Sunday, April 05, 2020

Artnotes: Cooped UP

 Owl (inspired by card from SM)  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  16 x 11"  41 x 27cm     280.00

Lemons  Laurie Fox Pessemier acrylic/canvas paper    10 x 14"  25  x  35cm  150.00

Rosemary and Sage   Laurie Fox Pessemier acrylic/canvas paper    14 x 10"  35 x 25 cm  150.00

Social Distancing   Blair Pessemier acrylic/canvas paper    10  x 14"  25 x 35cm  175.00

View from Our Balcony  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm   190.00

Some years ago, Blair and I and one of our earlier dogs, probably Alex, the Cairn Terrier, went to the beach at Tokeland, Washington.   We stopped at Nelson’s crabs, and bought two whole Dungeness crabs, and ate them, sitting on the back of our van, drinking white wine, listening to Astoria public radio (playing old American musicals), facing the largest ocean in the world.    This may be the happiest memory of my life, at least today. 

This is what happens after four weeks of lockdown, I believe.  You start going over each and every event of your life, good or bad.   I am never one to dwell on the past (well, everything is past, I know, even this word is past), but I am remembering old memories, while I am not making new ones.   It’s better than some of the things people do when shut in.

At four o’clock Monday morning, outside my window, a bird sang a complex song in very loud voice.  Two days later, it sang again, and I could see the song in brilliant blue.  I received a card via snail mail, with a wonderful owl painted on it.  My neighbor brought me lots of rosemary and sage.  We had groceries delivered and I made monkfish with saffron and cream. 

Things are improving here.  I am starting to see the benefits of being cooped up for long periods.  I am thinking, in the way I thought about things a long time ago, before my days were action packed.  I used to have to go home and relax, so I could file away the events of the day, THINK, and put them into some sort of perspective.  It was my policy not to go more than three days without a few hours of this thinking.  I don’t know when I gave that up (sometime in Paris), but I am considering implementing that plan again.

I have read a half dozen books this week, none great.  One I had read before, at least 3/4ths of the way, but this time I went the distance – it was worth it, it was actually one of the better books of the week.  I read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which seemed to me less horrifying than I would have thought.  It was short. 

We spent time in our neighbor’s yard (he’s 1000 miles away), which is resplendent with butterflies.  Both white and purple iris are in bloom.  On our way, Blair, holding Harika, tumbled down a bank of nettles.  “You didn’t break your leg, did you?”   Getting a bone set at the hospital sends shivers down my spine.  I think of how many maladies are likely healing themselves, while we avoid seeing a doctor. 

The Carbinieri followed us around today, in their cruiser, as we walked Harika at 7:10 AM.  We remain cooped up until 13 April anyway.  I feel like I can make it.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Antonio's White Flowers    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  16 x 10"  40 x 25cm   190.00
“Where you going on your vacation, Foxie?” my dad’s friends would ask.  “Oh, I dunno’.  We’re thinking about Bed Springs, or maybe Veranda Beach.”  Everyone would laugh.   We never really went anyplace on my parents’ vacation from work back in the 1960s.  We’d hang around home, play games in the yard, barbecue.  I rode my tricycle on the porch so large I could turn around at each end; I played on the swingset; we went swimming.  I enjoyed it.  My Grandmother and Aunt and Uncle would come by, and of course, there were always neighbors.
Cherry Blossoms  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 16"  30 x 40cm  275.00
I am trying to think about these days as a home vacation.  We might even head back to Roccamalatina after Modena has three days without a death-by-corona-virus.  I have bocce and badminton there, and a barbecue.  I am trying to get jazzed about having a vegetable garden, but really for me, flowers are much more appealing.   I can always buy tomatoes; ok, maybe 2 plants.
3 Sketches: Blossom, White Flowers, Red Fish  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas panel  6 x 10"  and 7 x 9" each  100.00 each
One of my wisest friends has been telling me for years I need to do things using my “cool” energy, rather than with the hot energy of youth.  He asks me what I’ll when I can no longer paint:   “look at Renoir”.  I sometimes see his point when I’ve been out in the studio too long in the cold, or when we’ve packed our supplies into a forest setting.   This staycation is the perfect opportunity to figure this out.
Blossoms  Blair Pessemier  Acrylicanvas  24 x 20"     60 x 50cm   350.00
Blair and I have always loved our older, wiser friends.  We were crazy about our grandmas; and my aunts and uncles.   We both still love to spend time with those more experienced than us.  And we still look to them:  compiling books, writing computer programs, setting up art foundations.   I just have to figure out where I am going for phase II.
 Red and Yellow Fish   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 22  30 x 55cm   250.00
Although shipping is delayed, we are still selling paintings... if you are interested, just let us know, and we will send as soon as possible.
Blossom in a Chinese Inkwell   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  225.00

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Artnotes: Worth Living

Cheers   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/panel   14 x 10" 35 x 25cm   Sold
I have never been one to stay at home.  Like the postman, “neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night….” holds me back.  I go out every day, and if I can’t I am crazy.  Blizzard be damned.  So you can imagine what I am feeling about now.
I try exercising indoors, but I pulled my knee muscle and am hobbling about (scared to take ibuprofen).  That never happens when I just go out on my appointed rounds.   I try to meditate, an activity that’s  never been my shtick.
View from Antonio's   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 20"  30 x 50cm   190.00
We still go out to walk Harika, every morning, 6:30-ish; no one in Italy is awake. It is breathtakingly quiet and beautiful.  Trees are just coming into bloom, and masses of flowers are enjoying this clean air way ahead of time. I am still going to my studio, pretty much daily.  I am painting, from photos, mostly…people making dinner, eating food.  I line them up around our dining table, like I have friends with us.  
From the Head of the Table   Laurie Fox Pessemier acrylic/canvas paper    12 x 8"  30 x 20 cm  90.00
Lockdown is a numbers game – we can see it worked in China; and in Lodi, Italy (which was shut down on 23 February) numbers of new infections are leveling out.  We are just not far enough into the process, and, in places like Bergamo, people are misbehaving.
Spaghetti Eater   Laurie Fox Pessemier acrylic/canvas paper    12 x 8"  30 x 20 cm  90.00
Although I must resist plague news, I have received some terrific correspondence, for which I am eternally grateful.

A friend T, says “And as times become so very interesting, it’s worth living more than ever.”  He also says that the virus isn’t necessarily fatal, a bold statement from a septuagenarian.

My friend, V, is translating Pushkin into English.  Pushkin was a plague writer, delighted to be quarantined in the country while the cities were ravaged by cholera (Celebrate this plague, the beast…)  V is thrilled to be trapped at his kitchen table, writing.  Normally he works madly, flying here and there, and hasn’t written seriously in a decade.
Sengalese Cook  Laurie Fox Pessemier acrylic/canvas paper    12 x 8"  30 x 20 cm  90.00
He wrote another fabulous note: "only the global thing can defeat globalisation".  And it’s true.  We all must work together as a planet to save ourselves.
Meanwhile, here’s today’s look at Rome, not seen in 50 years:

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Artnotes: No Coffee Today

 Tulip Fields    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/paper   36 x 19.5"  90 x 50cm   460.00

 The Well in the Piazza   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvaspanel   9 x 7"  23 x 17.5cm  150.00
 Ranuncula  Laurie Fox Pessemier acrylic/canvaspanel  9 x 7"  23 x 17.5cm  150.00

Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 9.5"  50 x 60cm   190.00

Baby Kingfisher  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Mixed Media on Paper 17 x 25"  41 x 63cm  175.00

 Restoration (completed)   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  20 x 24"  50 x 60cm   450.00

On Tuesday morning, we went to our regular coffee shop – “we’re thinking of going to the beach today,” we announced.  “What?” Gianfranco replied, “you can’t go anywhere.  We’re quarantined.”  I let that sink in.  On Sunday we’d passed a church we’d both like to paint.  “What about painting?” I asked.  “Where?”  “Cantalupo.” “Are you crazy” – everyone in the bar chimed in. “That’s where Rieti’s only case of the virus is!”   It became all too clear this problem was for real.

Then, as if shot from a gun, Blair and our neighbor, Margarita, hopped into the car and made for the supermarket.  They got in on the first round. The unimaginable had happened.  We were locked down.  We needed wine, and more beans and pasta (we’d been eating our survival food for a week).

Since then, the week has churned on ever so slowly.  I have tried keeping a diary, but very little transpires.  I tried exercising – pulled a muscle, but certainly not going to the doctor for help.   We had a bit of a rally with the “Andra Tutto Bene” campaign (everything will be ok) emblazoned in colored chalk everywhere, by (rather unimaginative) children and their mothers.  A high point came Friday with singing from the windows in Siena and Rome, but it fell flat here in Stimi. After I had polished and tuned my ukulele!  I play it out in the piazza while airing Harika. (we are so lucky to have a dog, because we are among the few allowed out and about)
I organized my books in the library.  I painted lots of pictures, mostly flowers.  The sun is out from 6:20 to 6:15 these days, and we enjoy both the sunrise and sunset; days have been sunny.  

I am trying to understand how all this will play out.  An Italian friend tells me this will change the world:  it will be more human, he says.   I am touched that China has sent doctors and nurses to help overwhelmed Milan; Cuba has, too.   I feel close to my neighbors, even though I don’t see them much. 

I can’t calm myself down enough to rationally think about the future.  I could tolerate the quarantine (an Italian word, in fact, from “forty days”), but I have a niggling fear about the virus, too.  That keeps me up at night, when I normally figure out the playbill.   I need more solid data.
The cafĂ© closed on Thursday.  Harika is furious, and we walk to both coffee shops every day. Initially she pressed herself right up to the door, but now she can smell “no coffee here”.  We still have to look with our own eyes.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Artnotes: What the Painting Saw

Fish for Lunch   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/paper   17 x 25"  41 x63cm   160.00
“The Ladies’ Day Luncheon is cancelled,”  my neighbor comes over to tell me.  No one ever stops by our Stimigliano apartments, so Harika has gone werewolf.  I tell her I am sad, and please let me know if they reschedule.  “The virus, the virus,” she laments.

In fact, I considered the risk of going, but decided it would be ok.  I’d wear my knitted neck scarf that I can pull up like a mask.  And I thought white cotton gloves would look ok at the “Donna” festivities.  We are really under water here in Italy as far as the problem goes.  I haven’t been up to the Emiglia-Romagna house for a month, when I thought I would just be gone a week.  I dread opening the refrigerator, who knows when.  Things are more serious up there.  In Stimigliano, we can keep to ourselves, or just attend outdoor events.
: WORK IN PROGRESS:   Restoration   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  20 x 24"  50 x 60cm  
Yesterday, we went with Mario, our neighbor, in a separate car (that’s really not so good, but we couldn’t quite shut ourselves up together) to Casperia, a town about 10 miles from here.  At the Church of San Giovanni Battista, they are restoring the over-altar Annunciation painting from the 1600s.  The painting is set up in a side chapel where it is being worked on, in the open.  It is an unusual painting from the Baroque period, reflecting the particular style of Giovan Battista Salvi, known as Sassoferrato.  It is a very simple depiction of the Annunciation, in beautiful, straightforward colors; most Baroque works are “over the top” with decoration.
The Annunciation by Giovan Batista Salvi   undergoing restoration
The restorer is using what I refer to as a “3 hair brush” to renew a painting which must be 8 x 10 feet high.  She must have the patience of Job.   It is an inspiring activity to watch; Blair is making a painting of what we saw.  There was some expert giving a talk on the church (I wasn’t that impressed), in Italian, so I let my mind drift to what this painting had undergone.  It possibly saw the effects of plague in 1600s, known as “la Peste” of Camus fame and the inspiration for those long nosed Carnevale masks.   Surprisingly, that plague affected the same areas in Italy as the current malady, and this painting and its artist, south of Florence, were likely not affected.
Ukelele:  a Happy Tune   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  25 x 17"  63 x 41cm   160.00
I alternate between frenetic activity, some grasp at immortality and a feeling of “what’s the use?”.  The painting watched as Napoleon passed through.  It stood by the fight for Italian Unification, sat through World Wars I and II.  Now the painting and I watched as Mario shook ungloved hands with the speaker.   The cold is permeating my sweater and shoes, and Blair and I beat a path to the door.  The car is warm and I have fish to make for lunch.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Artnotes: I'm OK; You're OK

From the Deep:  Carp    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Mixed media17 x 25"  41 x63cm   190.00
I am compelled to write about my life in small town Italy this week: I have received so many concerned emails, greatly appreciated.  Yes, there’s a lot of worry here about the Corona virus, but I am not anxious.  My greatest fear is about what will happen when the doctors, nurses, and pharmacists get sick; I can imagine a skeleton crew at the grocery store; I really want to see those Raphaels at the Vatican museum in this, the artist’s 500th anniversary.  Will they close the galleries?  Blair is scheduled to go to the USA on 17 March; a guest arrives from Seattle on the 22.  The CDC just raised the warning against non-essential travel.  The fact there is no vaccine and no real treatment is the issue.
Meat Man:  Stimigliano  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  24 x 17"  60 x 41cm  475.00
We’ve been sashaying our cart (normally we don’t have a cart, just a hand basket) up and down the aisles of the Conad, buying pounds of pasta, rice and beans.  Luckily, our tastes differ from the Italians:  they love Borlotti beans, we prefer the Cannellini.  Plenty of white beans remain.  Canned meat is virtually non-existent here, and I have never seen a can of crabmeat.  I make a mental note to look on Amazon.
Orange and Ranuncula  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylicanvas  13 x 18"     33 x 45cm   250.00
We’ve not let this epidemic, concentrated up North, cramp our style.   We went to a fabulous lecture at the Notre Dame (Blair’s alma mater) Center in Rome on Monday.  Matteo Sanfilippo spoke about “Rome, a City of Immigrants from Antiquity to the Present”.   He began with the Aeneid (really Rome was founded by immigrants), and brought us clear up to the present.  There were periods of time during the middle ages when there were half a million immigrants in the city of Rome.  Pilgrimages to the center of the Catholic church contributed to influxes, along with Italian colonies in Africa.  It was an all-round interesting speech and gave me much to consider.  Life is flux.
Fuoco Giocoso Barbara Presinska  Photo/Acrylic/canvas  101 x 66 cm 
On Thursday night, one of our French painting workshop participants, a woman from Bratislava, had a show at the Slovakian Center in Rome.  It was very chic and her work was wonderful.  Nearly 10 years ago, she prepared her portfolio for entry to art school, while painting with us in Paris.   It is amazing to me what art can do:  engage people from extraordinarily different places, ages, and backgrounds.
From the Deep:  Sole     Laurie Fox  Pessemier  Mixed Media   17 x 25"   63 x 41cm  190.00

If I feel sick, I can call 1500 and the health care people will come to test and treat me, for free.  It is possible Italy has so many cases of covid19 because they do test.
My food hoarding has prompted me to make new dishes.  Beans are my new caviar.  My first “staple” foray, meant to last two weeks, was half gone in 3 days.  I need to practice.


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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Artnotes: Satyr

Harika Passes a Cat on a Bench    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas 21 x 18"  53 x 45cm  
How lucky can you get?  This week, a friend from Portland, Oregon sent me four new books; those on the heels of two polar fleece jackets from a Florida pal.  We’ve mastered receiving packages in Italy:  have them delivered to the bar.
Actually, we can now receive Amazon at the post office:  I am experimenting with the order of two pair of clip-on sunglasses.  I have ordered the kind that make me look like a policeman; Blair’s are standard.  And, were all this not staggering enough, they have installed an electric car charging station in Stimigliano.   And just when I was going to write about the beauty of slow living.
Knife and Ax Throwing Grounds  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas panel  12 x 18"  30 x 45cm  
besides going to the beach we walked by the Tevere....
We went out to the beach on Thursday.  Except for one fisherman, we were the only ones there.  It was intensely sunny and warm enough to step into the shade.  At Santa Severa, there is a Renaissance castle, set upon an Etruscan foundation.  Of course, the Romans had their hey-day there, it being less than 50 miles from Rome.  For us, it’s about the same, and we get there in just over an hour.
White Satyr  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/plaster/canvas  24 x 15"     60 x 38cm 

We spent the six euros each to see the three museums at Santa Severa.   There is the maritime museum, which displays the Greek, Phoenician and Roman boats and their cargo which has been raised from the ocean floor there.  Amphora abound.    Originally, Santa Severa was called Pyrgi, an ancient Latium settlement of the Etruscans.  It was plundered by Dionysus in 384 BC.   The best of the three museums, we agreed, was the Etruscan Antiquarium di Pyrgi.  It houses bits of Etruscan temple architecture and the gold leaves which were engraved with the dedication of said temples:  it is amazing to see the Etruscan language in writing, which is yet to be deciphered (although certain words are understood, there is no “rosetta stone” for the Etruscan language, and pronunciation and usage of certain words are still a mystery).  It was here I saw the satyr who is the subject of two new “plaster” paintings I did.
Fish in Newspaper Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25"  41 x 63 cm 
We can manage to get to Santa Severa in the morning and return in time for a late lunch at home. We weren’t in a rush this time, because Harika went with us, and ran through the Mediterranean sand.  I made fish for lunch.
Satyr from the Side  Laurie Fox  Pessemier  Acrylic/plaster/canvas  27 x 18"  66 x 45cm 

Even though I am thrilled to be receiving mail, and could possibly buy an electric car (if I won the lottery), I appreciate and understand our slow Italian pace.  Sometimes things are not as important as we think, and if I slow down enough, I might see a Satyr in the woods.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Artnotes: The Interruption

“Would you sell me that sofa?”  Mustafa, our Moroccan “tout” asks.  Blair explains our house and all its furnishings are rented, not for sale.  . We don’t usually invite itinerant salesmen into the house:  it is just too cold on the porch to look at the socks and belts and towels in his pack.  We buy a plaid wool cap.  I ask him to sell my artwork.  “People will think I stole it,” he says.

We are constantly interrupted by traveling salesmen:  earlier in the week, Innocent (from Nigeria) stopped by and sold us two waffle-weave towels.  Selling is the only work new immigrants can do, without getting into trouble.  Fortunately, there isn’t a police category dedicated to controlling these poor, hard-working renegades.   We give them oranges and glasses of water and pay too much for everything.

Blessing asks us for a ride up to the Borgo from the Conad super market, where he sells rather good-looking blouses and slacks, small carpets and socks (we have actually bought lots of clothes there, sometimes with American guests).  He has all the “dirt” on Stimigliano, and the skinny on other immigrants.  Frank, who always wants us to adopt him, has moved to Poggio Mirteto; Blessing says, “Frank got a job there”.  “People around here  lie,” he tells us, explaining how, in fact, the new building under construction isn’t going to be a clinic, but rather an old folks’ home.  We commensurate on how good, and inexpensive, the food in Italy is, and housing; we all have health care.  “It’s easy to live, but it’s almost impossible to work here.  If I could go to the US or Canada I’d never look back”, he lets us know.

I always say I would never had made it in Italy without the immigrants.  They punctuate my life with surprises.  20 Italian men sitting in the piazza won’t as much lift a finger as I struggle with two large grocery bags and a dog; the Africans will help.   An itinerant salesman will stop by the studio and tell me how good my painting is.  It’s that interruption that sometimes keeps me going.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Artnotes: What a Difference a Place Makes

Hydrangea and Friends  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Mixed Media     16 x 12"  30 x 40 cm 

Selling Shoes at the Zocca Market   Blair  Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 16"  40 x 40:  

At the Zocca Market   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm

Lizard with Red Leaves  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Mixed Media  16 x 20"  40 x 50cm  

Zinnias on Black   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Mixed media/paper 12 x 16"  40 x 30cm 

When I was very young, before color TV, I used to spend a lot of time at my grandmother’s house.  I could go over there, hang out, look out her window across the river to Main Street, raid the pantry, draw pictures.    I had a host of hang-outs then – the Nelsons, who lived upstairs (I wrote my first story for them); the Renzas house (they had 6 kids, so it wasn’t always relaxing); and a converted a section of our garage/barn for reading and imagining.   It wasn’t as if I weren’t happy at home, it was just that I needed some perspective to appreciate it.

When Blair and I lived in Seattle, before cell phones, I used to take our  dog, Muttie, a Jack Russell, and rent a travel trailer on the Washington Coast.   She and I would fire up the surely dangerous heater, and make grill cheese or spaghetti on the stove.  We’d walk on the beach and I’d talk to God.   Blair never had that same need for a private venue, but he soon discovered the sheer fun of a new place.

When we lived in Paris, we’d spend our summers at Hemlock Lodge, in Winsted, Connecticut.  It was as if I were born again, and could see with completely new eyes.   In winter, we would spend a month in southern France, or Venice, painting and writing. 

Maybe I am part nomad, but I always remember a Moroccan taxi driver telling me, “you must get away in order to enjoy the place where you live.”

Here in Italy, we have the “big house” in Rocca Malatina, and the little apartment outside of Rome.  It’s less than four hours between them, and although both are in Italy, they are completely different.   Rocca Malatina is a northern village.  People value work, and education, and are always doing something.  Our 90+ year old friend, V, is planting his garden, painting the fence, putting on dinners at Alpini headquarters.  A is managing her Art Foundation.   Stimigliano, outside of Rome, is southern Italy.  People visit in the big square.  Kids go to school, or not.  Cafes are full of locals.   There is an acceptance, to the point of pride, in doing nothing.   We are complete weirdoes there because we get up early in the morning (the light is best for art), travel to Rome for pleasure once a week, write books, paint pictures, cook:   DO things. 

We have gone from being completely deflated last week in Stimigliano to:  painting outdoors at the market in Zocca; figuring out a new art technique using paper and black; painting a new portrait; sending out solicitations to take our baseball show (with a positive response!); spoken, via telephone, to old friends, one of whom really turned my thinking around; finished my landing page; and Blair applied for a job in the USA.
What a difference a place makes!!