ahead, with endless possibility and joy.  Back is like a rerun for me – I know all the outcomes, nothing changes, I can’t affect what is or was.  Paris was perfect and delightful to us when we lived here.  Interacting with it now is different, and not better.   Harika, my dog (chienne, cane) tugs at her leash to return to 110, rue de Rennes. I can see my antique garden chairs up on the balcony.  It is no longer my house.  I can’t describe how it feels to me – but it isn’t a “right direction” sort of feeling.  I want to get away. 

Fortunately, the Friday market is full of old friends.  We arrange for coffee today with one, dinner tonight with another.  We agree to come back on Tuesday – Ali will have mhajeb (stuffed Algerian bread) for us.  Omar, at the Tourne Bouchon, treats us to lunch.  He displays the pictures we left with him in his newly renovated dining room.  Wonderful. 

For a few minutes, I love being back here.  At Blair’s birthday dinner, at the Cuisine de Phillipe, with two friends, we talk about getting together here or in Italy in the fall.  We drink fine wine and eat our rhubarb and strawberry soufflĂ© and laugh about the future.  

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Artnotes: Still Life

​Wildflowers on Yellow  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm 

​Buttercups  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/linen  8 x 12"  20 x 30cm  

​Radishes  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/linen   12 x 12"  30 x 30cm 

Poppies  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/linen 10 x 12"  25 x 30cm​  

​Rhubarb  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  12 x 16"  30 x 40cm 

Since I’ve tried writing a book, I can’t seem to put a single line down on paper without going over it, going over it.  Yikes.  I’ve broken my groove.  Get happy.

Painting has never appealed to me more, and I am painting every day now.   In order to not completely discharge my battery, we went to a new art museum this week for inspiration.  We drove through the hills and valley to the Villa dei Capolavori, in Traversetolo, not far from Parma. 

Peacocks roamed the grounds, among wooden figurines created by Depero, a Italian Futurist artist best known for the Campari logo.   We drove that hour and fifteen minutes to the Fondazione Magnani Rocca to see a show of Cezanne and Morandi.  The owner of the villa, Magnani, owned many Cezanne watercolors, and this show borrowed a key piece, the Bathers, from the Pushkin, to anchor the show.  We were not disappointed, and in fact, delighted to see many artists we weren’t familiar with.  There were also works by Monet, de Stael, di Chirico, Titiane…   a real top notch collection. 

I have been painting a lot of still life recently – wildflowers and vegetables.  The Neapolitans, who have our Saturday fruit stand, now select my greens based on paintability.   A bunch of radishes awaits.

We celebrated “Liberation Day” in Italy on Tuesday last.  It always brings me near to tears as the band plays Italian military songs, and the Alpini (mountain division, that Bob Dole fought alongside of) hold up their flags.   There are still many people around here who remember the horrors of World War II, and ask me, “what is going on with Trump?”   It has given me cause to reflect that almost no one in America remembers how terrible it was to fight in World War II.  One would need to be over 90 to have been in the military at that time.   War is never the answer, except for how to fill the pockets of arms manufacturers and dealers.
I am cataloging all of the books in the American Library in the Apennines.  My new $50.00 Amazon Fire Tablet scans the ISBN code, and the app Book Catalogue keeps track of all the books, including who they are lent to.   I ordered a sign and business cards.

Our friend Sue brought over armloads of rhubarb this week.  We made chutney and jam, and I am stuffing a pork roast this weekend with rhubarb relish.  Strawberry rhubarb pie is for dessert.

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 cafĂ©, with his dog on his lap, which would have made the nicest painting.