Monday, April 08, 2019

Artnotes: My Country

I wish I had a country because I’d invite all the people who are looking for a safe, happy home to come to me.  I’d let them all work as they’d like.

I would make beauty the ruler by which we measure success, instead of money.  To build a beautiful building, to sweep your stoop, to wear a gay scarf, or to have flowering trees: these are the things that matter.    I’d make lunch every day for people who would like to join me.

It sounds like living “In the Big Rock Candy Mountains”.    I try to create my own oasis; and I can assure you Harika has rubber teeth.   I must stop reading the news.

Since the finish of our artwork, I’ve had post-project depression.  I have really enjoyed putting together the “project” this month, with art from the worlds’ greatest painters*.

Yesterday we had a big dinner at Villa Loris.   It always pulls me out of the dump, trying new recipes and putting flowers on the table.    I hear new ideas – for me, the theatre of the table is equal to, or even better than the meal.   I don’t even have to talk.

We had a delicious red wine from France – only Blair and I drank it, this being Prosecco country – and that did go well with the fish.  But the red wine made me really want to go back to France for a vacation.  In fact, I am slightly obsessed with the idea, and am working towards its realization.
I am also thinking of going to Madrid.  I have never been to the Prado, and Goya has been on my mind.  But that may be a later, cooler weather endeavor.

Mine would be a smallish country, with a lake or two, and some rivers.  Four seasons, even if winter seems a little brutal.  I like trees without leaves, and spring.  There would be an art museum, of course, and a historical society

*Jill Remski, Wendy Goosman, Christine Claes, Tim Fulbright, Cory Ross, Marianne Royale, Laura Jarvis, Lisa McCabe, Outside Authority, Suzanne Dvorak, Jennifer Jolis, Penni Cocking, The Cuozzis, Gary Bocz, Sandra Manning and Tracy, Sarah Gubetta,  Sallie Baldwin, Jeff Sesko, and Blair.


Saturday, March 30, 2019


After Maurice Denis  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14  25 x 35cm 

Local Venue for our Art Show  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 10  35 x 25cm

Mary in a niche  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  25 x 17  41 x 63cm

possible subscriptions....

The results of our “mosaic” painting have been rolling in, and we have more than ¾ of the squares, which will be assembled this week, in hand.   For those too busy to get it in by the 1 April, please let us know, and we, or some wonderful volunteer, will paint another square.  Things are looking fabulous.

We drove down to Rome this week, with a couple of exciting meetings to attend.  The first, an alumni event at Blair’s architectural school, featured Jason Horowitz, head of the Rome desk for the New York Times.  There were about twenty five people there, and the talk was casual, between him and the crowd.  I was blown over by the sophistication of the Notre Dame journalism students, and I didn’t ask any questions for fear of sounding stupid.  All of my questions were answered, in any case.

I was most pleased by the overall feeling that journalism still had a major place in our lives.  We compared the “tweets” and statements made by politicians for their own greater good, versus the value of putting what was said into a context of current and past events.  There was lots of specific information about Italy, and the Vatican, that rounded out a picture of where I live.   There was a big emphasis on how lacking we are (America, and parts worldwide)  in local news reporting.  Where there were once real reporters in the town where I grew up, there are no longer.  Much of that is the shift from an advertising based news”paper” to a digital edition – the New York Times subscription program seems to be keeping that publication alive and its reporters paid.  It remains to be seen how this will be addressed locally.

Speaking of subscriptions, I am now offering a 4-painting-a-year subscription.  For $550.00 a year, you can have four paintings, by Blair or I (2 each, or you can specify) delivered to your door.  There will be a variety of our work, on canvas, on wood and on paper.  Three of the four pieces will be ready to hang upon arrival, and the fourth piece, on paper, ready to pop into an “off-the-shelf” frame.    I think this is a great way to start an art collection for yourself, or for a friend or loved one.  It can brighten a dorm room or first apartment, or make the converted guestroom into a sophisticated place.  It is possible to specify “colorful” or “neutral” (as neutral as we get). 

As if this stellar evening in Rome wasn’t enough, the next day we went to a luncheon in Rome, where Rebecca Spitzmiller, of Retake Roma, spoke.  She is an incredibly dynamic American woman who started a fight against graffiti and garbage, and general mess in the Eternal City.  Her Grassroots organization , now has 85 chapters in Rome alone, and 40 throughout Italy.  Her drive is inspiring, whether you are troubled by graffiti or not.  It showed me, and everyone else in that room, just what can be done with determination and a couple of friends: don’t take no for an answer.  And it, like the journalism talk, it emphasized LOCAL.
We will be showing my Madonnas very locally, at Vescovio (where St Peter said mass once) in May.  At the end of April, we will be in Rome, again on the via Margutta.  Friends and painters will be joining us up North in the meantime to paint the cherry blossoms.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

In the Car

Wildflowers in Spring   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 25"  41 x 63cm  160.00
We have a new car, yet unnamed, which I think of as horribly bourgeois, and maybe I will call it the Villa Borghese (bourgeois house).  Maybe I am the bourgeois one, ingrate with such a lovely car.  I have some decoupage ideas to take the curse off the white bottom half (I hate white).  

We took the Villa Borghese on its first major ride on Friday, only to discover it is impossible to roll up the driver’s side window, once it is down.  Blair took the ticket at the toll booth and then was unable to close the window.  Some 30 kilometers later there was a turn-off where a man selling socks in the parking lot helped him to close the pneumonia hole.  From then on, we had to open the door at toll booths (only 3), at which time the intensely loud beeper would ring, and Harika would bark, and the peace of our trip to the beach dispelled.

Spring Blossoms  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  20 x 16"  50 x 40cm  

And what a trip it was!  It could have been spread to a week (but who knows when the window will be fixed? that's not villa Borghese).  We drove to Cervia, a town on the Adriatic.  It was a little overly-fixed-up to accommodate vacationing Italian families, but we were able to find an opening onto the beach where Harika and I ran about briefly.  The sand was that lux slippery fine type.  We retreated to the canal by the sea, lined with boats and quite interesting stone buildings.  We ate homemade pasta with little Adriatic clams, and fried mixed seafood.  It was yummy and fun.

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

My destination was actually in Cesena:  the Abbey of Santa Maria del Monte.  It is a monastery (founded in 1001) with a church that houses an incredible collection of ex-voto paintings.  What is ex-voto?  It is an offering to a holy figure who intervened on behalf of the voto maker.  It is usually a painting (although in France once sees ex-voto silver hearts with the flame on top), depicting the event.   There were hundreds of ex-voto on display here, depicting drownings, falls down the stairs, a child with scissors, fires – a riot of disasters:  always with the Madonna del Monte looming (fortunately) overhead.    The amazing thing was there were many from the 1600s.   You could see horse accidents evolve into car accidents (there were some from the twenty first century); the wars; the clothing styles change from the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries.   And all were completely heartfelt.  These were not paintings commissioned by rich patrons, but rather humble depictions made by the hand of the truly grateful.  It is what I strive for in my work:  passion.

Soccer, er Footballl in Rocca Malatina  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/panel  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  

We met a toothless monk as we strolled the grounds.  I gave him my Madonna book and he gave me a book about the Abbey.   We had to leave to reach our next destination.

At 5PM we would hear Jhumpa Lahiri (one of Blair’s favorite authors) speak in Forli, about her new book.  It was ok, the interviewer and his lackluster questions leaving something to be desired.  JL was an interesting person, Indian by nationality, American by citizenship, writing in Italian, where she “found herself”.  Her new book is “Dove Mi Trovo” (where I find myself).   We were introduced to her writing by “In Other Words”, where she writes, in Italian and English, about learning Italian.

We rolled back home at 8 PM.  We’re not going anyplace today.

the villa Borghese

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

Monday, March 18, 2019

Happy Spring!

"it takes generosity to discover the whole through others.   If you realize you are only a violin,  you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert."    -jacques yves Cousteau

I always think it is funny that people believe they were Vincent Van Gogh in a former life, or St. Francis of Assisi.  In fact I was probably just the lamplighter or street sweeper, a nun or a shopkeeper.  We couldn’t all be that person we so admire.  And so it goes, that it takes every little person to make up the living body of nature.

I was out painting at 7:30 Sunday morning:  mimosa against a grey sky.   I rarely am around to see mimosa in bloom. We have no mimosa in the Appenines, but in Stimigliano, just above the valley of the Tiber it is in riotous flower.   I couldn’t identify mimosa in the off-season.

It is spring both in Stimigliano and Rocca Malatina.  Up north, the cherries are already flowering, nearly a month ahead of time.  In Stimigliano, little bursts of white blooms juxtaposition the just-planted wheat fields.  In both places, the brilliant coral-colored quince blossoms are exceptional.  Birds are singing before 6 AM.

This time of year pushes plein-air painting on me once again.  Every year I think, oh, it’s a little too cold, or I can’t stand outside that long, but I am compelled to record what is happening around me.  And somehow I find the energy, the strength.  Renewal.

This Sunday we celebrated my nephew’s 21st birthday – he’s studying philosophy (and food) in Perugia.  On Sunday (my usual artnotes day) we went to Lake Trasimeno and ate fresh water fish at the Trattoria del Pescatore:  pike, bass and carp.  It was a rare treat, both to celebrate youth and to enjoy the lake with all of our five senses.   

As I gather gather together the square pictures twenty-six artists are painting for our mystery art composition, I feel like a conductor of an orchestra.   I like being part of the picture team (at least one square will me mine, another Blair’s).  I feel the time has come for all of us to pull together and welcome spring on planet earth this year.  Spring is the new year, the season of rebirth.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Sifting Through

Tiber   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 24"  40 x 60cm  375.00

I am sure the twenty-one people who signed up to paint a 12 x 12” square for the putting it all together project are wondering where their picture is.  Well, I am still trying to figure out how to cut up the image on the computer.  When I did this, all I had to do was the math and take out a pair of scissors to cut up the large picture.  I am having a heck of a time figuring out how to do it digitally.

It’s been a busy week, with a trip to Carnevale in Venice, and assorted and sundry voyages with my sister and family around the area.   Venice was stellar, and not as crowded as my last visit in October.  My favorite foray with my family was to the Labirinto in Parma.  The Labyrinth was created by the famous graphic artist and printer Franco Maria Ricci. 

Carnations on Black  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 12"  40 x 30cm  200.00

It was a brilliant visit for me.  For one thing, it made me think about black.  These FMR publications always had a black background – maybe you remember them?  Jackie Kennedy Onassis called it the “most beautiful magazine in the world”.  The black really set things off…it was alluded to in the restaurant, as well, where black lacquer cabinets filled niches along the wall.  The museum, which held some breathtaking pieces of art, was quite dark, with contemporary lighting adding drama to the pieces.

The entire operation was contemporary – the labyrinth itself has only been open 5 years.  Regardless, the bamboo is tall as a house and when you are in the maze, it is very difficult to make one’s way.  We raised our eyebrows when the ticket seller asked for our phone number and she gave us hers.   We had a couple left-brainers with us, which helped with navigation.  I could have gotten lost and not cared, but we had to go to see a car at 4 o’clock.

We are buying a new car, which costs far more than we should be spending, but there’s no way around it.  It is a chic, black and white number:  a 2011 Citroen Picasso, with just over 40,000 miles on it.  The bureaucracy surrounding this purchase has, for the first time, made me question my continued habitation in Italy.  It is possible we will not be able to buy the car at all, despite the fact we already own one.  Dragsville.

Rome Rooftops  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30 cm  200.00

So, I am back to the drawing board on my 1-inch squares for painting, which are or aren’t one inch because the computer knows no limits.  It’s a good little problem, as I sift through the experiences of the week.

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Artnotes: Masquerade

The Cream Puff is in trouble:  our wonderful red Citroen station wagon is being put out to pasture. She is having retention problems, and while we can still drive it we are advised by our mechanic not to take prolonged trips on the highway (i.e. Rome).

So we are undertaking the purchase of a new vehicle.  One must find the car (setting filters:  5 seats, no more than 100,000 kilometers, for example) on a site called Autoscout24, and then arrange a meeting.  It’s a little like dating, I think.  You set a time, cruise by to get a look; act uninterested.   Maybe they have the car or not – here’s another choice.  Besides the intrigue of the rendezvous, it’s a complicated thing.  Italy is in the process of putting into effect environmental laws requiring cars to be of a certain pollution level (Euro 5) to be able to drive in the city.  Luckily a friend advises us. 
Because we have our car mainly to get to the city, it is imperative we buy a newer, cleaner, more expensive model.   We are hoping for a big art sale, or some form of windfall: maybe crowdfunding, in exchange for a painting lesson in Italy someday.  I’ll be 94 and still holding the brushes (cross fingers).    

We had our tapparelle fixed on Saturday, in anticipation of my sister’s visit.  Tapparelle are tambour-like exterior rolling blinds.  There are cords on the inside of the room for rolling them up and down, for privacy.  These same cords have been there since 1910, so they’ve experienced some wear.  One shade had slipped its holder; the other was just broken after 110 years of use.  A nice young man fixed them, and showed us how to grease the runners, so there would be less resistance when we lowered them for the next 20 years. 

We’ve been making masks for Carnevale this week.  I painted and decoupage-d; Blair stuck to paint.  We have accompanying hats, and I have a sparkly skirt to wear.   My sister and her husband and my grown up nephews are all joining us.  It’s probably crazy to fight the crowds, but how often in a life do you get to go to Venice and see grownups play dress-up?  Not to mention the potential food.  Already we’ve been eating little fritters and ravioli stuffed with sweet ricotta and powdered with cinnamon. And boats.

Harika got a haircut and is a little cold.  I put a sweater on her to keep her warm (she was shivering), and now she refuses to let me remove it.  I guess it’s her disguise.

PS.  If you didn’t get a chance to read Artnotes:  Putting It All Together,  I just want to let you know I am looking for painters to make a 12 x 12” painting (or collage, or drawing (something 2-D) from a 1” square image which I would send you.  Then, you take a photo and send it back to me, and we’ll put it all together and make a multi-handed mosaic picture on the internet.  I have 5 people ready to go, but would like to make it a dozen hands.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Putting it All Together

Putting it All Together


“Evolving, our brains are evolving”.  That’s why we’re here: to see how far this experiment called life can go. Consciousness is the vehicle that allows us to evolve (or devolve, heaven forbid).   This I read in a blog by Olivier Bessaignet.  He stated it more eloquently, and he likewise references Thomas Campbell in this line of thought.

Three friends from Paris died this week:  Patricia, who gave completely wild, crazy dinner parties with guest speakers (I met some very good friends there); Sharon, who lived in Pigalle, and embraced the spontaneity of that naughty neighborhood; and Atlas, a Jack Russell terrier who was a big part of our Luxembourg Garden life.   Did their brains evolve?  I know Atlas’s did – his auntie used to bring him dog development toys.  He managed to get most everything he wanted from life:  a warm bed, food (never enough) and most importantly LOVE.  I think the other two friends evolved as well, but I think both of them might have wanted more love.   But they certainly gave love:  Patricia’s get-togethers connected people who would have never otherwise met.  And it was at one of Sharon’s dinners that I met Richard, who is such a good friend. 

It makes me feel even better about our dinner for 10 this afternoon.  I am cooking up a storm, starting with scallop and hot sausage risotto, followed by pheasants, and for dessert Blair is making a gluten-free clementine cake.   Cooking is an activity like meditation for me.  I focus on my work and I travel to the end of the universe in thought.  Painting works pretty much the same, but somehow I got this bend on selling paintings and it totally interferes with the activity. 

It seems every activity, every event, has to be made into a money-maker these days. Of course, we need money to live, but how much must we focus on it?   A good friend just sent me a “sleep” link.  I didn’t sleep last night, and I don’t sleep probably once a week.  Well, this program hypnotizes the listener (I am not making this up) to go to sleep and wake up early the next day ready to MAKE MONEY!   What ever happened to “now I lay me down to sleep?”  I actually pray at night that the universe sends me answers to my questions while I sleep.  Sometimes I wake up with BRILLIANT ideas, which often show their true colors by lunchtime.

I don’t have any real answers.  I am trying to put it all together, like the paintings we have been doing over the last three weeks.   Thirty-six images (12x12”; 30x30cm) all fit together to create the landscape from our Stimigliano bedroom balcony.    We took a photo, cut it up into squares, and painted from each little image.

Sound like fun?  Maybe we should do it together.  If you would like to paint a square of a mystery image, I’ll send it to you via email and we can put them all together in a mosaic.  Any photographable 2D medium would be accepted.  Come on, all you painting workshop alumni!