Saturday, June 22, 2019

Artnotes: Bowling with Shorty

Bowling  at Laurel Lanes  LFP  12 x 12"  

 Yard Frieze  Laurie Fox Pessemier  12 x 101"  30 x 254cm

Firefly in the Library  LFP  acrylic/paper  17 x 25"  42 x 63 cm

Hey, Shorty, how’s it going?  We’re having a whopping thunderstorm – and when I was small, my mom, Shorty, used to tell me “the angels are bowling”.  We all spent a fair amount of time at the bowling alley, so I can testify that the sound of the ball and the scattering of the bowling pins is the spitting image of thunder.  Lightening?  That’s a strike, for sure.

I have never been as grateful for rain as today, after several weeks of hot, sunny weather.  This is the perfect rain:  soft, steady, penetrating the dry earth.  Blair and I will get out there with the shovel after this and plant a few sheltering hedges around the back yard.   Despite watering, my smaller specimens, like lobelia, withered on a particularly sunny afternoon.

For the first time we are focusing our summer in Italy.  Formerly, we traveled to the USA, which we all loved – but this year we can spend “project” time at this house.

Our first and foremost project is to organize all of our artwork, get it onto selling website, and away we go!  We have chronicled more than half of what we have here in this big house.   I think I am going to choose a web-based art selling venue called  It has a “print” option for paintings that I could sell over again and for less; framing is also possible.  There’s the opportunity to let people see how a piece of artwork would look on your very own wall.  It sounds and looks fabulous, but I am not really sure it’s worth the extra investment.

Blair’s project is to get his drivers license.  He takes the test at least a dozen times a day.  He improves regularly, but isn’t perfect yet.  Driving rules are written in a complicated Italian grammatical style – our difficulties are more in understanding the words than remembering the driving rules.  I say our difficulties because I try to study, but I am not sure I am going through with the exam.  I have great difficulty with left and right, and much of the test, written and practical, involves direction.  It isn’t free, either.  It will cost more than 1000 euros each to get a license.

A firefly was flying around our library the other night.  It went into the bathroom and corridor, before Blair opened the hall window to let it out.  Our house is very dark at night and it was so beautiful -- magical, in fact.    For years, I lived in the city and thought it was all happening there.  It wasn’t.
I have been walking, and gardening, but most of all pursuing art work.  Ours is an indoor/outdoor house with wide open doors on three sides.  It never gets too hot inside, except maybe at night.

On Wednesday we had hardly-known guests arrive.  We had met the woman more than ten years ago, and never knew her husband.  They had visited Venice, trained and then drove up from Bologna.  We had a terrific visit, over lunch at the Faro restaurant and a visit to a 10th century church and Montecorone.  She is a great supporter of my art, and an artist herself (part of the mosaic).   I was just finishing up my garden frieze, and thinking how neat it would be if everyone could enjoy summertime painting here.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Artnotes: Surrounded by People

Red Lettuce  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25"  41 x 63cm

Girl with leaf lips   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  25 x 17"  63 x 41cm

Jolly Flowers   Laurie Fox Pessemier  12 x 12"  30cm  

Birthday Flowers Blair Pessemier  Acrylic on panel  13 x 18"   33 x 41cm   

We celebrated two birthdays this week:  our friend Paul, here and Rocca Malatina and my sister Nancy in Connecticut.  We had Spaghetti alla Scoglia at the Gigolo restaurant, across the street.  There was another, much larger, teen-age birthday party at the next table(s), so we camped onto to their singing and sparkly cake.  I see life as one big fabric: yours, mine, ours.

Earlier in the week, I’d pledged to quit pasta and bread, but in fact, it’s tough to do here in Italy.   I will just have to accept my chubby self the way I am.   I am jolly.

So jolly, in fact, I was in a video from Montecorone di Zocca today.  Blair and I participated in the festival there, showing our artwork.  Our friend Antonella was next door, offering an art  “laboratory” for children.  Chalk abounded, in all colors.  There were the best cakes, and a kissing area.  I may go back at 5:30 for a poetry reading. 

Sell anything? My father would ask.   No.  This is just a visiting event.  And even though our language is challenged, it’s fun to watch. 

We have (officially) more than 200 paintings of People.  It looks as though there will be over 100 Florals and Trees.   Landscapes loom, along with miscellaneous.  The new camera-phone (Samsung S10) has proven its worth.  It was rated #2 in camera/phones -- Huawei was #1, but seemed a controversial choice.  We each have a phone now.

I spent an inordinate amount of time this week assembling a catalog of those people images -- I still have to make an index of sizes and details, but you can take a look at:

The new phone makes it easier for me to post to Instagram, with pretty sophisticated editing tools.  But all of these devices, tools, make me feel lonely and frustrated.  Which is why going to this Montecorone fair, with ultimate in visiting, is so good.  Honestly, I am still a little frustrated, but being surrounded by people, all smiling at me, is wonderful.

Vittorio gave me this beautiful lettuce this week, I had to paint it.  

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Artnotes: READY

“You are not the ‘Great Creator’ of your songs, you are simply their servant, and the songs (think paintings) will come to you when you have adequately prepared yourself to receive them. They are not inside you, unable to get out; rather, they are outside of you, unable to get in. Songs, in my experience, are attracted to an open, playful and motivated mind... You have the entire world to save and very little time to do it. The song will find its way to you.”  by Nick Cave

With this in mind, Blair and I went to the “welcome summer”  dinner at the cafĂ©, 2 Passe, last night.  We drank a vodka tonic in the name of playful, and ate a delicious Paella made by Camilla, whose family owns the little place.  It doesn’t usually serve food, but tables were set up on the little terrace in front.  There were big, old fashioned, clear Christmas lights, and music playing.  It was a younger crowd than usual for dinner in Rocca Malatina.  Perhaps I had opened my mind and mouth a little too much when I said to the owner, “I am so glad this isn’t ITALIAN food”.  Eeek.  But in fact, other people at other tables piped in to agree.  Yes,” the owner said, “Lasagna, tortellini, crescentini [are all good], but it’s nice to have a change.”

I see a new Italy on the rise.  Parts, like the fascist bits, are horrible and I pray they don’t take over.  But there is a younger generation that wants a different life from the old corrupt status quo.  I believe much of the racist rant comes from people (sadly) my age, who counted on getting their fair share all of their lives, and now see a gutted country.  They are seeking someone to blame, and immigrants are a convenient scapegoat.  But I see young families, and people under 30 who want their country to be part of the modern world.  You can’t have paella without a nod to Spain.   I see little black kids on the soccer team.

Blair and I have both been exploring new art venues.  I am thinking about digital media, but it isn’t an obvious fit for me.   At this moment, instead of painting in our usual voracious way, we are documenting the work we have on hand here in Italy.  We hired a consultant to help us figure out how to manage our work as “late stage artists” – I mean, are our sisters going to want to come and sort all this out after our demise?  We have sorted a few hundred canvases and discovered over 200 pictures of people.  I am compiling them into a catalog, which will be available on ISSUU soon.  The point is to find meaningful (or just any-old) homes for these works.  If you have any ideas for sales, shows or whatever, please, please let us know.   Other collections will include:  Paris, French Countryside, Italian countryside, Floral and Still Life – you get it, eh:  there are at least 500 paintings here (and another 200 works on paper).

I am cooking steaks on the barbecue tonight and mixing Negronis.   Maybe my next painting will stop by.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Artnotes: Out of Africa

We went to an art show on Monday:  Ex-Africa, in Bologna.  It was empty as one might expect on Monday at 10AM, and we took our time examining work from Congo, Ghana, Ivory Coast…  It’s difficult to imagine a continent as large as Africa in a few rooms, but the show was beautifully curated, and comfortable to see.
Once I ditched the audio guide, I was completely transported from rainy Italy to the warmth of Africa. These creators felt a visceral passion about the items they created: for their gods, for their health, for their celebrations and ceremonies.  There were amulets to stave off smallpox:  men covered with dots; delicately carved ivory ceremonial beakers; golden figurines to occupy the other side of the balance to weigh gold. I liked the nail-covered dog, and the golden leopard, some of the headpieces.
I was amazed that wood could have lasted a millennium, but it did – I guess it must be the dryness of the desert.    There were works in wood, ivory, metal from a variety of ages, which inspired everything from Man Ray’s famous photo portrait of Kiki and the Head, to Bibendum, the Michelin man.

I, too, was greatly inspired and painted a bunch of impressions from Ex-Africa.   Mostly joyous, in my case, but at least one was pretty scary, as Harika refused to eat her dinner with it in the room.    Blair has started on some pieces to be cast in metal.

I thought of other works inspired by Africa, the cradle of humanity.  Really, it was the cradle of so much modern art, from Modigliani to Klee to Naum Gabo.   Around 1990, I was on the top floor of the Humana building with Blair some office workers, a tourist, and a janitor, with his push can and broom.  We were all staring at a sculpture by Gabo, clearly inspired by African images.  Mesmerized for a few moments, it was like being in the presence of GOD, the big Machine, a thread that held together all dimensions. 
 Online now, I am now looking for that sculpture and the building, but I can only find the building.  It was probably just magic.  It felt like that.  The memory of artwork stays with me like a special song, rarely heard, but impressed forever in my mind.

ps.  On a more mundane note, we have has some technology “upgrades”, administered by a young robot, resulting in surprising messages to friends.  We apologize for what must seem crazy, inappropriate, and otherwise nuts.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Artnotes: What a Difference You Make

 The Bath (after Bonnard)  Blair Pessemier  Oil/canvas  40 x 36"  100cm x 90cm  
 Peonies from Ludovico's Yard   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/peonie petals/paper  17 x 25  41 x 63cm
 Bedroom Window  Blair Pessemier  Oil/canvas  40 x 36"  100 x 90cm \
two snapshots:  harika and the cow  6.5 x 8"  Laurie

One of my best friends died this week.  I didn’t see him as often in recent years, but his example and our devotion never faltered.  He was the man who launched our artwork career, along with his partner and wife.  In 1999, we sent our first paintings to his showroom in High Point, North Carolina, where we started selling to interior designers.  The rest is history.

It was a gesture he could offer, and we could accept.  That’s all it takes: to do what you can to give someone else a chance.   And the recipient needs to catch the ring, right now!

We had great times with Bill and his wife.  They used to come to Europe and travel with us, in the fall.  We went to Avignon, Normandy, Alsace.   We’d visit them at least once of year in the south, and they came to a party we threw in Seattle one New Years Eve.    We had many magic times together, meeting yet more people we added to our list of friends.  Bill used to ask people on the Paris subway, “what do you like most about living in Paris?”

Last week, we traveled to Trevi, near Perugia, to see a girlfriend, Barbara, who took our painting workshop in Paris years ago.  She took the week long workshop to build a portfolio to present at her art school interview.  Now she is a full-fledged artist with shows in Vienna, Milan, Bratislava.  It is wonderful to commensurate with other artists:  we see thing similarly.   What is just a peeling finish on a wall to most people is lovely juxtaposition of blue, yellow, lavender to us.  It makes us treasure the red purple pansy that sprung up in a crack in the grey-green concrete.

We are currently awaiting someone to trim our yard. My allergies are beyond the pale, and it would be nice to have a Memorial Day picnic in grass below our knees.  If I ask the gardener who comes with the house to do the work, he will show up while we are eating and quit halfway through.  The man-for-hire is now two hours late, which is par for the course here in the land of the perpetually tardy-if-they-show-up-at-all.  Blair and I are about to buy more yard tools.   That way we can hire immigrants to do the work and barbecue together afterwards.

Barbara will visit Rocca Malatina in August.   We’ll paint the Sassi, and hay being harvested.  We’ll visit the Castello at Vignola and the waterfall at Labante.  Hopefully the grass will be cut.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Artnotes: Learning to Read

Civita Castellana Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25  43 x 61cm

Roses on la la  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25  43 x 61cm

Roses on a Gp;d Backgound  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25  43 x 61cm

 Roses on a Blue Backgound  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25  43 x 61cm
 Roses on a Black Backgound  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25  43 x 61cm
 Purple Iris  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 11  41 x 27cm
White Iris  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 11  41 x 27cm

Today I read an entire article in the Repubblica newspaper and understood it.  It sent me back to 1959 in  the first grade and the moment when I really got a grasp on reading.  It was a classic Dick and Jane story, and there was a word I was stymied by:  come.  I remember it was Michael English who sounded it out loud before the class, and corrected what might have been “oh” to “uh”.  And I knew that minute that I could read. 

So it was on the sofa on this rainy Saturday morning that I read an entire article in the newspaper, not needing the dictionary.   The story was about the development of a dry soap that could be used in Africa, where water is premium.   Reading this article, without stopping to look things up, gave me that same feeling I had in the first grade under the tutelage of Mrs. Kilbride (who also had false teeth that once fell completely out of her mouth: shocking).

I went to the dentist this week for a cleaning – it is a remarkable service for just 50 euro, and I know I could go to a cheaper dentist, but I love Dr(s)  Bertacchi.  Massimo, the elder sings to me while he works on my teeth; they gave me a bottle of 100 year old balsamic vinegar; Andrea, the younger dentist, chats me up in English.   When I went yesterday in to make the appointment, the receptionist, who has known me for nearly 4 years, showed no sign of recognition:  “come back at 4”.  She fessed up later she didn’t recognize me because my hair is now white and a little like Andy Warhol’s.

My reading is improving partly because I am studying in order to pass the Italian driver’s test.  I take a timed test online, like on a game show, where if you get the answer wrong you drop down to question one again.    I really like it.  The manual is predictably boring, despite little comments by the writer, “so you think you know what all these signs are?” or “when you were driving with your parents did you notice…”   The “corsia” is for cars and animals, like a horse drawn carriage might appear.  And the manual will point out tricky questions, as if you were being given a test for sanity.   Blair and I will both take the test at some point, and I imagine us both passing.  Then we have to take the physical driving exam, and be approved by a medical doctor that we can still drive.

I went out and took pictures of landscapes in anticipation of this weekend of violent storms.   In fact, painting from photos just never inspires me.  You’ll have to settle for four views of my drowned roses.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Pack Your Bathing Suit

Wild Yellow Iris at Farfa/Tevere   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25"  41 x 63cm 

Window on via Margutta  Blair Pessemier  acrylic/panel  18 x 12"  45 x 30cm

 Fun on the Grass Vescovio  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas panel 10 x 14" 25 x 35cm

Just Kids Vescovio  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvaspanel  12 x 18"  30 x 45cm

Ancient Stone Bench Vescovio  Blair Pessemier  18 x 12"  45 x 30cm

For the first time in twenty years, we are not going to the USA for the summer.  I get a twitch in my throat every time I think of Hemlock Lodge without us:  no dinners on the glassed-in porch; no bird mobile; no art show on the porch; no swimming in Highland Lake.  Hemlock Lodge was like deluxe camping, and as long as my father was alive, we could go to his house and take a shower or wait out the rain.  But last summer was more difficult, and Harika will be 12 human years old in less than a month, travel by air for her has never been easy.   

Before you run to fetch your hanky, let me say we are taking a vacation – by car.  We’re heading to the beach in Brittany to see friends, and then spending a couple of weeks in Paris.  We’ll visit the old haunts and find new ones in a different neighborhood.   We’ll make day trips here and there and paint up a storm.

I just read in a sample of a book I am buying:  “one of the gifts of being (an artist) is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore.”  We can travel with a sense of purpose. You can enjoy the results.

We are having the “Ave Maria” show at Vescovio at the moment, ending Sunday.  I must say it has had the most gracious and wonderful visitors, and I feel terrific about the experience.  Vescovio is much more than a church – although it is an ANCIENT church were St. Peter is reputed to have said a mass.  We are situated in a room by the bell tower and monastery, with our own generous and very visible entry.  The room is littered with old statues missing their heads and bits of masonry which toppled from the 10th century church in various earthquakes.  There are several acres of manicured grounds where children play, teenagers pose, parents watch and old folks perch throughout the day.  There is a gelato shop and a restaurant where they cook on an open grille.  A path winds by us to the top of a hill where there are pre-10th century ruins.  Harika likes it.   I feel lucky to be there.

After trying to meditate for many years, I seem to have finally made some headway this week.  Of course, this comes after having a meltdown and realizing I have to get my imagination under control.  I am thankful to the internet for various free introductions, and innumerable youtube videos which inspire.  I hope to die with a greatly evolved brain.

So, right now, we’re packing our bathing suits from Stimigliano to go up to Rocca Malatina.  They had snow there just a week ago, but we will not be daunted.  I am going to build sculptures for my climbing roses, and to foil Ludovico, our gardener.   I will invest in tools.   I’d like a swimming pool but may have to settle for the Panaro River.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Reading in Roma

Elderberry Flower  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  25 x 17"  63 x 41cm 

Seated Buddha   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25"  41 x 63cm 

Standing Buddha  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  25 x 17"  63 x 41cm  

Breaking Bread   Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/canvas  32 x 47"  81 x 119cm 

We spent six of the last eight days in Rome:  first, to celebrate Easter with friends from North Carolina; then, for the Show of the 100 Painters, on via Margutta…

We had Easter Sunday Brunch and walked around the Campo di Fiore – Rome is such a feast for the eyes, as well as the stomach.   I am amazed to be walking on ancient cobblestones, and looking at the same Tiber River that Caesar saw.  History abounds, although with broken subways and uncollected garbage, Augustus is rolling in his tomb.

We set up our art show on Tuesday night.  Our stall was a little smaller than the last time, but the good weather throughout allowed us to put our chairs outside the stand.  And there we sat, reading and waiting for customers.

My first book was by Iain Banks:  On Crow Road.  It was a good read, a story loosely based on the religious preferences of a family (the father dies climbing the church, hit by lightning).  It somehow seemed appropriate in this every-so-religious city.  I say that, keeping in mind the Pagan Roman roots and it’s current overwhelming Catholicism:  a Mary on every corner, rivaled only by depictions of Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf; not to mention the 12 gods of Rome.

Simultaneously, I was reading Letters to Poseidon, by Cees Nooteboom.  That’s Neptune (brother of Jupiter, god of Rome) in the Roman scheme of things, and Nooteboom writes him short letters about what goes on in life.  I write letters to my late father, although he was nothing like Poseidon, more like Cupid (in the best sense, a romantic character) maybe, just to express thoughts or experiences that pass by, that nobody else would listen to.  You don’t hear it all in Artnotes, although it might seem so.

The art show progressed at a rather lackluster pace, with minimal sales, and maximum stress.   I did enjoy the parade of passers-by and what they wore.  Some people can look so good, from sparkly socks to cotton sateen skirts in geometric prints.

We rented a little apartment to stay in, on the (currently nonoperational!) subway line, so we could avoid parking charges and the daily 50 minute drive from Stimigliano.  In fact, the place was straight out of the Addams Family, a very dark brown three story house, with boarded up windows, weeds, and a great dane perpetually wandering the grounds.  Our apartment was a former garage, smelling of mildew and  flying ants in the bathroom.  Harika refused to stay there, and she wouldn’t eat at all.  We left after two days, having paid for four, but you know how these things go.  All I can say is “never again abb”.

It did have Internet, as advertised (everything was as listed), and I read a Kindle book by Jon Amdall, Pencils and Process , about taking up drawing again after a lapse.  I recommend to those rekindling their drawing or painting skills.   I read about how bonobos have communal meals, and the importance of “breaking bread” together, for all sorts of animals.  I have been enjoying Nick Cave’s Red Hand Files, who says, “…For me, the search itself is where the action is.”

On 1 May, we had a stellar May Day barbecue with Gianfranco (Garibaldi CaffĂ©) and his friends and family.  Gioia cooked the pasta outdoors, and we ate ribs and lamb and sausage, fresh beans and homemade cheeses:  breaking bread all together.

The real joy of the via Margutta show was not “selling” (or not), but connecting with the various characters along the way.  At the end of five days, I felt like part of the Italian painters club.    Our next show “Ave Maria” starts at Vescovio on Sunday.

Laurie and Blair