Monday, November 11, 2019

Artnotes: Rainy Day

From "The Magic Fleece" , a story of the Flying Carpet   Blair Pessemier    Acrylic/paper   5.5 x  4"  book 25.00

From "Silverware:  An After Dinner Story"  by Laurie   Blair Pessemier  Pen/paper  5.5 x 8.5   book 25.00

A Day in Rome   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas panel 12 x 8"  30 x 20cm  175.00

From "Harika Rules"  a book by Laurie and Blair Pessemier   Blair Pessemier  ink/paper  5.5 x 4"  book 20.00

Drinking to the Center of the Universe  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/carton  14 x 10"  100.00

Rain rain and more rain.  That’s been the situation here in sunny Italy.   We’ve retreated from the hills up North, where one might soon say snow, snow and more snow, to the Rome area, where it is just rain.  Before we left, we spent last Sunday with friends in Modena.

We’d never been to the Galerie Estense, the art museum of Modena, so we made a point of taking advantage of the “free Sunday”.  The four of us visited the collection, with works from the 13th to 18th century, beautifully curated.   I am a great fan of the medieval to early Renaissance period, which is well represented.   After the artwork, we visited the less sophisticated, but equally interesting Civic Museum, in the same complex.  We saw fabrics, which Modena was famous for, and dresses by famous Modena designers.  There were tools, and car bits and all sorts of this-n-thats. 

This Sunday we went to a completely different museum, the Ara Pacis (of Augustus) in Rome.  The Ara Pacis was an altar build to the goddess of Peace by Augustus in 9 BCE.  It is more than an altar (which is inside); it i a structure without a roof, that one would walk into and ponder, or make a sacrifice, or whatever one would do back then. It was commissioned in 13 BC and finished in January four years later.  It is a remarkable example of flora and fauna carving of that period.  Parts are original; much is reconstructed. The building was built too close to the Tiber, and was silted over in floods throughout the centuries.  Eventually it was found again in 1536 (based on drawings of a frieze at that time), but not officially unearthed until 1936.  Recently Richard Meier designed a wonderful  building to enclose it, and provide additional exhibition space.

In this exhibition space today we saw a show:  Aquileia 2200, commemorating this Roman city, founded 2200 years ago.   Aquileia was periodically the center of the Universe from the Middle Ages, clear up until the 18th century.  There were objects from the 2nd century until much later.  I was unaware of this bit of history, and Blair and I are thinking of going to see it (well, its remains) in person in the Friulia Venezia Giulia region.

Museums are the perfect solution for a rainy day, along with books.  As you might know, Blair and I have written and published 24 “children’s” books over the years.  I have resurrected three recent ones for sale this Christmas.  They make up some of the pictures in today’s artnotes.  

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Artnotes: Maintaining the Light

Cycling By Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/canvas 13 x 18" 33 x 45 cm 275.00

Palermo (a welcoming city until 1491) Blair Pessemier Acrylic/canvas 12 x 12" 30 x 30cm 250.00

 Hat on Chair/Paris Apartment (moving) Blair Pessemier Acrylic/canvas 14 x 20 37 x 50 cm 275.00

 Together in the Park Winter Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/canvas 12 x 12" 30 x 30cm 225.00

Pont Royale Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/canvas 13 x 16" 33 x 41 cm 225.00

Let's Go Fly a Kite Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/wood 10.5 x 5" 26 x 13cm 120.00

It is wonderfully foggy here:  so foggy one can’t see across the street.  Great billowing clouds of fog swirl beneath the streetlights.  It’s dark very early, and when I take Harika for her evening walk the grocery store is still illuminated.  When the door opens, a bank of fog poofs in our direction.

Its ok, this weather, for the moment; provocative, even.  I am keen to drive down to Stimigliano, but Blair has doctor appointments that make it impossible.  Harika is (perhaps unwisely) getting her hair trimmed on Tuesday.   Our house here in Roccamalatina is cold – going outside somehow makes me feel warmer.

Saturday we went to Ferrara to the Italian Jewish Museum.  I saw an article on it in the New York Times, from a while back, and so we drove there.  It was a little difficult for me, because the Jewish people have had such difficulties, and I am always a Pollyanna.  I see the bright side.   In fact, difficulties for the Jewish people were less in Italy than in other parts of Europe, but life wasn’t a bowl of cherries. 

The museum has only been open since 2017, and is in a state of development.  It is in the former Ferrara Prison.  New additions will increase the exhibition space, which currently has mostly interactive exhibits.  Ferrara and the Duke d’Este welcomed the Jews and encouraged them to settle in the Ferrara area, when they were driven from Sicily.  Livorno, Ferrara and Venice had fairly large Jewish populations.  But the ascendency of the Catholic Church kiboshed that.

A large extended family was touring the museum with us.  They surrounded us at the movie, which elaborated on topics I never really thought about:  how Jews kept themselves separate and felt that their particular way of life had something special to offer others.   I learned that in losing all their belongings, even their temples, they maintained the essence of the Jewish way of life inside of them.  And that made sense about how there were few actual items in the museum.

We are headed to a more traditional museum today.  I love to look at things, to see the physical manifestations of an individual.  But now I have a greater appreciation for maintaining the light inside.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Artotes: For the Birds

Bird of a Different Color  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/Paper  15 x 25"  41 x 63cm  160.00

Fall Leaves Ronzoni  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12; 30 x 30cm  175

Migrating Birds   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/wood  7 x 13"  17 x 33

Playing Cards in Luxembourg Gardens, Fall     Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas panel 12 x 12  30 x 30cm  225.00

Searching for Treasure   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/wood  7 x 13  17 x 33 cm  160.00

Fall in the Luxembourg Gardens Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  9.5 x 13"  24 x 33cm  225.00

I painted outdoors in Rocca Malatina on Monday.  We’re having an unusually warm period here – last year at this time it snowed.  This year, the leaves are simply fantastic:  reds like crazy.   Harika loves these sunny mornings– when we go for walks she runs and jumps and rolls in the grass.

I found a birds nest this week.  I am always looking for things on the street:  inspiring things.  Really, the birds do the same thing:  they find a piece of twig, twine and an odd feather, and weave it all together to call home.   Since we got the new locking garbage cans in Rocca Malatina, I can’t just open the lid anymore and look in.  I used to find the BEST stuff: a floor lamp; glass demijohns I feature as green glass bubbles in my yard; a hardly broken dish that makes a good prop; twelve champagne glasses; a full, sealed bottle of whiskey.  Now one must have a card to open the dumpster, and it registers how many times you use it – over 30 a year and you are charged extra.   2019: the year the dumpsters closed.

One of the chickens got out of the yard this morning, and we found it on our walk home.  Harika was able to use her herding skills to get it into the yard.  We’ve had a decline in the fowl population – the polecat (weasel) got three the other night.  On our way home from dinner at 10PM, we saw him run across the street into the yard.  I can’t let Harika out in the dark.

There have been hundreds of birds in the big cypress tree nearby, getting ready for the flight south.  The tree is alive with chirping, every morning, all day, save for when they all take off and “murmur”, a giant flock flying in unison, together.  Their movements create waves, wriggling snakes, whirlpools, clouds.

We have a terrific singing bird near our front porch right now.  Yesterday, when an obnoxious internet ad commenced with birdsong, the bird outside sang back.  It was quite touching, something so personal and lovely responding to what I perceived as just awful.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Artnotes: 99

 Walk in the Woods   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 24"
Figure in Niche   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 9.5"

 Renaissance Garden   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 28 x 22"
Tivoli Gardens

There comes a time I just have to get out of the house and see something INSPIRING. Today, Saturday, we drove an hour from our house in Stimigliano to the Tivoli Gardens at the Villa d’Este.  It was a beautiful day with full sun, and up at Tivoli it was a brisk 60 degrees.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Tivoli gardens, they were built during the second half of the 16th century .  The Villa is very lovely, but it is the grounds which are outstanding.  They are the perfect example of the Renaissance Garden, and “the fame and glory of the Villa d'Este was above all established by its extraordinary system of fountains; fifty-one fountains and nymphaeums, 398 spouts, 364 water jets, 64 waterfalls, and 220 basins, fed by 875 meters of canals, channels and cascades, and all working entirely by the force of gravity, without pumps.” (Wikipedia)

You really can’t believe how incredible it all is. 

I had been there 15 years ago, in May.  Blair was with me and he had also been there in 1973.  We were both amazed how differently we felt this time, even though the place was just the same.   We’re evolving.  It evokes thoughts of our necks getting longer and our fingers getting long and pointy for texting. 

We went to a wedding Saturday night, online.  The wedding party, in New York, was a Hungarian/Nutmegger combination (Connecticut, for those not from there) with friends literally all over the globe.  We all participated, the 20 physical people at the ceremony and us 20 or so connected.  It was just wonderful, as weddings are:  people spoke of the bride and groom, bringing new qualities to light and reinforcing just how wonderful your friends really are.  It made me want to travel through the airwaves and hug them in person.  I am sure that is coming.

Our neighbor, who managed our lights in the studio, moved and the new people cut off our electricity.  It seemed an unfortunate development because today I was forced to paint just outside the door.  In fact, a most remarkable man came by and chatted me up – this fellow was 99 years old and had worked for Doctors without Borders.  His territory was Indian reservations in Alabama and Louisiana, USA.  I caught my breath as he said that; we agreed it was a dire situation.  Eventually another neighbor came by to make sure I was ok.  “He’s 99,”  I told Carlo.  He raised his eyebrows.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Artnotes: How We See

We went to Rovigo this week.  Our friend says, “Rovigo, it’s a hideous town,” but when I go there, I think “this is a lovely business street, these are great coffee shops.  And the museum, Palazzo Roverello is fabulous”.   I think it is the artists in us that  see the beauty wherever we go.   My mother used to shake her head at what we “saw”.

This time, the “high” street was hung with Japanese umbrellas, in honor of the museum show “Giapponissmo”.  Giapponissmo celebrates the influence the opening of Japan had, art and otherwise, on Europe.  I honestly had never thought of the giant impact, or maybe it had never been presented as well as in this show.   There was Japanese art from the end of the 19th century, and start of the 20th.  It must have been really shocking, after the chiaroscuro of Leonardo da Vinci, to see these Japanese image which brought every detail to the forefront.  Looking at Japanese prints helps me figure out what to paint, instead of perspective. 

I’d like to see a subsequent show depicting how European art affected Japan; maybe it didn’t have much impact.

Sue and Richard, our friends in Rocca Malatina, are leaving to go back to England.  They’ve rehomed their goats, and the chickens and ducks are in line.  All the dogs and cats are going to the UK, papers in paw.  It’s sad, but a good lesson for me, who has left so many dear friends in order to pursue my dreams.   This may be the first time a friend has left me.  For that, I am lucky, I guess.   I am wishing them the best luck and happiness.

You can’t begrudge a person moving along their journey in life.  If something, someplace, is calling out, one must go.  I used to hate that Christmas movie, “A Wonderful Life”.  I never thought it happy at all, poor George always wishing to see the world, but held back in little old Bedford Falls.  I could never see the joy in it.

We’re thinking about Christmas.  We’d originally hoped to go to the USA, but a variety of issues (mostly money – that car repair put us behind) are holding us back.  So, if you’re looking for an Italian Christmas experience, consider coming here to help us stuff our turkey.  We have a tree with real candles, and a living nativity in the town next door; maybe even snow.  In January, we’ll be painting in Venice – we’ve got a couple of artists coming, and hoping for more. 

What is it about Fall that puts ones eye toward the future?   I like to think it’s the rebirth of the new year.  I actually like winter – naked trees, interesting light.    I have two new fig trees to plant, courtesy of our departing friends.

We’re having an open house for our artwork today, as part of the Chestnut Festival in Rocca Malatina.  Tuesday we’ll flee back to Stimigliano to start hunkering down for winter.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Artnotes: Exotic Animals

Fog in the Hills   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  13 x 30"

Peddling away   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 12"

End of the Season   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25"

Grandmother   Blair Pessemier  16 x 12"  

 Zinnias in Fall  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  25 x 17"

 Butterflies on Gold Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  25 x 17"
 Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  25 x 17"

The New Dish  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25"

We went out to lunch with a friend yesterday, at Il Faro (the Lighthouse) restaurant up in the Sassi National Park not far (1 mile) from our house.  Although the building is a box, the situation is a bit like a lighthouse, hanging from the edge of the hill, overlooking the park.  It has a spectacular view, which we’ve painted numerous times.  It is most interesting when the lower levels fill with fog, and it is like looking over a large, white sea.  Only the great “Sassi” (rocks) protrude, and the highest mountains in the distance.

Harika didn’t come, not that she’s poorly behaved, but she isn’t really welcoming to other dogs, especially the larger varieties.  After a drive over to the historic Pieve di Trebbio, a 10th century church, we came home to let her out. 

30 minutes after she was out the door, she staggered, crying up the stairs. I sprang from my chair just as she started careening around the house on three legs.  I caught her.  Her front paw seemed broken.  Her heart was beating wildly: was she having a heart attack?  No, wrong side, and I am not sure it works that way with dogs anyhow.  She dropped into a stupor as we drove off.

There is something about the smell of the vet that makes a dog immediately improve.  Although she could not stand on that leg, she could muster her comportment.  First we described what she’d eaten that day “beef heart”; “you make that for her?” the doctor asked, smiling.  After the introductions, we got down to the physical bits.  “It’s the wrist,” the vet announced, “she’ll need an xray”.   We were shuffled to the waiting room and Harika led away on leash.  “She’s walking,” I cried;   Blair groused about the price.

In the waiting room, the doorbell rang.  It was a couple with a giant blue Macaw.  “She’s only four months old,” they cooed, as they tried to find a shelf strong enough to support the cage.   Then they got out the pictures to show her being fed a cheerio by their son, 2.  “She’s so gentle.”   By now Harika was with us again, eyeing the bird with great suspicion as we awaited results.

The Vet clinic specialized in exotic animals.  I tell them Harika has lived on three continents.  The clinic treats turtles – there are a half dozen outside.  And surgery on snakes and birds. 

“It’s not broken,” the vet announced.  She thought it likely Harika’s leg fell into a hole while running around the yard.   They gave her a blood test, with immediate results (like a young dog!).  Now Harika is on bedrest and anti-inflammatories.

We’ve begun preparation for the art exhibit at our house in Rocca Malatina next Sunday.   We’ve added our own pictures to the main entry room, and all the way up the stairs to the tower.   The music room will become the “works on paper” gallery.   The Art Show is in conjunction with the Festa della Castagna (the chestnut festival). 

Monday, September 30, 2019

Artnotes: A Kiss in the Dark

Ship in the Night   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm   195.00

Under the Bridge  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 20"  40 x 50cm   230.00

At the Borghese   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  13 x 18"  33 x 41cm   275.00

Filagree  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas panel   14 x 10"  35 x 25cm  225.00
In Stimigliano, where we are this weekend, there is a little pathway called the Vicolo del Bacio:  the Way of the Kiss.  It’s a little secret shortcut street that might provide cover for a romantic tryst.  Currently, Mauro, an artist from Rome, has an art installation there – red and pink paper hearts lead the way to his little stand, and at night candles direct you.   He has paper and pencils and invites visitors to make a little poem for the street – the best poem will win a painting of his.  He really spruced up the alleyway, normally a hangout for the street cats. 

Of course, Blair and I always kiss when we go that way. Blair submitted a poem and I am thinking about it…  I am not such a poet, and contests don’t thrill me.  Blair loves contests, ever since he won the coloring contest on the back of the Post cereal box in the late 1950s.  He joins whatever competitions he can.  He got a t-shirt from la Poste’s poetry contest in Paris in 1994.   I hate losing.

It’s been a kissing week.  I have seen photos of (the recently passed) Jacques Chirac kissing many ladies’ hands.  I remember the first time a man every kissed my hand.  I was in the Frick museum, I was 18 or 19 years old, and a man who worked at the museum took my hand ever so gently and kissed it.  It was still the days when I could blush, and I did so, ferociously.   It made me smile then, and I smile as I write this.
Since then, I have had the pleasure of having my hand kissed, many times, in Paris, often by French men, but equally perhaps by men of Eastern European heritage.  Maybe by an Italian or two. It’s the greatest thing.  Most American guys just can’t do it.

We’ve been visiting with friends in Rome.  We took them on a painting foray in the Borghese Gardens yesterday.   I have absolutely loved painting there, and this Saturday was no exception.  We painted the “aviary” near the Villa Borghese, with its filigree bird cages on top. It was a challenge.  We drank prosecco to dampen the stress.

Then we walked (a little too far) over to the little pond and had lunch.  Now that I live in the country, seeing people from all nations, some beautiful dressed, is the most exciting thing I can think of.   I saw a woman, a bit heavy set, in the most beautiful blue patterned dress with a lacy shawl; another skinny girl in a white t-shirt that hung on her shoulders just like it was on a clothes hanger – somehow it looked great with the shiny little black skirt she wore.  I listened to a man from Iowa talking to a man from Chicago; a Chinese family took photos of one another.  The Bangladeshi selfie-stick sellers were everywhere.  I’ve developed a new tolerance for all this humanity, and in fact, I embrace it.

Today, we’re taking our guests for a drive in the Sabina countryside.  We’ll go to Farfa, one of my favorite spots and eat lunch.  And touch humanity.
Paris Cafe Birds   Blair Pessemier  Pen/paper  10 x 7"  100 each 175.00 pair

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Artnotes: Maybe Next Week

Pond, Borghese Gardens  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  11 x 18   27 x 46cm   250.00

Pond at Borghese Gardens   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   Sold

 Madagascar Circus   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 29.5   35 x 75cm  325.00

Circus Vignola   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 16 x 24  40 x 60cm 395.00

Chickens  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/paper  17 x 25  41 x 63cm

Last Beach Day Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 16"  35 x 40cm 295.00

Portrait by Blair

There’s the most attractive moth on our front doormat right now.  He is a camel color with totally fuzzy head and long backward turning antennae (I try to find his technical name on Internet, but moth information is somewhat limited.  As near as I can tell, he’s a Wainscot Moth, or Mythimna pallens).  It’s the time of year insects are struggling to live, to reproduce, to last as long as possible or hunker down for next year.  Butterflies, bees, and whatnot are extracting the last bit of nectar from the flowers that are just barely hanging on.   Yellowjackets are after my lunch.

It happened overnight, it seems, this transition from sweltering hot to surprisingly cold.  I look forward to taking walks in the morning again, and am happy to be wearing socks.   Mosquitoes are diminishing. 

 I am getting ready for a big show at our house on the 13 and 20 October, to coincide with the Castagna (chestnut) festival.    I am trying to figure out how to leave doors open for light and air, but keep the heat inside.   I’d like to find a yurt (ger) I can set up in our dining room and live in it, here, for the winter.

We’re painting outside again, and yesterday we stood on the street to paint the circus tents in Vignola.  Everyone from the circus came and admired our work.  They asked us to be their guests at their performance, but we had a prior engagement at a show in Guiglia, part of an event there.   I refer to it as “The Gruel Festival”, but in fact, it’s the Sagra della Polenta, where you eat tasteless corn based slop covered with ragu or cheap cream, served in a plastic bowl with a plastic spoon (washed down with bubbly red wine: Lambrusco).  People here love it.   It makes me think of prison (but that would be gruel without topping), or something medieval, not totally inappropriate in the shadow of the 13th century castle in Guiglia.

I actually like polenta, prepared and served well, which is a rarity.  I prefer grits, the Southern US “polenta”.  Grits are made with white corn (hominy), as opposed to polenta, which is made with yellow corn.  Grits have a finer texture, and either grits or polenta can easily be made to resemble wallpaper paste.  One of my most memorable meals, eaten with my friend Vicki, in High Point, North Carolina was a Shrimp and Grits dish.  Those grits had the slightest crunchiness, the shrimp were perfectly cooked, served with a grinding of coarsely ground pepper.  I can still taste it.

I’d love to take all this Italian food like Mama used to make, and add fresh, new 21st century tastes.  Pizza with duck breast and cherries; a tuna and lemon frittata; polenta with shrimp and ground pepper.   Maybe next week.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Artnotes: Young Eyes

                Wens   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/Paper  17 x 25"  41 x 63cm  175.00
Blair's working on a new portrait:  final Painting next week
Sphinx Moth from the Front Porch   Laurie Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  13 x 17"  31 x 41cm  100.00

Butterfly from the Garden  Laurie Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  13 x 17"  31 x 41cm  100.00
Our car, the Villa Borghese, is back in action.  Blair took a cheap flight to Paris and then drove the car back to sunny Italy.  All in about 36 hours.  I am almost ashamed to admit how happy I am – it was a constant worry, the 50 days the car was out of commission.  Not for the car, really, did I care, but it was something I had responsibility for, and was awry.

Upon its return, we jumped in the car at once (actually Harika got in beforehand and spent a day sleeping in the back seat) and drove down to the Rome area where we will see two young friends today: at the Borghese Gardens.   I am writing from Stimigliano, to the tune of a donkey’s bray, punctuated by the shots of the “cacciatore” hunting rabbits and wild pigs.  The full moon made it like daytime and the hunter’s sounds began at 5AM.    Yesterday, we saw a very wonderful building for sale here in the walled borgo.   It is too much work for Blair and I but it is tempting, with two giant terraces overlooking the Tiber Valley.

Traveling is so pleasant.  I see things I’d otherwise miss:  a bicycle race, a field of sunflowers, a wedding.  We went to Vescovio to walk Harika on grass, and there was the photographer (our new neighbor here in Stimigliano) photographing families who had been at a wedding.  All the ladies above 12 and below 65 were wearing high-heeled, pointy shoes with ankle straps.  The women were of all shapes and sizes and colors of hair,all ultra-feminine in style.  The men wore jackets of varying cuts, but an almost tuxedo-like black, slightly oversized, was most favored.  Some jeans, some regular slacks.  Surprisingly few tattoos, except for a woman in a sheer dress of a terracotta shade, who had a sort of flying horse on her calf.  On our bench, we were in the center of it all, and Harika was disgruntled to leave, believing that the mass of folks had come to see her.
All the kids there were exhuberant.  I think that because everything is new for young people, they stay happy for a long time.  I try to find things that are new for me, so I can see with young eyes as much as possible. 

In my own backyard in Rocca Malatina, where I have spent a little too much time lately, I had one of those new, magic experiences.  On Wednesday, I saw gazillions of gnats flying around (in several clumps of a few hundred bugs each - swarming, really, or like starlings murmurring) in the yard.  It happens every fall...but today about 50 martinets arrived (like swallows) followed by a bunch of dragon flies, the two groups like airborne sharks, eating all the bugs.  It was something to see.
Not like seeing the sea, which is next on my agenda.  There, I can only imagine what is going on underneath.

Want to see with young eyes?  Paint with us on our 2020