Sunday, November 11, 2018

Artnotes: Acknowledgement

On Monday, we mailed a package from the Vatican Post Office in Rome.  I got out of the car this time, and was distressed to see the marvelous piazza of St Peters chock full of chairs and barriers.  It is one of those incredible spaces that depends on its pavement to be open or peopled, not looking like cattle pens.  I have a book with an etching by Piranesi (1700s) of this very site, and he has people scattered throughout, and it is just right.

We went back on Saturday to have lunch with Artnotes friends from Cleveland.   We walked across the plaza this time, and it bothered me less.  In fact, the avocado wood barriers didn’t bother me much at all, but those black chairs (I would estimate 750 or so) were still a distraction.  This time I could see other things.  I could see the triple rows of columns, with the light bouncing off, filtering through, casting shadows.

Three nuns in mouse grey and cream habits were perched on a column base, eating a “to go” lunch.  One, maybe a little older than me (or was it just the wire-rimmed glasses?), was hanging out over the sidewalk, try to avoid a drip on her wimple.  There was a certain charm to it.  This day, I saw many nuns and priests, the latter wearing their “Roman” collars, many quite young with earnest expressions.

We were early for meeting our friends, so we wandered around the Vatican neighborhood.  There is almost a visible line where the souvenir shops end (12 rosaries for 10 euros), and neighborhoods begin.  We stopped at an antique store at the very cusp and bought an item I’ve been seeking for some time-  it will be a Christmas present.

We found our restaurant, which was in the souvenir district, and it was quite nice.  It was small, the owner was a young-ish woman.  She recommended I try the beef, which was prepared in a modern way.  Everyone else had pasta, which they all seemed happy with.  The restaurant had a back room, where people with children sat and ate while the kids tried to catch their fingers in the sliding door.  It was marvelously normal, and we got to know and really like the friends who treated us. 
Our friends took pictures of the food, and of us altogether.   We hugged and hoped to meet again.
Walking away, Blair and I passed a bench with three refugees sitting on it.  One was sneezing madly, to the point I finally exclaimed, “Salute!”  The three, formerly invisible, looked up and smiled wildly at the acknowledgement. 

Ps.  painting side-by-side at Santa Severa

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Artnotes: Cacio e Pepe

We extinguished the furnace in Rocca Malatina and moved our winter headquarters to Stimigliano. We brought our more tropical plants, yucca, begonia, jade, that we can leave outdoors at least for the time being. 

On Friday, we drove to Rome where we were actually able to leave off a ballot at the US Embassy.  We continued on to via Margutta, where we are going to be in our first ROME show in December.  I was bursting with excitement with no one to go out and tell.  When we got back to Stimi, we shared our news with some locals.  One, Gianfranco at the bar, is going to show our work at this place, too.
On the way back we stopped at an out of the way restaurant, La Cuccagna, for lunch.  It turned out to be one of those experiences where you felt like you were meant to meet this person all of your life.  It was a restaurant that catered to those escaping Roman summers for fresh air and cool breezes.  It could easily serve 200 people, but today it was just us and two other tables.  The fire was lit, and the little girls who lived there were making selfie-music-videos.  The owner took our order, and came out later to discuss the food.  The “stringozzi cacio e pepe” was truly the best I ever had; the ravioli pumpkin very good.  We shared an “abbaccio” of lamb for a second course, from sheep grazed nearby.  I talked about how much I liked cooking, but was a painter.  He wanted to know what we did in our lives to have made a living.  He graduated from Berkeley music school in Boston in the 1970s, but returned to Italy to run the family business, which he was doing with his sister.   A drum set and a big stage were vestiges of this past, and perhaps hints of the future.

The painting atmosphere around Stimgliano is considerably different from Roccamalatina  – unfortunately we left the two paintings of fall color in the Apennines at the other house.  The colors down here seem a bit faded, in shades of gold, pink and green:  appliance colors from the 1960s.  It has not stopped us from painting through our windows. 

As you probably know, Italy has been devastated by bad weather triggered by the Sirocco.  There is dust everywhere, and cleaning the house up North required two vacuum cleaner bags.  The rain is likewise overwhelming and Harika’s exercise is minimal.

Tomorrow we are headed to Rome again, this time to mail a package from the Vatican, a service only available on Monday. It’s a lighter tourist day around there and I hope to see St. Peters.  Although I am not religious, I feel good about people worshipping a supreme being other than the bank.   We’ll hopefully drive to the sea afterward, weather permitting, and paint the sand.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Artnotes: News

Blue Melograni Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newsprint  17 x 23″   41 x 63cm 110.00

Imagine waking up on Saturday morning in Italy and being able to watch the baseball world series: top of the 18th as we speak, 2 to 2.   One of the things I most miss about the USA is baseball, and this is a rare treat, no matter who wins. (I am routing for the Red Sox, however)

To me, this is news – the longest game in World Series history, and it’s barely mentioned outside of the Boston and LA newspaper.  I felt the same way yesterday after a 6.8 earthquake hit the Greek coast, and the only place I read about it was in the Italian newspaper.   Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on the press, it’s just that there are many things that could bear reporting besides politics.    Although it is noteworthy that Blair and I have been unable to vote in this election (the first time in 25 years of living abroad), because of barriers put into place since 2016.

Fall in Marara sul Panaro  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 23.5 x 15.5"  60 x 40cm  325.00

I got a new daily journal this week, where I keep my own news:  important stuff, like “saw a man dressed in camouflage walking his brindle-coated dog near Castelfranco” or “praying mantis walks across via Carlo Marx, narrowly escapes death by BMW.”     Wee chickens are setting beneath our 2016 Christmas tree this week – I think it might be bad for the tree, but they are so darn cute, I hate to chase them away.

Chicken away  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newsprint   23 x 17″   63 x 41cm  110.00

We are trying to wrap up life here in Rocca Malatina and move down to the Rome region for the winter (Christmas excepted).  It’s not really cold here yet, in fact the sun is shining between raindrops in 65 degree weather.  Last 2 November we had a foot of snow, and we had stupidly delayed our 1 November departure.

We are awaiting the status of tomorrow’s Castagna Festival, dependent on the weather.  It is a typically Italian philosophy:  we’re all in or nobody’s in.  There’s no standing in the rain by oneself, something I am likely to do.  Never mind dying of exposure, the show must go on.  That’s an American attitude, and I am dyed in the wool.  Just ask the four painters who painted with us last March:  rain gear, umbrellas, and rubber boots, we were all six outside, painting.   I suspect it is why America had a reputation of winning wars:  war, like the show, goes on.

Three Generations
Blair got a commission during last Sunday’s Chestnut event.  It is always hard to know whether selling expensive things like paintings at a local venue featuring apples and chestnuts is worthwhile, but we only have to sell one item.   This time a triple portrait from an old photo.

Blair’s “artnotes-tshirts” site is up and running.  Rocca Malatina is a local hit, but Venezia is showing the most sales.  Last week’s Famous Chef will make it to apron fame; I hope I get one.  We printed up order forms for this week’s Castagna festival.  They may have to wait until Christmas.

Pomegranate on Yellow  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newsprint  17 x 23″   41 x 63cm 110.00

`The thing that is holding up this year’s departure for the South is our “Permisso di Soggiorno”, our visa for Italy.  We made our appointments five months ago, had all the right ingredients, got the nod, but are awaiting the printing.  “We’ll notify you by SMS,” the uniformed official says.  Now THAT will be news.

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Artnotes: The Dog and Pony Show

Red Vines   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   8 x 20″  20 x 50cm

Across the Panaro   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  15 x 12″  38 x 30cm

Golden Shadows  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  14 x 10.5″    35 x 25cm

Panaro winding through Fall  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 14″  25 x 35cm

Landscape near Villa Bianca  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas panel 13 x 16″  33 x 41cm

Famous Chef   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/newsprint   23 x 17″   63 x 41cm

Tomorrow we’re bringing our dog and ponies over to the Piazza in Rocca Malatina for the Castagna Festival.  Our stand will be under our orange umbrella, right next to our friend Piero, who is selling his honey.  Of course, we’re not selling ponies, but our artwork of the Modena/Bologna area.  

We dropped our last guest of the fall season off at the train station in Modena on Monday.  We had to go to the Questura to get our visa:  the jury is still out, but we’re looking good.  We needed to get a “denunciation” from the police next door because we lost our original receipt.  It’s the place one goes to cancel a credit card or report a theft or loss.  We were number five in that line, and were able to get through this phase of the experience in just 4 hours.
Our guest had a wonderful time, amazed at Italy and how many people interacted with each other.  The prior guest had a similar impression.   Although we have our fair share of “devices” here, Italians still prefer to speak belly-to-belly.
When I did marketing for our company, Pessemier’s Commercial Interior Design, in Seattle, last century, it was critical to talk to the decision maker, and meet them face to face, five times, in order to get the job.  I wonder how that works now?
We are part of the conversant fabric of our towns:  we visit with everyone.  People stop us and say, “was that you painting at the side of the road?”  Of course, we are the only people here who are painting at the side of the road.  “Let’s have a coffee.”
Color has been limited this fall – or maybe it’s just late shading the landscape.  The temperatures haven’t been cold enough:  no frost so far.  So the yellow have gone instead to rusty green.  The reds are getting stronger in the grape vines.
Truffles have been wormy this year, and the pasta store across the street has decided to forgo their usual super delicious truffle crespelli.  “Vermicelli,” he tells Blair, which in fact, is what the thin spaghetti was named for.  
We did get porcini mushroom crespelli at the Acqua Solferosa:  they were terrific.  It is a rather shockingly local restaurant where we bring visitors seeking a true Italian experience, a la Woody Allen.  Reactions range from enthusiasm to discomfort.  Wild game is served, caught by local hunters.  Tables with families of 20 line the walls; kids holler, men sing, women sit at the other end of the table.  The family, who lives upstairs waits on you.  There are just three small tables for us orphans.  It always costs 25 euros each for 5 courses and wine.
We had coffee at V + T’s house this week.  They are a couple slightly older than us, and we feed their dog treats every morning on our walk.  The give us tomatoes they grow.  The tomatoes are so sweet, it’s incredible.  We talk about the news, about the dogs, about the ever so minor changes around town.
It’s the time the benches are removed from the sidewalks for the winter.   Harika likes to sit by one up on the corner and keep her eye peeled for an arch enemy.  We sit there and someone stops by:  “who runs this show, anyway, the dog?”  We nod.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Artnotes: A New Idea

San Marco  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 10 x 20″  25 x 50cm

The Flock   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 15″   27 x 41cm

Venetian Lantern  Blair Pessemier  24 x 12″  60 x 30cm  Acrylic/canvas

Fall by the River   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10 x 20″  30 x 50cm

The sky went from sunny and blue to sunny and pouring in a matter of minutes.  Blair was headed to the Vatican to mail a package.  We have had our ups and downs with the Italian post (and Italian UPS, as well) so we’re trying the Vatican mail.  So far, so good, with attractive stamps and pleasant service – we’ll see when the package arrives.  Blair, drenched to the skin, raced back to the car (manned by me in a no-park zone). 

We made a day of it in Rome, following up with a presentation our painting workshop to a group. This pitch turned out to be a strike-out; the group wanted the workshop for free. But at least it got me to think about what the painting workshop is.

Our painting workshops are not just for those who want to improve their painting.  Of course, we love painters, and there is nothing more gratifying than to uncover a hidden talent.  Other painters inspire us, and hopefully we do the same for them.   But it can also be for people who want to learn how to see like an artist.  Painting unlocks the door to seeing color, to understanding form and composition, to hone one’s focus.   A museum will never be the same, once you know just an inkling of how painting works.

It made me think about a music workshop.  I have a tin ear, and a voice to match, but I love the idea of learning a little bit about the simplest instrument, or tempo, or how sound works.  I am surprised I rarely see a “music workshop”; and certainly never one for a peacock voice like mine.  Just because you are not naturally good at something, doesn’t me you can’t try it, or appreciate some aspect of it.
This week, we took a guest to see Venice for the first time.  Venice is magical -- I love to just ride around on the Vaporetto and sigh.  And it’s always nice to see a guest’s reaction to the city, which is inevitably positive.  We walked through San Marco square, but otherwise wandered the circuitous byways, lesser populated by tourists.  We took the traghetto across the canal, a 2 euro taste of a gondola ride.

Blair wore his “Venice” t-shirt, with his painted image of the city on it; one can be yours for 17.50, plus a little shipping (printed in the country of purchase).   We have an idea to create one for Rocca Malatina, and sell them at the Castagna (chestnut) Festival the next 2 weekends.  We’re always keen on a new idea.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Artnotes: Mosquito

The Panaro River in Fall  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm  300.00

Painting on the way to Vignola (Marano) Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 18"  27 x 45cm   400.00

Laurie at the Mediterranean (2016)  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 20"  35 x 50cm  400.00

Colors of the Adriatic (2017)  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 8 x 20"  20 x 50cm    300.00

Monday, September 24, 2018


Borgo Samone  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 16 x 24"   40 x 60cm   275.00

Love Lies Bleeding Flowers   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  unstretched  95.00

Sunset from the White Dog  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 10"  35 x 25cm  unstretched  95.00  

Sliver of Samone   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  unstretched  95.00

Begonia   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  unstretched  95.00
The first day of fall is upon us.  Either one loves or hates fall.  I am in the latter camp.   There is a smell I associate with this season that reminds me everything is dying.  It’s a short season, fortunately, and soon I’ll see the trees in their naked beauty.  I can see the houses which have been obscured by foliage the last six months, and illuminated windows staving off the long night.   I like winter, and even more, springtime.

I should be painting landscapes, although we haven’t had a cold enough night to set the leaves a-color.   In fact, I’ve not been painting much at all.  There are some maples and oaks up here, which turn red and golden.  I might have to color them myself.  You can do that when you’re an artist.

This week we went to a different sort of event:  our local brewery, the White Dog, was having a barbecue and beer tasting.  It started at 8, when the last vestiges of light were leaving the sky.  We’ve had a touch of pollution which colored the lower bits reddish, and the upper reaches were all Maxfield Parish…  Blair and I and our friend (who was really the person who was invited, she being 10 years younger than us, and the crowd, in general 10 years younger than she) sat on a bench and looked over the Panaro river basin.  Because I have gout, my beer tasting is limited.  I convinced Blair India Pale Ale was the way to go and it was fabulously delicious.  I ate many cherries on my return to the house (cherries counteract the gout).

We’ve rearranged the house, which always sets me to rights.  I mean really re-arranged – we removed the library table to the former living room, along with the dining table, creating a super-long table which will seat 14 generously, possibly 16.  The big wing back chairs sit at either end of the table, and the chandelier looks quite grand.    The dining room is now the living room.  We moved the piano in there, so it’s kind of a music room, with the little velvet chairs arranged around a cocktail table: cozy.  Upstairs one could dance in the library, although I think it calls out for one of those artichoke seating pieces.   This set-up might last until after Christmas. 

The chestnuts are almost ready to harvest, and the grapes are sweet and delicious.  The caretaker has abandoned all of the fruit this year, so we have enjoyed tasting them ripe, and right off the vine.  I am using them to decorate my fall table, and awaiting friends to share in the harvest.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Artnotes: Nice Fish

Fields near the Sassi   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   20 x 14"   50 x 35cm  400.00

Fish for Lunch   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  unstretched  95.00
Tilled Field    Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12    30 x 30 cm     175.00
Painting in the Hot Sun   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 13 x 16"   33 x 41 cm  275.00
Petunias  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 12"  25 x 30 cm  175.00
The Neighborhood   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   18 x 11" 45 x 27cm 225.00
I just couldn’t get artnotes out in a timely fashion this week.  I got myself into a giant funk, and it took a visit from an old Paris friend to get me out of it.  As we picked  through the bones of two fresh orate (fish), we dissected the merits of Italy and France. 
Of course, it’s a futile exercise.  One place is never better than another -- only different.  We agreed on how wonderful the Italians can be; that Paris is an outstandingly beautiful, intellectual city.  Italy won hands down on the subject of coffee.  

I showed off my library, which never ceases to give me joy.  It’s walls are being primped in anticipation of paintings.  It’s unfortunately warm and humid in there right now – as it is everywhere near Rome.  Even the lady dispensing mortadella samples at the grocery store was bemoaning the heat and humidity.  In past years it has been hot and dry.  The humidity is a new level of Dante’s hell.

I knew things weren’t right for me when I turned down that mortadella – like when Harika is sick, I was “off my food”.  Food is my passion.  Creating new recipes and tweaking the old is my reason for being.  That is something I learned about in France.
Once I am off kilter here, it’s hard to get the washing machine in my head balanced again.  I can go to a doctor and explain a stomach ache, but something as abstract as feeling like a washing machine is harder to explain in another language.   And there’s the nuances:  is washing good or bad?  Am I brainwashed (as a child, I had a hard time grasping that concept)?
In any case, we hung pictures and made lunch and I got far enough out of myself to look around and say, “hey, nice fish!”
Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Artnotes: Hospitality

Orsini Castello  Blair  Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 20"   40 x 50   

 Santa Severa  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 18'   30 x 45  

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

The Open Door   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  20" x 8"   50 x 20

In the Garden   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   12 x 16"  30 x 40cm

We’ve been remaking the library/studio in Stimigliano this week.  I cleaned the fireplace.  We’re removing the hideous kitchen cabinets that line three sides, and sealing the ancient walls in their “patina-ed” state.  We’ll move the non-fiction to lower bookcases (maybe utilizing the ugly cabinets, refashioned), to hang artwork above. The large bookcase remains.  The books are their own kind of art.   We’ve decided to bloom where we are planted, and invite travelers visiting Rome up to Stimigliano for an art experience.
I’m listing my one day painting workshops “in the Roman Countryside” on Airbnb Experience (god willing they accept me).  In any case, I am promoting our work and workshop with Google Adwords.   Stimigliano is a very artsy town, in fact, featuring a gallery and a chapel   created by Mario Bagordo, who lives two doors away from us.
I visited with Mario this week, as he spruced up his modern chapel  (  He was upset that the waste bin by the commune (city hall) hadn’t been emptied in more than a week.  After yelling and jumping up and down, he took the artist’s approach, and put a sign “pop arte” on the side of the can, and posted it to the internet.  It was emptied in an hour.  The power of art (and technology).
Filling out my Airbnb application to offer an “experience”, I have to write what hospitality means to me.  It’s one of those trick questions like the one about team sports, that caused me to fail the essay section of my foreign service exam years ago, despite acing the rest of the test.   Hospitality can be seen from a variety of viewpoints, not only the pleasure of the one guest you are trying to please; if pleasing one involves the displeasure of others, that’s not hospitality.  Of course I didn’t say that on my application.   I know now.
I recall the gracious and fragrant hospitality of the Grand Hotel in Mobile, Alabama at Christmas. Another year we spent Christmas in the Warwick, New York, where we had our own Christmas tree and entertained nightly.  The porters made recommendations and arrangements for our dinners every night, including one at the Russian Tea Room.  In our hotel on the Copacabana in Brazil one summer, they polished all my shoes during the night, including my sneakers.  The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta anticipated our every desire; even if I was stressed from an overnight flight, they smiled and made it better. 
It’s been a long time since we stayed in a fancy hotel.  Airbnb threw a wrench in the works; economy is hard to ignore.  We rent apartments in buildings that were once inhabited by regular folk.  Our last two apartments in Paris were both converted into vacation rentals; in fact our last building was at least half transient.  It changes the complexion of a neighborhood.   Which brings me back to the fact, I must earn money so I can stay in those deluxe hotels once again: enjoying hospitality at my own expense.
I swam in the Mediterranean this week, at Santa Severa, a “free” beach with a castle and waves, on the Western shore near Rome.  It was great.  We both painted pictures, as Harika lounged in the sand. People and dogs of all ages, shapes, and colors were having a wonderful time.   Later in the week, a friend in Stimigliano let us use his pool, while the house wasn’t rented to vacationers.  Now that’s Hospitality!