Monday, March 20, 2017

The Forest Floor

While winding our way on spaghetti roads from Bologna to Rocca Malatina, we passed a carpet of white, purple and blue.   We pulled out our easels, and painted the magical pattern.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Artnotes: March on

House at Pieve di Trebbio  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   9.5 x 12    24 x 30cm 

 ​Blossom Blue Base   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  19.5 x 8"  50 x 20cm 

 Spring Trees  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 19.5"  20 x 50 cm

​White  Blossom   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  19.5 x 8"  50 x 20cm 

The Ides of March?  I am through worrying about bad times.  I am plunging ahead, swimming through to spring and happiness and everything wonderful.    Of course, I am aware of another giant heating bill; but spring has sprung.  I’ve turned the temperature down to 65.  Our neighbors tell us we must go fight the gas company – the bills can’t be correct.  We will see the gas brigade on Tuesday.  Anything we gain will make things better.  But I am not going to let a lousy gas bill ruin my life.  I’ll eat more spaghetti instead of meat.

Spring is clearly here in Rocca Malatina.  On Friday most of the fruit trees burst into flower:  almonds, cherries, apples.  It was so warm outside, we had to run for cover after eating our lunch in the sun:  too hot.   Our own persimmon is coming into bud, although the pomegranates are still without sign of life.  The roses have serious leaves, and the new trees out front have red and green sprouts.

Our paintings reflect the deep blue sky, clear as a bell.

I have been writing on my Slow Travel book:  I have nearly 100 book pages, but they are extremely scattered.  I have a terrible time going back to work on things like that.  I think it should have magically snapped into place – but it’s all over the board.   All those 90-day-publishing guru types never advised me that I would have to work THIS hard.  Nuts.

All I want to do is go on another trip.

We’ve packed all our remaining Sicily paintings off to our US company, Soicher Marin.  And the fabulous news is that SUMMERBALL – our baseball show (86 images and the book) are going to be used in an exhibit to launch a new sports stadium in High Point, North Carolina.  It gives me reason to paint again.

We went to the flea market today and bought a new oriental carpet.  We got a glass top for the faux-ivory carved Chinese table we bought in Sicily.  The place looks as spiffy as the yard.   March on.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Artnotes: Wanted

Skater sketches   Laurie Fox Pessemier  antique paper/acrylic  9.5 x 13.5"

Chalet in the snow   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 10 x 19.5   25 x 50cm

Mountains with Cablecar lines   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas    12 x 18  30 x 45cm

Mountains   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10 x 19.5" 25 x 50cm

I never thought I would really visit Switzerland, but I am so pleased that we have come.  We are staying with a friend, which makes it possible.   Switzerland reminds me of my life growing up in Connecticut (I loved snow until taught not to), at least the wintertime.  We’ve been spending time indoors playing games.   The views are incredible – snow falling, jagged mountain peaks.  And inside, we pick cards and move game pieces.

“If you didn’t just WANT another blue card, you might get something you could use,” one of the players tells me.  I shun him.  I tell him about luck, being with you or against you, and when you are not having luck, well, you are just not.  I come from a family of gamblers.  We played cards constantly when I was a child, and the cards were either with you or not.

He goes on to tell me I should be thankful for the cards I have.  Maybe they are the cards I need.  Eye roll.

But this morning, I am actually thinking about it.  I mean, why not?  What if I didn’t WANT so badly, but accepted.  Would I stop buying raffle tickets?  Or could I buy them, and just think that I made the seller happy, or the cause it benefits a little richer?  I kind of do WANT the car.

I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but you see, travel, being in a new place, being exposed, makes me more likely to consider this idea.

The game we play is called “Ticket to Ride”.  One builds train routes across the USA by picking cards indicating possible destinations, and colors corresponding with track.  You can play constructively, focused on your own path, or play offensively, blocking the paths of others.   It never seems that profound when you are playing, but I get pretty upset when people throw literal roadblocks in my way.   There is so much to learn in life, still, at my age of 62. 

Meanwhile, we’re planning our strategy to go up the mountain to eat lunch.

During my month in Sicily, I found inspiration and learned some history.  But a trip where I can be traveling and be with others, opens me up and provides input.  Not everything learned is right; some people are full of baloney.  But the right person, the smart person, the person who is there for you when you need it, makes a big difference.  It’s accepting, not wanting.

It's spring in RoccaMalatina:

Hyacinthes   Laurie Fox Pessemier     Acrylic/canvas  10 x 19.5" 25 x 50cm

Giacinti   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12" 30 x 30cm

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Artnotes: Too good looking

Spring View Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  14 x 20"  35 x 50cm

 Pussy Willows  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  20 x 12"  50 x 30cm

Willows in Spring  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/ canvas  12 x 20"  30 x 50cm

“That looks like a good nursery”, Blair commented on our drive home from Bologna.  We stopped.   I have been coveting Royal Empress trees (Paulownia Tomentoso), but getting ones of the right size has been impossible.  They are either two small, 18 inches tall; or too big, 12 feet tall with a root ball requiring a backhoe to plant.   Blair fell for four crabapples, pink and white, about 9 feet tall, with manageable roots.  They would deliver. 

We’ve been working on our yard here in Rocca Malatina.  Everything we have bought for the yard is flowering, or at least colorful:  two persimmon trees, two pomegranates, two butterfly bushes, 9 climbing roses and now, the flowering crabapples.  I’ll be 80 before they all reach maturity, but I am assured there will be some result the first year.

The trees at the lovely Villa Luisa across the street, have been cut back to look like clubs – no branches at all. It is so ugly, I can’t bear to look over there, but am forced to if I try to leave our house.  People say things, like, “it had to be done”, “it’s so much brighter”, “it will grow back”.  I say “HA!”

 I am reminded of bad haircuts at Norma’s Beauty Salon as a child:  it will grow back, they’d say.  I tell myself it was because my mother wanted to make me look ugly; maybe they were afraid I would fall victim to the evil eye if I looked too good, or I’d be kidnapped.  Who would kidnap ME?  I think they were jealous I was so good looking, and it’s the same for Villa Luisa – it was a nicer house than most, and it had to be wrecked.  I knew someone who won a new car and his friend shot it up with a shotgun because he was jealous.  You get the picture.

We have actually hired a gardener to do our work.  Vicenzo is a gentle giant of a man, who lovingly trims our existing roses.  He’s made a (hopefully) chicken-proof fence for the climbing roses.  Even Ludovico  our caretaker, seems impressed.  He had a talk with me about the dead geraniums in the basement.  I am planning to get a croquet set for the yard, and we just bought bocce balls.   Badminton is ready to fly.

I am thinking about Sunday lunches, with neighbors and refugees (not at the same time).  Blair and I and Harika ate outdoors today.   And then a game of quoits.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Artnotes: Ambassador

 Green Onions   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 20"    20 x 50cm     
 Oranges  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 20"    20 x 50cm     
 Spring View  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 20"    20 x 50cm     
 Across the Valley  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 20"  30 x 50cm
Lacy Primrose   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12   30 x 30cm

Artnotes: Ambassador

I have been writing a book about “Slow Travel”.   Much of my time is wrapped up in this, so I will share some excerpts on Artnotes in the coming weeks.  My goal is to have the book launched in the next 75 days, so I’ll keep you posted.  It has gotten me to think just how important travel is.

When you travel you have a mission, chosen or not.  You represent who you are and the elements of yourself to the world.  I represent women, sixty-year olds, artists, cooks, writers, wives, dog owners and Americans.  And each of those categories gives you the opportunity to make an impression of what Americans, or cooks, or dog-owners, are like, apart from the opinion they form from TV.  You have a lot of power to change people’s ideas about who you are and who your group is.  I scoop.

This is particularly important to me right now, because I don’t feel the current regime in the USA represents my views.   I feel ashamed of what is being perpetrated in the USA – my art, my writing, my livelihood are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution;  I have the right to travel wherever I want with my American passport.   When I travel, or as I live my life in Italy, I project the most positive aspects of the America to the people I meet.   It’s my job.

One particularly late night, long ago, at the Petit Lux, a restaurant where we worked in Paris, we decided to take a taxi home.  It wasn’t a long way, but we hopped a cab near the Hotel Lutetia and directed the driver to our house on rue de Lille.  “Are you English?” he asked, hearing our accented French.  “No,” we replied, “American”.  “Ah, I have a hard time with Americans.”

I went on to explain that there are all types of Americans, and we can be pretty extreme in our behavior.  Really generous, really mean; very loud, or soft-spoken; haughty or humble.  We chatted for ten minutes about these things.  As we departed, he said, “you guys are alright, even if you are American”.   I said I thought of ourselves as ambassadors;  “Oh, wow,” he exclaimed, “you’re the ambassadors?”

We are ambassadors.   Now we are the American ambassadors to Rocca Malatina, Italy, population 575.  Stop by for coffee.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Artnotes: Pippistrello

The days are much longer here in Rocca Malatina than they were before we left. 

The house was positively frigid upon our return – the furnace had some sort of problem and shut off.  Despite being here for three days, the interior temperature has still not reached 68 (20C).  I move around with a little electric heater and my fur coat.

It’s good to be back.  Almost all the neighbors are happy to see us, and we’re “in” at the cafĂ©.  We’re planning our summer garden, to accommodate badminton and croquet:  a few shade trees, and flowers a la Monet.  Ah, Spring…

I bought the most beautiful lettuces today:  red, cream colored, green, red stripe.  The greengrocer, originally from Naples, has started selling me on the paint-ability of his product.  “This would be beautiful in a “natura morta””.  Mini-artichokes, interesting peppers – the fruits of the south are coming into ripe.

Which brings me to the harbinger of said season:  a Pippistrello.  You may not think of the lowly BAT as a sign of spring, but he’s out of hibernation!  Early this morning there was a bang in the library.  Harika was afoot, barking like a banshee.  We got up, I followed her into the red bedroom, and whoosh.  A bat.

Isn’t pippistrello just the most wonderful word?  Blair opened a window and he escaped.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Artnotes: Leaving Monday

View from Rinascenti   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   12 x 12   30 x 30cm  
View from above San Domenico  Laurie Fox Pessemier  11.5 x 8"  30 x 20 cm 

Salt at Nubia   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  11.5 x 19.5"  30 x 50cm

Salt Pyramids     Acrylic/canvas  11.5 x 19.5"  30 x 50cm

Mending the nets at Aspra   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  23.5 x 31.5   60 x 80cm

At Piazza Magione   Acrylic/canvas  11.5 x 19.5"  30 x 50cm

 House at Piazza Magione   Acrylic/canvas  11.5 x 19.5"  30 x 50cm

Palm along the waterfront   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm

I am feeling nostalgic for Palermo even before I leave.  Not this apartment, certainly, not even the neighborhood, but rather for the atmosphere of Sicily.

We painted today in the Piazza Magione.  It is a large area that includes more than just the “piazza” – it is an extended grassy park, once a World War II “carpet bombing” site (General Patton liberated Palermo from the Germans and from Mussolini, in its most recent war).  The basilica of the Magione was restored, and the church of St Francis; but the rest of the half-standing buildings did not benefit from the Marshal Plan Funds, which were confiscated by the Mafia for “development” (of their own homes).  Many Italians just abandoned the area, even owners of once fine palazzos.   The people who stayed chined bits and pieces together, and now the neighborhood has a very specific charm.  The result is not just the half standing bombed out church, but a house that has been built onto the back of the ruin. 

At 9:30 this Saturday morning men were out drinking coffee at stands, others walking their dogs.   Two stray dogs came my way – I thought it odd how close they walked together, but one was blind.  He seemed to stare at my picture with his white eyes, to the point when one of my many onlookers commented on his interest. 

Blair and I have started to attract interest in our work:  yesterday one of the contactors on a building near where we park our car asked Blair if he would be interested in restoring an ancient frieze in the building.  “We’re leaving Monday” Blair told him.