Sunday, December 03, 2017

Artnotes: What We Might Find?

Horse and Woman (commission)  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  24 x 12"  60 x 30cm  

The House with Red Shutters (commission)  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  16 x 24  40x 60cm

The House from Afar  (commission)  Blair Pessemier Acrylic/canvas  12 x 24"  30 x 60cm

Ballerina, Guru, Explorer, Madonna (friends on my closet door)  Laurie Fox Pessemier

Acrylic on applied newspaper  8' x 6'  96 x 72"

After a hundred false starts for this week’s artnotes, I have decided to tell you about our Saturday adventures.  Originally, we’d planned to go into Rome with our neighbor, but he feared rain.  As former Seattlites, rain doesn’t bother us*, so we decided to drive up to Italy’s oldest flea market, in Arezzo. *Actually, rain makes me pretty crabby, but it’s honestly better if I get out.

Arezzo is little more than an hour and a half from here.  It’s an easy go, North on the highway toward Florence.   Arezzo is famous for its murals, painted by Piero della Francesca, in the cathedrale of St. Francis.  It is a medieval/renaissance towns, with cobblestoned hills, and fabulous architecture.  But we went for the flea market.

The entire center of the town is shut off to traffic and filled with stands selling everything from silver, to lights, to historic fabrics and furniture.   We were in the market for things for the new house, and walked away with two small easy chairs and a light fixture, for a grand total of 110 euros.  We looked at almost everything, and left behind a great desk (110, but might have got it for 90) and a set of six elegant dining chairs, contemporary, for about the same price.   There was a great dining set with chairs suitable as easy chairs, but it was pricier and Blair wasn’t keen on the table (he never goes for light wood).  This was perhaps the best flea market I have ever been to, which says a lot after Paris.  It’s the first Sunday of the month and the previous Saturday, if you are planning your trip.

Blair is an addict of the flea market, as everyone who knows us will testify.  We left Arezzo after only about two hours, and drove home because there was a “vintage”market taking place in Borgo Nuovo, right next door to Stimigliano.   That market started at two, and at 2:30 we were driving around desperately to find it, like someone seeking a heroin fix.   

We were thwarted by a large herd of sheep and three shepherding dogs that attacked our car.  Harika was in the back seat, barking and spitting foam against the back window where one persistent dog was trying to get in.  “Don’t hit them, don’t hit them!” I was hollering as Blair maneuvered the car by the dogs – the sheep were long gone.   I am thinking of making a sheep Christmas card, inspiration coming from the craziest places.

We finally found the vintage market, which turned to be an individual’s property that I had formerly mistaken as a dump site.  In fact, it was totally organized and well laid out.  For one of the first times here, we heard English spoken.  Is there something about Anglo-Saxons and flea markets?  Two men from Vancouver, BC who lived nearby were seeking bargains, as were an American couple from a neighboring town.  So we came away with four new friends, five espresso/tea cups, four black and white bullseye dishes, 3 black saucers and a large anchovy tin (sounds like the 12 days of Christmas? hmmm. maybe a better card idea).

Today there is a market in Farfa.  Who knows what we might find?

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Artnotes: I never thought of it that way...

 Morning Fog  Lauire Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 24″ 30 x 60cm
 The Flock  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  13 x 18″    33 x 40cm 
 The Lamb  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  16 x 16″  40 x 40 cm 
​In the Fold  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  14 x 16″  35 x 40 cm

The dog looks like a large golden retriever, but in fact, he is a maremmano.  And he is fiercely guarding his sheep at the side of the road.  One of the most remarkable things about living here, north of Rome, is the presence of sheep and their shepherds.  Sheep are moved from field to field, from Rome to here, just as they were millennia ago.   We see a herder who actually has a bagpipe. 

Blair and I try to stop to paint them, but it is nearly impossible.  We take photos and Blair works from those.  We were out riding around with M, who has become our shepherd.  I never really think of myself as a sheep, but Blair says he might be.  Were I a sheep, I would be the one they slaughtered first, for insubordination.

M, a teacher who lives in our borgo, takes us out to show us Roman roads, and particular sites around the area.  We’ve learned about the routes which lead to Rome from around our area:  the Salaria (the salt road), and the Flaminia.  We’ve been to a number of nearby medieval and Roman cities.  We’ve learned Italian words for architectural terms.

Blair and I take ourselves out on near-impossible tasks like finding the dump where we get our official garbage cans.  It is a half day event, visiting four different places before we happen upon the right one, just in the nick of time before the three hour lunch closure.

I am astonished by how different this area is from Rocca Malatina.  It seems much more clearly divided between Catholic and Communist.    People are very clear about which camp they follow.  Maybe we have just not had as much direct experience in this conversation, formerly.  As our Italian improves, it occurs to me it might be better to keep my mouth shut.

We sit with M over dinner.  I miss having a flock of guests, but they will likely come with time.  Meanwhile, I make baccala (dried salted cod) with olive oil, tomatoes and garlic and we talk.

“Is it no wonder the Catholic church was such a success?  With artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Brunelleschi,  people could just go to church to experience the spirituality of the art!”  M expounds, banging on the dining table. 

I guess I never thought of it that way.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Artnotes: Thankful

Ponte "Felice" over the Tiber ​  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  18 x 13"  46 x 33cm 

Nighttime in Stimigliano  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  11 x 18"  27 x 46 cm 

Fall by the Tiber   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acylic/canvas  9.5 x 14"  24 x 35cm 

Cherry Tree under Snow  Laurie Fox Pessemier  17 x 25"  43 x 63cm 

Roses under Snow  Laurie Fox Pessemier  17 x 25"  43 x 63cm 

On Monday, we had two feet of snow in Rocca Malatina.  We waited just two days too long to leave.  It snowed without stopping into Tuesday morning, when Blair went out to excavate.  The driveway was still fairly driveable, although to go over the snow might be ill-advised.  The real problem was where the snowplow pushed the accumulation from route 623 onto our sidewalk and exit.   Rain had turned the 4 foot tall mass into an ice cube.  Blair went out with the planting shovel to move it.   A neighbor and her son kibitzed with him as he hacked along.

He made some headway before M, of the cafĂ©, walked by. “Let me do some,” he insisted.  Reluctantly (or not?) Blair relinquished the shovel.  It wasn’t long before a much younger man came along and insisted on finishing it up.  “I am going to go get a better shovel,” he said, “and I’ll finish the drive.”  He wasn’t fast enough.  M summoned his snow plow man, who made quick work of the 30 meter long drive (100 feet).  

We were both touched by the kindness of people in Rocca Malatina.  We are relieved to be keeping our house there (again, thanks to the generosity of our landlady who has lowered our rent to make our winter departure possible).  We’ll be back for Christmas.

Which brings us to our Roma (Stimigliano) house.  After replacing our hot water/heater there, we arrived on Wednesday to TOO MUCH HEAT.  We’ve set the thermostat back to 60 (15) and we are more than comfortable.   I love to be able to stand in the bracing air coming through the open bedroom window and still be warm.  I look out onto the sea of night:  the plain is empty, punctuated with a few cars and the passing train in the far distance.   In the early morning a star twinkles in our window, just above the horizon.

On Thursday we went to Rome for a Thanksgiving lunch at the Savoy Hotel, with the American Business Group.  We parked beneath the Borghese Gardens and wandered through the grounds for an hour before our meeting.   We saw two painters and heard an accordionist.  We both reveled in the lushness of the Roman garden:  we each remembered being there many years ago, Blair for school, me after graduation.   There’s a lot to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

All Around

 Tower at Vescovia   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  14 x 9.5"  35 x 24cm

 Umbrella Pines Vescovia  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 20"  20 x 50cm  

 Oranges on Blue   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  16 x 24  40 x 60cm  
 Calabrian Oranges    Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  16 x 24  40 x 60cm  
 Oranges on Bronze  Laurie Fox Pessemier   10 x 24" 25 x 60cm
Blue and Orange  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  8 x 14  20 x 35 cm

Monte Cimone First Snow  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/custom house paper  8 x 14  20 x 35 cm  

I have been busy as a bird dog with an American guest here these past seven days.  I forget how easy it is to speak English, and my lungs feel weak from chatter.   I haven’t written a single word all week, and find myself at Saturday with no artnotes to pick from.

Fortunately, I’ve visited a passel of cities for inspiration:  Vignola, Modena, Bologna, Florence and Orvieto.  Each city is distinct.  I would have to say Bologna is the city where I could most easily live (were it not so polluted), and Florence is the most fun to visit (it’s polluted, too).

It is amazing those two cities are just an hour apart by train or car; yet so vastly different.  Bologna is full of color, with pink, gold and orange loggia-d streets.  It was the intended home of the Catholic church before the Vatican.  At the last minute that decision was made and the half-finished cathedral gave way to the educational heart of Italy.   

Florence is all Renaissance and square, punctuated with wildly striped churches of white and green.  Florence was the “business” city, run by the Medici family.   So many buildings there make me think of banks: rusticated ground floors with iron-gated windows; smoother first stories and refined details on the third; an occasional terrace on top.   We visited Brunelleschi’s dome of the Duomo, delivering a goose-bump inducing vista both inside and outside that church. 

A friend suggested while in Florence, we eat at a restaurant owned and run by friends of hers, “by Santa Croce, you can’t miss it”.  I only had the name, FrancescanoVini, and believe it or not we found it on a side street (Borgo dei Greci, 7r/Piazze dei Perruzi), completely by accident.  I am terrible at choosing restaurants, and at the absolute stage of exasperation we walked in and it was the right place.  The charming family, including the 9-month-old bambina, made us feel utterly at home.  Hooray:  the best beef in chianti we ever ate, and my pasta with clams and cherry tomatoes was delicious.

Blair and I rarely eat “out”.  Not spending money on dining makes our bohemian lifestyle possible; plus I love to cook.   I was thankful for this very good recommendation.

We had less dining success in Orvieto, but had, in past, eaten well there, too.  Orvieto has a very lovely church built of black and white stone, and has that elegance found only in the very early Renaissance.   There is something about the restraint of the early Renaissance I like more than what was to follow – the church in Orvieto actually has a wooden roof.  I like to see Romanesque roots and vestiges of the medieval.

Today there is snow on Monte Cimone and snow is predicted to 550 meters (our altitude) for Monday.  I am happy to be back in Rocca Malatina, with its clean air and coffee with friends.  On the way up the hill to home, we passed the stand of a Calabrian selling oranges, and bought 3 kilos for 5 Euros. We will paint them, make marmalade, and enjoy the flavor of Italia.    

Sunday, November 05, 2017

The State of Food

  Capricorn  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 18"  27 x 46cm  
 Goats  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 18"  27 x 46cm  
  Hills near Florence  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 18"  27 x 46cm  
 Brunelleschi  Laurie Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 19.5"   20 x 50cm  

On Wednesday we painted a picture of our friends’ goats.  Five of them:  Willow, Freckle, Geraldine, Myrtle and ? (maybe it’s better I don’t name them).   I am a Capricorn, myself, and relate to the passive yet strong character. At least three were expecting kids, and were a trifle misshapen on this account.  I love the sideways pupils in their golden eyes, the beards, their horns: and they smelled really good to me, like young nanny goats, not stinky billies.

Apparently, the wolf felt the same way, and he murdered the most pregnant one and stole her baby that night.  My friend contacted me in the morning, very sad and upset.  It upset me, too.  I lived in the city of Paris for twenty years, and honestly, this sort of thing is out of my realm.  We all like to act like how wonderful nature is, but in fact it is brutal.  I was happy that the late Geraldine, the dark one, was so prominent in both of our paintings.

Thursday found us at the Florence airport as we watched two boys and their mother sort waste from their snack at the triage can.  There was heavy discussion about the aluminum foil that their sandwiches were wrapped in.  One put it in “mixed” and the other in “metal” before the family shuffled off to the panoramic lounge.  Their Dad’s flight was delayed, as was our friend’s.  The cleaning crew came along, and emptied the three sorted garbage bags all into the same bin.  

We have a friend visiting from Fairbanks, Alaska, which happens to be the sister city to Fanano, a town right nearby Rocca Malatina.  The cities are related because a miner from Fanano struck gold in Fairbanks in the early 1900s.   I like to think he brought the gold to be worked in Florence, a city famous for its gold-working.

We went to Florence a bit early, to get a painting in.  We are always drawn to the Piazza Michelangelo where we overlook the Arno and the city.  I often paint the same thing, because Brunelleschi’s dome is so incredibly beautiful.  We are hoping to stop in Florence on Monday or Tuesday.  I plan to see Michelangelo’s Dawn and Dusk that I missed the last time.  Each time I see Florence I like it more and more.  Being there off-season is essential.

We’re cooking and eating marvelous food this week (quail with preserved pears; duck with cherries)– our friend comes to us as a former restaurant design client.   We see her every few years to talk about the state of food.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Artnotes: Thrilling

View from my Window Blair Pessemier  14 x 20"  35  x 50cm   

​Things get easier for me as I get older.  I am not totally without stress, but I have somehow managed to get through without panic these days.   I used to think a certain day or certain event would take place that would trigger my demise, or at least a downward slide.  In fact, things go much slower than that.

Town Hall Stimigliano    Laurie Fox Pessemier ​Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm 

And a downward slide is often not downward, but sideways and sometimes results in a positive new direction.  Things fail because they weren’t right.  I think of how life would be now, had Blair and I stayed in Seattle propping up our business, Pessemier’s Commercial Interior Design?  Still in Seattle, we’d probably be millionaires.  But would we have become artists?  We certainly wouldn’t have the rich experiences and same wonderful friendships we have now.    Failure clears the stage for a new act.

Hills in the Morning  Laurie Fox Pessemier 10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  

Had we not “failed”, we wouldn’t be sitting in this huge house thinking about our new little apartment in Stimigliano.  The apartment is not perfect, but it is interesting, easy to take care of, and most of all it represents a beginning.    Having arrived is not what it’s cracked up to be.   Having more mountains to scale, at least mentally, is more fun.   

​Hills, Sabina    Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  

Our first day in the new apartment in Stimigliano we met M, a teacher.  He is so enthusiastic about the area, he piled us into his car and took us to Vescovia, where there are remnants of Roman baths, and a church over a crypt where St. Peter once said a mass:  incredible, goose-pimply historical events.  The church was decorated with late 13th/early 14th century frescoes painted by Cavallini.  The adjacent baths peeked through the green grass growing 2000 years later.

There were times we’d not have hopped in a car, and driven off with a stranger.  As a child, I never even imagined I’d see Italy.  How thrilling.

Artnotes: Home is where you make it  Artnotes:  Home is where you make it
​Home is where you make it (Chicken roosting in pot)  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm  

Here’s a short artnotes from a busy week.  A screw went loose on me (literally, in my bionic shoulder) so the week started on shaky ground.  We visited the Grotto Labante with a guest from Chicago, and dined out more than once.  The big news is that the tiny apartment outside of Rome that we offered to buy in June is finally ours.  Now we are deciding whether we can stay part of the time in Rocca Malatina, our home.  

Our Dog, Harika  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm  

We learned a lot this past week, taking down our artshows, first in Modena:  1 sale; then in Zocca: 2 small sales.  Location, location, location is what Lucky, the refugee who studied marketing in Nigeria told us. Lucky happened to be standing around in Modena both when we had to put up the show, and then take it down.  An expert of the street, he pointed out how the Bottega d’Arte was just a little off the beaten track. 

In Zocca we were on the main street, but there were booths set up on the sidewalk in front of our store, rendering us invisible.   Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink:  30,000 people passing by, but less than 10 came into the store. 

Church Door in Zocca (praying for business) 9.5 x 14”  25 x 35 cm  

This all bodes well for the prospect of selling paintings in Rome.  If we can find the right spot, there should be plenty of business.

​Thanksgiving  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm 

Since people learned we bought a new house, we’ve been flooded with offers to stay in Rocca Malatina.   We feel so honored.  It is likely we will either stay in our present house, summer only, or move to a more modest, but very charming place 500 meters from here, with a good spot for the Christmas tree.  We could split our time between Rocca Malatina (where we have many friends) and Stimigliano (where we can paint on our own walls).   Here’s some pictures of our new town, not yet painted:

Stimigliano Borgo                              Outside the front door

View from the balcony​

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Artnotes: Big and Small

 Zocca  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  8 x 20"  20 x 50cm
 Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
 Milan Cathedral  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  20 x 24"  50 x 60cm
 Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
 Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
 Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
 Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
 Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
 Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm

My paintings and my brain are all over the place this week.  We’ve been manning our own gallery in Zocca for the Chestnut Festival, driving back and forth some 5 miles or so on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  The days of the week without the festival have been better for us:  competing with the stuffed Santa Clauses and Audrey Hepburn prints is just baffling.  Is it the public that demands that? Or what?   On Tuesday, the market day, people stop in to visit.

Having people stop in and talk about art and what it inspires has been marvelous.  Sales have been slow.  The thing is one never knows how it will go until you try.  Bigger city venues are in order.

I had a big telephone visit with a French friend.  We talk about how to keep our brains fresh and alert.  He tells me about Italian Nobel-prize winning neurologist, Rita Levi Montalcini.  She lived to be 103, working, learning, thinking every day, which gave her longevity.  We need to keep building those synapses in our brain.  My friend cautioned me to look at alternatives to painting:  “you could be like Monet, who lost his sight, or Renoir who had arthritis.”  I love that someone would put me in that sentence, growing old among the artistic giants.

The days are getting shorter, and we’re sleeping in until 7.  Harika doesn’t want to go out until it gets light.  We manage to eat our lunch in the back yard most days.   Fabbio brings me a pile of grapes he holds in his shirt and tips onto the table.  They are picking apples from the tree.

I take the prickly chestnuts in hand to paint, in keeping with the festival.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Grateful in Italian

 Cooking at the Alpini Lunch   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  16 x 16"    40 x 40cm
 Spotted fish   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
Red Octopus  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
  Shrimp  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
 Green Octopus Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper 16 x 23"  41 x 59cm
 At via Mauro Tesi, 967   Zocca (BO) Italia

Every morning I try to think of three things to be grateful for.  This is to counteract the frustration and impatience and anger that can consume me.  Does it work?  No.  In fact, I think things just build up and then I have a worse fit.  By Friday this week, I could recall every dirty Italian swear word that my friend Sal’s grandmother used.  And I could actually understand the meanings. 

When we got back from vacation, we went to check out our “gallery” space in Zocca.  In July, we were awarded three weeks of a free store space in downtown Zocca in October.   When we arrived in September, with our camera and tape measure, we were surprised to see the place was rented to a real estate company.  We huffed and puffed, wrote to the politician in charge.

V had said to me, when we moved to Rocca Malatina, “you’ll soon see what Italy is really like.  Not good, not bad, but not anything like the Anglo Saxon world.”  I was beginning to get the picture.
Last Monday, we finally talked to the official, who said, “We’ve got a place for you.” On Wednesday we were there, shoes shined.  It wasn’t right.  Maybe Friday or Saturday.  The show started on Saturday afternoon.

On Friday morning we finally got the key and the control to operate the roll-down shutter.  I thought at once, this is something that could easily break.  She insisted we put the shade down whenever we weren’t there.  Halfway through our installation, we needed to leave for another appointment; we rolled down the shutter, and bang:  it would not open again.   So, here we sat awaiting repairs.  Over 50 paintings, our supplies, my notebook and pens, all closed up in a time capsule.   “The electrician will come on Saturday at 11:30,” we were finally told.  Show starts at 2:30.

We were supposed to hang more paintings at another place with our art group on Friday.   NOW, not only could I not hang our show, but we couldn’t participate in the group show because all of our belongings were locked away. 

Which all started the Italian cursing lesson.   I also try counting to 100, but the last thing I feel like doing when I am cursing in Sicilian-Italian is to count.   In fact we just went home to cool our jets.  I polished off the remainder of the Ballantine’s scotch.  We went out for pizza.  I felt better. 

On Saturday at noon, the electrician pried open the rolling shutter; the doors opened to the show at 2:30.  I had several customers who were delighted to talk about painting.  People recognized Blair’s portrait of our neighbor; everyone loved the vermillion fish.  I didn’t sell anything, but it didn’t seem to matter.    I am grateful.  I am in Italy.  Sto grato.