Sunday, February 10, 2019

Artnotes: Its Another Chance

New Green Vase with Berries  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/canvas  24 x 16"  60 x 40cm 

We’re in pursuit of Chinese food today, heading out to Fiumicino, where the Rome airport is.  Often airport cities have the best ethnic food, catering to the crews (and passengers) of the big international carriers.  We just celebrated Chinese New Year, the year of the Pig, and I need some pot stickers and tea.  My girlfriend, Yukie, made the most wonderful New Year Card, to celebrate the occasion. 

I love the “New Year”; of course it’s a new year every day, but the turning back on the past and looking out to the future is a wonderful feeling.  A philosopher friend from Paris, who I miss terribly, used to say, “Laurie, everything is in the past, this sentence, this word.  We are just looking at remains.”   I like those ideas that make me think, and then I can go back to deceiving myself with eyes open.  

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

I want the world to revolve around Love, embracing Nature, and Art, and the similarities and differences between people.  But I feel like I am living in a “parallel universe” from everyone else.  Love is out.

Even our cafĂ© owner spouted off on Saturday against Macron, the president of France. (in case you don't know, the Italian president went to France more than once to meet with the "Yellow Vests", who are trying to unseat Macron.  In retaliation, Macron withdrew his ambassador from Italy.  This sort of thing smacks of pre-WWII).  I am hesitant to go back for coffee on Monday.  

Tevere   Laurie Fox Pessemier (Blair painted this same scene, but we gave his to the Vet, who dragged Harika back from the edge of the grave)  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  

At the grocery store this week, a younger English woman in front of us in line scooped her packages away from ours on the belt.  I asked Blair if she thought our two bottles of wine and liver for Harika might contaminate her canned cat food.  “Where are you from?” she asked us in English.  Conversation ensued and naturally, the subject of Brexit.  She thought it a wonderful idea.  “We just don’t think like the rest of Europe,” she told us.  I was about to bring up the subject of positive collaborations and liaisons, and how you could still drink tea instead of coffee, but I thought wiser of it.

I saw a wonderful map this week, made by the Japanese, giving a realistic picture of the land mass of nations (  The Mercator map we are used to, compresses certain areas to accommodate the roundness of the globe .  In this new map, one can see the hugeness of Russia, the mini-ness of England, or Italy.

Persian New Year arrives next month, with the spring.  It’s celebrated in a beautiful and elegant way:  colorful flowers and fruit, and turquoise (my favorite) colored dishes.  It’s another chance.

Mary with Butterflies   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  25 x 17"  63 x 41cm 

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Artnotes: Look What's Coming

Oranges in a Turquoise Bowl   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  18 x 22"  45 x 55 cm

Boats Carnivale  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 24"  30 x 60cm    

 Unpainted masks  Blair Pessemier  14 x 19.5"  35 x 50 cm  

 Madonna della Robbia  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  25 x 17"  61 x 43cm
Madonna near Castelfranco  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  25 x 17"  61 x 43cm

Cyclamen  Laurie Fox Pessmeier  12 x 12"  30 x 30 cm

Pagliacci with Drum  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 16 x 12"  40 x 30cm

It’s been a rainy and difficult week here in Stimigliano.  Harika was “sicker than a dog”, and threw up at least 2 dozen times on the rug.  I mention the rug because although our house is entirely paved in tile, the carpet was the target, on nearly the same place each time.  We have friends who often take care of neighborhood dogs, and all of them, including ours, choose the same spot on their carpet to barf:  must be electrical fields.  When the rain lets up some, I’ll hang the rug over the balcony to “wash”. It will never be the same.

It wasn’t only Harika who was sick.  A young American friend in Perugia was taken ill.  We went to see him today.  He was much improved to the point we even enjoyed an Italian lunch together.  We’ll see him and his family in few weeks up at our Rocca Malatina house.  I had never been to Perugia before and it was quite wonderful.  It is an amazingly intact medieval city – wonderful stone buildings cresting the hill.  There was a sense of ongoing life there:  I mean, our friend would have been one of how many people still occupying this 15th century abode?

And it was wonderful to be with a younger person – I could understand how grandparents go gaga over the next generation.  I felt even more compelled to fight to make the world better, cleaner, more full of love for him.  And he’ll work to clean it up.

Harika’s was a harrowing ordeal, this sickness ensuing at about 2 AM every nights since last Saturday.  I’d hear her walking around and next thing…  So we weren’t sleeping, either.   We went to the vet suggested to us by the owner of a healthy looking golden retriever.  The vet was sure we had done something wrong; this is always a good sign, I believe, that the vet takes the side of the dog.  He gave us medicine. It didn’t work.

I became expert at looking for clues to Harika’s plight.  She was only throwing up water and bile, so any other items were suspect.  Finally, I saw what looked like little bits of tomato peel.  Except they were completely uniform:  plastic!!!   I thought of those sad dead whale pictures.  She did not eat all that day, but later perked up.  It was the first morning I’d not given her usual morning snack:  dried duck strips (made in China).  In the next 24 hours she made an astounding recovery and now she’s eating homemade turkey soup.

We went to the cemetery again this week in pursuit of flowers.  Our town is just too small for a flower store, and we can find plants at nurseries a little further out.  But I like the cemetery, full of Maries, and possible free flowers, and the flower seller always seems a little lonely.   All he really had this week was one apparently pitiful cyclamen.  When I balked about it having only 2 blooms, he lifted its green skirt, and said, look what’s  coming!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Artnotes: Lo and Behold

Modenese Toro Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper 17 x 25″ 41 x 63cm
If I don’t write down what I do every day, I forget.  We have been really good about painting every day this month, and getting exercise and making a little inspirational outing each day.  Sometimes the outings are memorable on their own, but other times, I need to write it down, so I can take painters there come spring.
Madonna del Latte (after Lorenzetti) Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper 25 x 17″ 41 x 63 cm
I spent a huge amount of time this week putting my catalog, Madonnas, into sellable shape.  I also worked with Mario to make an Italian translation.  The Italian version should go to press mid-next week, along with a hard cover edition.

Madonna (after della Robbia style/Nonatola) Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper 25 x 17″ 41 x 63 cm
We got the electricity fixed in our bedroom.  No outlets worked, and the overhead light was dicey.  Like a miracle the contractor turned up and actually didn’t charge us anything (no pun there) for a ten minute repair.  I am reading in bed again.
We drove up to Vacone on Friday. Named after a Sabina Goddess, Vacunae, it is an ancient town with a fountain and ruins from 1 BC.  We walked around, something Harika seems to be enjoying, as well.  It was so windy up there I could barely make it back to the car.  One can see almost the entire region from what they call “terrazzo della Sabina”, a panoramic viewpoint.  There are only 264 people in the town.  Besides quite a lot to look at, there is a restaurant there called “Solo per Due”, and yes, it only has two seats.  It’s a bit fancy-schmancy, but looked like fun if you had 500 euros not working for you.
Pagliacci at Carnival (we’re going!) Blair Pessemier Acrylic/canvas 16 x 12″ 40 x 30cm
We’ve started entertaining here in Stimi, and had guests to dinner last Saturday night, and last night.  In Italian.  Our guests must have the patience of Job, or be really hungry because my language leaves a lot to be desired.   Last night I made oxtail – it is a perfect winter dish, and takes at least four hours in the oven, which imparts a remarkable warmth to the house.
There’s been much cold and rain here, but it seems to stop for a short time and then we go for a small walk or a ride in the car. The views have become shockingly drab-looking:  no flowers.
Carnations Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/linen 
20×16″ 50x40cm
To remedy that, we made a foray to the cemetery last Saturday to cadge some nearly-dead flowers from the dumpster.  Lo and behold, the flower seller was open.  We got a lovely bunch of carnations, and a lily that doesn’t seem to have scent (a disappointment).  All for four euros.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


I finished the first draft of my Madonna catalog.  I am still painting (and drawing) away on that subject, but my Italian language study has taken a back seat.  I am constantly thinking about the Mary project.

We studied Italian our first week of 2019 in Stimigliano, with Mario, who used to be an honest-to-goodness teacher, but I just didn’t have the mental energy to give my 100%.  Why was that?  Because a huge amount of my time has been spent with my art.

Blair’s been painting again, and did three great paintings this week.  We are seeking further subject matter, and drove to Sutri, an ancient town not far from here.  It was suggested by Raimondo, who is a woodworker in Rocca Malatina:  he comes from Sutri, originally.

We were not disappointed.  It is a pre-Roman site, with a fabulous amphitheater, and caves and graves carved into the tufa stone. There is an ancient church carved into the rock, dedicated to Mary and the Birth.    But before it was a Christian church, it was a Pagan temple where Bulls were sacrificed.   The church interior is on an upward incline toward the Altar, where ultimately mass was said, but for centuries prior, bulls were slaughtered (and things ran downhill).  There were multiple layers of frescoes, some adapted to the “modern” dogma, but strategically incorporating bulls.  It was most interesting.

I woke up this morning thinking about how difficult it is to do more than one thing at once, and do it well.  I can paint and write, or study Italian.  I can work on the computer or I can be creative.  Some tasks, like cooking dinner for friends, can be ok; others, like learning a new computer program, is  just too alien.   It is difficult to accept that I can’t do everything.  As an American, we’re taught we can have a half dozen “jobs”.  In fact, it is hard to do justice to any one, when there are too many.   When Blair and I had our architecture/design business we hardly painted at all.  When we were selling Thomasville furniture in Europe, and painting, the art eventually took over.    It’s not that there can’t be a lot of things, they just must be taken in order, and given full attention.

This idea has been further reinforced by my friend, Y, who I speak to once a week in Paris.  She has a business coach now, and she shares a lot of the information she’s been getting.  The coach told Y to forget she is supported by her husband, that she needs to earn enough money to support herself.  She needs to totally dedicate herself to her business:  100%.   I initially fought this idea, but when I think about trying to do too many things, I believe it could be right.

Meanwhile, I power along with as much as I can:  picking, choosing, and finding harmonious projects.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Lesson Learned

Reflections on the Tiber  (2018)  Laurie Fox Pessemier  13 x 18"  33 x 46cm  Acrylic/canvas  275.00  
The light here has been more beautiful than ever: cold, crystal clear days.  Rosy-fingered dawns and deep purple dusks announce the ever so slightly longer daylight hours.  I would be painting outdoors were it not so cold and were we not subject to the demands of hospitality.

 We drove to Greccio last week.  Greccio is close to the city of Rieti, which is about as far as we can go and still be in our province (Rieti, in fact).  St Francis visited Greccio and founded a sanctuary there in 1209; it was the site of the first reenactment of the Nativity in 1223.  It is a climb up a rocky hill, with steps and caves. Harika joined us, rather than her usual sleeping out in the car; I think she smelled St. Francis.   When we made it to the top, over 2100 feet, it began to snow.

Stimigliano in Snow 2018     Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  18 x 15"  45 x 38 cm   295.00

Winter is a time of reflection, and I have figured out oodles of things over the past few weeks.

Today, 12 January,  my Mom’s birthday (were she still with us), I learned that it sometimes takes a long time to see another point of view.  I always had a hard time with my mother – I never thought she loved me.  But now I realize when I was born, I was not priority number 1: that was my Dad, who had been ill; I was not priority 2: that was her work, that kept us all afloat because my Dad wasn’t always working; I checked in at number 3.  And when I was 8 months old, our town and home were washed away in the flood:  all she worked for was lost.  Why didn’t I understand all this before now?  Sorry, Mom.

Not Me and Shorty (Mom) Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  25 x 17"  63 x 43cm   135.00

We saw the cave where Francis slept.  A stream passed through the monastery, likely the source of fresh water for the place in the 13th century.  A bird was trapped in a window, and Blair freed him to fly again.  Francis, for those who don’t know, was a rich man who spurned material possessions to get back to the basics in life:  Nature, Animals, Helping the Poor.  He founded the Franciscan order of priests, who ran the school I went to for the first 9 years of my education.

This is also the birthday of our friend Reza, who taught me one of my most valuable tenets.  When he had to live temporarily at the YMCA, I said, “Gosh, Reza those are some really awful people living there.”  He replied, no, they weren’t bad, that they were just down on their luck, like he was.  Since then, I don’t judge.

European Kingfisher Fledgling 2018  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm  135.00

After a number of fish dinners this holiday season, all served at restaurants without red wine, I realized that in Italy, the restaurant guides you down their own culinary path.  I believe they do it because they like you and don’t want you making a mistake.  Our latest fish restaurant had no red wine; at the New Year’s Eve fish dinner they “ran out” of red wine; at the 1 star restaurant of my birthday, red wine did not even figure into the wine list.  I thought it was kind of nice.  Unfortunately, guests never seem to go along with this.

I learned that there are things I will never be able to do.  The fact is I just can’t live with other people, even the good guest.  I apologize to them.   I’m ok for the short term stay – I’m happy with the 3 to 4 day guest, even a week.  It’s the month long boiling-bones-on-the-kitchen-stove-stay that bugs me.   

Bug 2018   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm   135.00

Once you learn something, and you acknowledge it, you can move on with life.  It doesn’t mean you might not make the same mistake again, or should never venture near that path, but at least you are aware of what can happen.  A lesson learned need not be repeated.

Sheep (2018) Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  25 x 17"  63 x 43cm   135.00

Laurie and Blair Pessemier

 ps. That said, many of this week's paintings are "repeats".  We'll be back on the job this week.  The Mary book started in December is in its final stages.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Artnotes: Ready to Launch

When we got back to Stimigliano the day after Christmas, there was a sparkly pine cone sitting on the kitchen table.  It wasn’t a complete surprise because I’d left a small, unopened pine cone, with a smattering of glitter, on the table when I left.  While I was away for 10 days, it had burst open to become a much larger, brilliant sparkly decoration.

Christmas in Italy is a different animal: there are no holds barred when it comes to having fun.  Today our town had the Sagra dei Dolci di Stimigliano – a cookie festival, in the piazza.  Blair and I were chosen to be judges for the main competition.  The cookie to bake was the pangiallo:  an ancient Roman sweet, made round like the sun (in a bowl), with a golden cast.  This was to commemorate the sun coming around again in the Winter Solstice.  Think a little bit of a cross between a “chunkie” (for those who remember that candy) and a mince pie.  Some were more chocolaty, others more nutty;  my personal favorite had less chocolate and more batter – it came in third. I was astounded by the other judges:  a 10 for one with Frangipangi?  I think the one I liked best would have one but it was first, and I was discouraged from using my 10 point paddle right away (Blair).  Did I mention there were 17 entries?  17 chocolate/candied fruit/nut cookies – if I see a nut this week I will burst!!!  

There was bubble water to help it all down, or homemade wine if one were so inclined.
We had a small show of our paintings there, as well, and Blair bought me a hat, to support a local knitter.   One of the more enthusiastic cookie bakers suggested we give a Blair’s painting of the band, to the band, so we did.  They are playing again tonight at 7, in the church. 

The Cream Puff crested 200,000 kilometers this week, as we drove from here to there:  Nonatola, looking for Madonas, and Guiglia for the living Nativity.    We saw the ancient Roman ruins of  Ostia Antica on my birthday, which made me feel young.

On Wednesday, we drove to Farfa Tevere nature preserve and saw thousands of birds murmuring.  You have likely seen them: starlings who fly in a seemingly arbitrary formation, but creating clouds of darkness.  It makes me think of a toy I once had with a magnet and steel shavings that I could arrange on a field (a man’s face, in fact).  I could hear the beat of their wings as they created patterns in the sky.  There’s a dangerously slippery wooden walkway which winds through the swamp.  Families of wild boar and badgers roam there at night.  Here’s a dusk to dawn video clip: .   

The preserve is right on the Tevere, and Blair and I think of paddling and painting there sometime were we ever get our Monet painting boat underway.  Somehow I think one day I’ll come home and find it finished, and ready to launch.
Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Artnotes: For Christmas

Star in the East   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   23 x 17″   63 x 41cm   

Blair painted this portrait in Rome

Oh, Christmas Tree   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   23 x 17″   63 x 41cm  

The Tree in the Library at Rocca
Mary Magdalene with Easter Egg   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   23 x 17″   63 x 41cm   


For Christmas

For a Christmas present this year, Blair and I treated ourselves to a long weekend in Rome. It wasn’t entirely indulgent: we took a room near the via Margutta, where we participated in the famous Rome show of “100 Pittori” (painters). We had our own stand, sandwiched between a Surrealist and a Wild African Animal painter. It made me realize I really need to improve my Italian. This will be my New Year’s Resolution: to speak Italian intelligibly by next year’s Christmas show.

I do make New Year’s resolutions, and they have changed my life. My favorites have been: to live my life so I don’t have to take a vacation; and to feel at home wherever Blair and I are. Those philosophical goals are usually the best.

We drove up to Rocca Malatina on Tuesday (Monday it snowed), where we will likely have a white Christmas. R&B Christmas carols played in our car all the way here: Give Love for Christmas; Santa’s Messin’ with the Kids; Whadda Ya Doin’ New Years Eve. Thus inspired, we put our outdoor lights up that day, and by Wednesday night we had our fresh tree decorated. On Thursday we made a wreath. Our friend Isabel is with us, and we’ll have a table of seven on Christmas Eve.

I’ve been trying to fit some painting and writing artnotes into the schedule, which seems to be packed every day. The house is, of course, freezing. It encourages movement – as long as I am sweeping, or dusting or cooking, I am warm. Other times I wear my fur coat. Our 13 foot ceilings make the house impossible to heat. I think of putting a Mongolian yurt inside the living room, where we can go to get warm. Harika’s hair has exploded.

I am always amazed Christmas comes around again, and I am energized for 2019. Hip hip hooray and BUONE FESTE!!!

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Artnotes: Iconic

     Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 23 x 17″   63 x 41cm   125.00  

making cookies

Today we were invited into the Stimigliano communal kitchen.  It is a marvelous red enamel affair with several ovens, with glass windows; rather tall wood covered tables, and refrigerators.  It smelled divine as the ladies of the town were baking cookies.  They are wonderful, aproned ladies who you wish would hug you.    Did I mention these were wood fired ovens?  It was unworldly; iconic Italian.  I almost cried tears of joy from the fabulous smell, and shoulder-to-shoulder comraderie.  They want us to hang a picture for their 29 December event. We likely will.

We’ve been immersed in Stimigliano culture this week.  We are having a show at the local bar.  It’s not been great, but we’ve met many people.   One man, many years younger than us, is so happy someone wants to create a lively culture in our little town, outside of Rome.  He’s a magician and would like to be involved in other events with us.  I tell him about how the future is going to be in little towns, outside of cities.  This is where the real essence of Italy is.  Cities are for the tourists and protesters.

Just look at Paris, our wonderful, original European home.  It’s a mess – our old neighborhood boarded up against looting and violence; museums closed, people urged to remain indoors if they can’t get out of town.  Crazy.   And the problem is not so clearly identified:  general frustration seems to be the issue, the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer as the planet burns.  People from the countryside are angry Paris gets all the funds. Holy cow.

Meanwhile, I am painting Madonnas.  I think about Mother Earth and her children (us).  I eliminate plastic from my life.  I wish my car weren’t a diesel model.  I talk to people in idiotic, broken Italian about how this country has sun, wind, and the sea, and we should be using these renewable energies.  Even the most simple person replies, “but who will make the money?”  This week, I will switch to Mary Magdalene.

A neighbor asked us to her house for pizza lunch on Saturday.   She has a wood-burning oven, which she started while we were there.  A half an hour later, when the temperature reached 400F, she popped in the pizzas.  We drank homemade wine, and ate four and a half pizzas along with 4 chicory-filled fallone, considered a salad equivalent.  These football shaped pizza crusts, filled with greens, are a local delicacy.  I needed a serious nap afterward.

Our entire neighborhood is adorned with lights and Baba Natale figures, made by the women of the town.  A very modern wooden Nativity scene sits in the piazza in front of our house.    We’re getting ready for our show in Rome this coming week, and look forward to snow in Rocca Malatina for the holiday.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Old Habits Die Hard

The Yellow Tree Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   11 x 14"  27 x 35cm 

 The Same Yellow Tree  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  11 x 14"  27 x 35cm 

 Fishing from the Pier   Blair Pessemier  Acrylc/canvas  16 x 20"   40 x 50cm

Nets over the Adriatic  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 20"  30 x 50cm

Yellow Trees Later  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 20"  30 x 50cm 

One of the best features of this time of year is seeing the sun rise.  This morning in Rocca Malatina, we were on the last round of our walk with Harika when the sun peaked above the hill.  It was immediately obscured by trees, coyly hiding its brilliant face.  But as I moved along, averting my eyes, it rose in all its glory:  yellow, pink, white.   

I know, I was cutting back on Artnotes, but old habits die hard.    I found three or four pictures we painted a couple of weeks ago, and mistakenly left behind.  I added one this week, in the same spirit of brilliant yellow – although the trees have barely a  dozen leaves on them.  I tried to capture that silvery yellow light of the winter sky: haze.  (they’re still burning wood here)

This was one of those good news, bad news trips.  The good news is after 7 months of waiting, we got a new permesso di soggiorno (residency card).  The bad news is it is only good until August, 2020.  We had hoped for a permit lasting five years or more.  The rate things are going here, we’ll have to have a blood test to insure we are “Europeans” next time around.  The case against immigrants is heartbreaking.  

There are times I question residing in Italy, but I believe it is “the times” we’re living in, not the place that makes certain things so unpleasant.   I could go on for days with complaints, but as my Dad used to say, “what’s the use of complaining?  It only depresses others”. 

We came to Rocca Malatina to get our residency cards and to pick up more paintings for our Rome show, the 13 – 16 December.  We’re bringing a surplus of work to outfit our studio/gallery/library as well.

I’m bringing my super-warm coat and hat, to stand out on the via Margutta in the Christmas cold.  Cheers!