Saturday, August 11, 2018

Little Things

Roses and Fig Leaves  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 14"   40 x 35cm   

Panaro:  Under the Bridge  Blair PESSEMIER  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 20"   25 x 50cm  

Rocks (bracelet and choker)  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm  

Flowers in Green Glass  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  18 x 15"   45 x 38cm  

I started a little journal a couple of months ago, and really enjoy just jotting down in pen or pencil a few thoughts about the day.  It makes me think of Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book from the 11th century (unlike the tawdry 1996 movie); or Samuel Pepys Diary from the 1600s:  only a gazillion times more humble.  Both of those rate among my favorite books, ever.    Holding the pen in my hand brings out a whole other side of me – and being able to pick the journal up, toss it aside, no thought of electricity or using a keyboard, or “connecting”.   It seems revolutionary, like touching dough. 

I write about the fig leaves and florescent pink/yellow roses I’ve arranged in the recently found demijohn.  Or the look of the butterfly on the cocoa-mat at the front door.  Things that are so beautiful, it is difficult to cross the line from visual into written description.  There are equally many things I see that just don’t make it into words.

We went to the Panaro river to swim twice this week.  We’ve found a new place, easier to walk in.  There is an eddy that the neighbors warn about:  a vortex of water spinning and pulling one in and down.  Fortunately the water is shallow and there are lots of people around.  The people vary from old to young – mostly older or middle-aged, some with dogs, often with chaise lounges set up in the water, two or three inches below (and yes, there was a dog on one).

Two men are throwing rocks into a hole in a collection of wood at the base of the bridge.  The bridge at this new location is a key feature:  one can go under the bridge to find shade.  It is a pretty big, two lane bridge.  The light filters in from a side and seems like there is illumination from beneath.  The two men are practicing their precision throws.  We go home (20 mins away), get Harika, and return and they are still there, redder and browner.

On the way down the hill to the river we see a bicycle rider, off his machine, motioning us to stay to one side.  We stop and I see he is trying to help a giant beetle cross the road.

Life is made up of so many of these little events.  Why is it so hard to slow down and enjoy them?

Saturday, August 04, 2018


 My Favorite Green Hat
 New Hat with Old Scarf
 Blair's Hat
 Summer Hat   All Hats by Laurie Fox Pessemier  17 x 24"  41 x 63cm

Sunshine on the wall  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas board  10 x 14" 25 x 35cm

Artnotes 1 vanished from my screen, so here I sit, scanning my brain for a new idea.  In fact, the last version wasn’t really so good – I talked about coming off vacation with a wellspring of ideas:   OK, so let’s see them.

I think it is worthwhile to mention that I want a job!  As in, some regular rewarding (aka paid, financially or spiritually, preferably both) activity.  I want what I do to be beneficial to mankind, whether it is expanding horizons (the library? language? lessons?) or expanding stomachs with new recipes.  My love for cooking was reignited, like my stove, on 27 July.    I can wear many hats.

I’ve been making some terrific recipes using the fruits of the very bountiful Italian harvest.  This week I made a pasta with cherries, nuts and gorgonzola; quail with kiwi chutney and blueberries; endive glazed with nut liquor and hazelnuts.  Vittorio has kept us supplied with fresh tomatoes and radicchio.  We’ve eaten tons of salad, as the temperatures, extremely humid, skirt the 90s.

This week, in quest of cooler climes, we drove to Sestola, higher in the Apennines.   It was chockablock with people for the weekly market. We fell upon teeny-tiny wild blueberries from Monte Cimone (6 euros/kilo); three flats of cherries for 2.50; and tomatoes and peppers.  We canned, froze and made jam from the fruit.  It is remarkable to me how good these blueberries taste, as well as the other foods, IN SEASON. 

And I wonder what season I am in?  I am trying to learn Adobe’s Creative Suite, on the week long free trial, so I can get my Baseball book into a hard cover format that the Baseball Hall of Fame will put on their shelves.  My expiration date on being able to quickly learning a new computer program might have expired.  I move this task into one that I don’t want to do.  It’s harder to do what I don’t want to do these days.  Meanwhile, I press on learning Italian.  I like that.

Today I am on track of a new curry recipe I found, using direct, rather than blended, spices.  I have an idea for a fresh pasta dish, if that fails.  We take our meals outdoors, for the most part, under the tent out front, or the shade in back.   The drawback is mosquitoes, who seem particularly vicious this year.
We moved the piano aside and both ends of the living room are open to the air.  The wind blows through, albeit warm and I hold onto my hat.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Artnotes: Home

Yellow Butterfly   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper    17 x 24"   41 x 63cm    

Cabbage Butterfly   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper    17 x 24"   41 x 63cm   

 Lizards, too     Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper    17 x 24"   41 x 63cm   

Roses Galore   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 16"  30 x 40cm   

Gee but it’s great to be back home.  Rocca Malatina: friends, the big house, the yard, roses and hundreds of butterflies.   One of the first things I noticed upon our return were the butterflies.  Not fancy Vladimir Nabakov varieties but, the run-o-mill cabbage butterflies (white with black dots), or the red admirable, tiny blues (that’s a Nabakov favorite) or the many yellows…   There are tons of them. 
The butterflies love this hot weather.  For the first time, this summer, it is very humid in the mountains:  temperatures in the 80s, but “real feel” highs into the 90s.  We shun the outdoors, and Harika only lies in the deepest shade.  I hesitate to eat lunch outdoors on account of it, and the mosquitoes are ferocious.   I am thinking of a pool, the wading variety.  There is almost no “wild swimming” here; in fact is is dubbed “very dangerous” by Italians.  Only if you can’t swim.

As if to welcome us, one of the chickens made a nest and hatched a half dozen chicks on our side of the yard.  Harika sniffed it out.  “I think it’s dead,” Blair commented on the nonmoving bird.  I pointed out is open, sparkly eye and that it was likely on a nest.  Sure enough.   Normally, the chickens repulse me, but this one, with the now little chicks, is quite nice.
I laid on my living room floor and did yoga for the first time in more than a month.  Hemlock Lodge doesn’t lend itself to lying out on the floor, knowing there are wild animals lurking just inches below the living room carpet.  We left the lodge in a deluge of rain, falling from the roofs over the porch, dining room, and bathroom.  The driving rain found its way into every south-facing window.  It felt like a hurricane, but now we are saving that designation for more fierce storms, but then again it wasn’t even August.

Harika’s boarding was delayed at JFK because they didn’t want her out in the rain.  We stayed with her until the last minute, rushing ourselves through security in order to board.  Blair was carrying a large silver-plated pitcher that had to be minutely examined.  We breathed a sigh of relief as we all (I made sure Harika got on) took off for Milan.
Off the plane, we drove our one-way rental car HOME. 
Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

now found on Instagram:  lauriepessemier

Monday, July 09, 2018

Better than Art

Dishes  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  12 x 16" 

Stop at the Beach    Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas 14 x 18" 
Flowers in a Periwinkle Pitcher  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/panel  14 x 18     sold
Boys with Inner Tubes  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12   sold

Cottages    Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  11 x 14" 

1-2-3 Dive  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/newspaper  22"square

Black eyed Susans in the News   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/newspaper  22"square  

Girl in Lake    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/newspaper  22"square 

The Heron  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/newspaper  22"square 

Cooling off   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/newspaper  22"square

Tiger Swallowtail  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/panel  12 z 12" 

We are readying ourselves for our show in Brimfield.  Some of the great old  paintings and bargains punctuate this posting of Artnotes.   I am under great pressure to sell as my life in Winsted, Connecticut changes.
On the Fourth of July, Blair and I went to Ralph Nader’s Museum of Tort to hear a reenactment of Frederick Douglas’s speech:  what the 4th of July means to a slave.  It was an abbreviated rendition of the speech, because the original, given in the first half of the 1800s was nearly two hours long.  It was a remarkable recitation, as timely today as it was then.
It’s an unbelievably hot summer here.  I had sunburn on one shoulder, which I cured with a sliced potato, per the suggestion of a Polish woman in Florida.  I swim two or three times a day. Harika has taken to jumping into the lake, for the first time in her eleven summers here.  The fans are working overtime, although it sometimes seems like being in a convection oven.

We buried my father, and my aunt  died the day I got here, so we have spent significant time at the cemetery.  My father was buried in the catholic cemetery, my aunt in the protestant. My father has the slightly better view, were he to be looking out.  Both preachers spoke of the day everyone will be released from the grave up to heaven, which always puts me in the mind of the skeletons in the Jason and the Argonauts movie.  I had no sense of my father or Beverly being in those coffins:  their respective 20 watts of power have moved on.  My aunt’s funeral was most sad, with those stoic Connecticut Yankees reduced to tears of sorrow, heat and resignation.  One just didn’t expect it.  My Dad and Bev were tough as nails.

The grand black man who gave the speech at the museum, Professor Best, was larger than the podium.  There were to be further discussions in the afternoon about whether it is better to “desecrate the Flag, or desecrate the Constitution” – this seemed to speak to the time in which we live.  Blair and I didn’t go.   Professor Best advocated liberty for all:  Black, Women, LGBT; if we are all human, we deserve to have equal rights.  I couldn’t agree more. The crowd was as eloquent as the speaker.

We visited Herman Melville’s house in Pittsfield, Massachusetts yesterday.  He didn’t make a living at writing in his lifetime.  He sold less than 300 copies of Moby Dick, which he wrote at this house.  We went out to lunch and instead of going to the Berkshire Museum, found ourselves candlestick bowling at a second floor establishment downtown. 

When I was a teenager here in Winsted, if one were to stop walking and just linger on the Main Street, one could be charged with “loitering”.  When I left here in 1975ish, it seemed like the stupidest place on the planet.  I realize now that my point of view was biased by my youth, my lack of experience, and the prejudice imparted toward  "hippies” by the authorities.  I now see myself as a privileged white woman, with the wisdom that comes with age.  And it tells me bowling with my sister is sometimes better than art.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Artnotes: An Oddball Idea

 Lavender in a Green Vase  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  24 x  17"   63 x 41cm

 Camo Moth    Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm

​ ​Polka Dot Wasp Moth     Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm

 Living it up   Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  24 x  17"   63 x 41cm
​ Hi-heeled Sandals     Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm

 ​ "Made in Italy"     Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm
  Black Dress   Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm

​ Purple Heels    Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm

This is my last post from Rocca Malatina for awhile.  We're headed to the USA next week.  I made the reservation two months before my Dad passed away, and we constructed our summer around that.  It will be weird he isn't there, but we'll find new fun.  We are participating in the big sale at Brimfield, Massachusetts, the 12-14 July.  I am going to sell those baseball pictures if it's the last thing I do.  Sal is coming for the burial, which was held off until our arrival.

Meanwhile, we've been living it up at Villa Loris.  There are bunches of roses in vases throughout the house from our particularly bountiful bushes.   The couple on the hill cooked up a batch of Indian food, and brought it down for the summer solstice.  I cooked rice and salad, and we sat on the porch until the fireflies came out.  Another neighbor and his dog joined us. We joked about a friend who passed away this year who was reputed to have danced in the nude on the night of 21 June.  It was hard to believe, but maybe he was there, this year, in the darkness.

It seemed like the end of the summer the next night, when we were socked in with fog.  Four of us ate dinner by candlelight in the dining room. We had fois gras and duck with cherries.   Our month-long guest, who seems to get along with everyone, made dessert.  

This week, Harika visited the hairdresser, the vet and the government agency that approves dogs for travel.  She was stoic about all these experiences, contrary to her usual behavior.  I stood on the dog scale, and was shocked to see how many kilos I had added.  She only gained 100 grams. We both attribute it to water retention.   Her ticket on the plane cost more than ours this time and she does't get miles, or a drink.

We found two pairs of spike-heeled shoes by the dumpster yesterday that have provided much inspiration for my paintings.  "Made in Italy", they are certainly party shoes for a woman with a very delicate foot.  Maybe she cast them off after dancing in the nude the night before?

I've been writing to my Dad, wherever he may be.  I call it the Mosquito Journal.  One day, I'll print it all up and maybe someone, himself reincarnated perhaps, will pick it up and say, "hey, it's a message from someone I once knew."  His future friends, family, and neighbors will deem it a passing craziness.  But I will be complete.  And maybe someone else will find an oddball idea that comforts.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Especially in Summer

View from Cetona  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/panel  16 x 20"  40 x 50 cm  Sold

​Houses at Cetona   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  16 x 20"  40 x 50cm  

​The View in Rain  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/panel  16 x 20"  40 x 50cm 

​Wildflowers   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/panel  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm 

Chicken and Hollyhocks   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  15 x 18"  38 x 46cm  

We painted outdoors this week, with two wonderful painters in Cetona, Tuscany.  They were repeat students, who we’ve known for ever so long.   One we met shortly after her birth 17 years ago; the other is her sister of 14 years (we celebrated her birthday on Tuesday!).   We used to paint in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris together.
We stayed in a rental apartment in Cetona, with incredible views on all sides.  The air was perfumed with jasmine and little leaf linden.   I sold a painting I made there.  I also cooked a birthday dinner with 2 cakes (bought from delicious Italian bakeries, tiramisu and apricot sacher torte).  We had a wonderful time. 
Some of the most ancient human settlements in Italy were at the base of Mt. Cetona (then Citona), dating to the Paleolithic period.  Cetona itself was founded around 900.   It is a town built on a hill, and one climbs up or down wherever you are headed.   There was some significant urban dentistry performed here not so long ago, pointing building stones, smoothing out streets.  Vestiges of old hand-hammered iron handrails remained and the layout was still medieval.   The town is very very clean -- there was no gum, no cigarette butts; not even bird poop on the streets.  When I accidentally dropped a bottle of prosecco on the pavement on the way to the car, it was as if a bomb went off.   No windows opened.

There were sun and clouds, and the last day of our painting we stood on a hillside and painted.  The rains came, we all piled into the car; the rain stopped and we got out again.  Sheep grazed on the hillside, guarded by geese.   
We drove to Stimigliano afterward to put that apartment to sleep until September.  Everyone is outside there, trying to get cool. I am struck by how much they are like the birds, roosting and moving a few feet to visit with others.   The cafes enjoy serving drinks and ice tea to all.
We are at Rocca Malatina now, where our friend, I, is adding to our floral heritage.  She’s struck a positive note with Ludovico, our regular gardener, who doesn’t believe in weeding or fertilizer.  They are always picking mushrooms, and I pray nobody is poisoned.  I stick to store-bought.
We went to Miani, our local but very equipped nursery.  We got dirt and bark and plant food, to feed new yellow flowers (st john’s wort), hostas and sun-patiens.  I got my very own tarragon, known here as dragoncello (isn’t that a great name?), which I added to salmon I also bought in town.   While at the plant store, a man was throwing discontinued items from a neighboring store into the dumpster.  We stopped him and took a very large turkey platter, 13 champagne glasses and two coffee cups.   Blair was tempted by an espresso machine, but we held back.   
I am struck by how nicely this universe works, especially in summer.
Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Artnotes: Water

Goose Yellow  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm 
​Blair and I celebrated 38 years of marriage this week.  Harika celebrated her 11th birthday:  steaks on the barbecue (for H) and lunch and a visit to Sestola (for us, H, and our guest). 

​Goose Green  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm

We’d originally hoped to go to the beach but the weather has been less than ideal.  It’s warm, barefoot temperatures, but daily thunderstorms plague Italy this summer; an unwanted dousing at the shore is no fun.  So we thought we’d go to Sestola where they have an “automated music museum” inside the Castello.

​Baby Bird  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm  

On the way, we stopped at the Recycling Store in Montese. It wasn’t open at first, so we were able to vacuum out our car at the adjacent car wash. The cream puff got new tires, new radiator hoses, and new brakes this week, in hope of extending her life for another year and a half. After that I am thinking Hybrid.
While the automotive work took place, we had a rental car for a week, and then borrowed a friend’s car for the rest of the time.  That car had as small setback, so we had been tethered to the house.  It was a joy to cast off our cabin-fever, and we hit the road on Friday.
 At Los Recicladores, Blair bought a dozen glass bottles (we have stopped buying water in plastic bottles and go to a water filtering center in Stimigliano), two futurist-style coffee cups, and a shirt.  I got a skirt and a blouse.  It’s a winding spaghetti road from here to Montese which I drove after getting carsick.

​Rosy  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   9 x 14"  23 x 35cm   
We went on to Sestola, the gateway to Monte Cimone.  In the winter it is a ski resort, but in summer, stores and restaurants are open, offering scenic outdoor dining.  We sat by the window and ate lemon prosciutto pasta and polenta with wild boar.  There was a giant cloud around the top of the mountain, where the snow once was – there was a sense you could touch it.  Our water in Rocca Malatina comes from here, and it always has the taste of snow.  It is as if there is a teensy-weensy piece of dust the ice forms around – I can always taste that mountain-ness in the water.   Like Switzerland.

​Legs   Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  24 x  17"   63 x 41cm  

We went to the Castello after lunch.  Will I ever get used to the fact nothing is open before 3PM?  In this case, the museum wasn’t open until Sunday, a piece of information forgotten on the website.  We walked a bit around the castle before driving home along the Panaro river (a straighter road).  I think about bridge paintings, but fish and fowl are more forgiving.
When I got home, I put our tap water through the Brita filter, filled two bottles and refrigerated them. Almost as good as wine.

​ ​Toes  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  24 x  17"   63 x 41cm  90

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Something to Talk About

 Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm

 Bottle toppers in Terra Cotta  Laurie Fox Pessemier   app.  2 x 2"  5 x 5cm

Because I used to speak to my father every day, I made a point of finding and remember little odd bits of experience I would have, to add to conversation.   Some of that would end up here in Artnotes, but some was too trivial, or too personal, to put into writing.

Nonetheless, this week was chock-a-block with those sorts of things.  First, we went to a fabulous lecture by a Princeton professor at Blair’s alma mater, Notre Dame, in Rome.  He spoke, like a living book, about the “Winged Vision” of the architect/antiquarian Alberti.  I love Alberti’s Maltesta Temple in Rimini – one of my favorite pieces of early Renaissance architecture.   Alberti specialized in adaptive reuse of buildings, and he adored the OLD church, and past celebrations:  the soulful, rather than the ornate pageantry.

When we came out at 7:30, the city of Rome was bathed in that southern Italian golden light exclusive to the area.   Churches and buildings, formerly overlooked, were spotlighted in the light of precious metal.  I hoped for a traffic jam (we drove a rental car, as the cream puff is in for serious repairs).  It was all breathtaking, the light, the buildings (under the aqueduct adjacent to the Coliseum), the driving itself.

Later in the week, I arranged an escapade to the river, where I hope to launch my painting boat.  Blair’s idea of renting a painting boat is gaining ground – no responsibility.  We pulled the Fiat Panda in along the Tevere (Tiber) river at Nazzano, near Farfa, about 20 minutes from our house.  We were the only people driving along the dirt road giving way to boat launches and picnic areas.  Lush greenery hung out over the river.  The boats only give tours on weekends, but it was great to see. 

We stopped at an Agroturismo restaurant, not open on Tuesday, but saw a couple of juvenile boar, still with their striped coats, milling about the restaurant.  The idea of Agrotourism is that all the food comes from less than a kilometer away, and these wild fellows might have been marked.  They were outrageously adorable, and thankfully Harika slept through the experience.

Blair painted room names on the doors of a local B+B this week:  Deluxe, King, Gold.  I drew more pictures of locals in the streets.  Because it is so hot in Stimigliano, everyone sits outside most of the afternoon and evening.  Harika and I sat in a cafĂ© with Mario, our neighbor; he practiced his presentation on the the Rolling Stones and music from the sixties on us.  It’s quite a thing to see, this gathering of humanity, maybe 75 people of all ages clustered around the piazza, the old folks visiting on shaded benches, the kids playing in the sun.   Cliff swallows screech overhead, pigeons coo, and like the people on the benches, the crows cluster on the bastions of our castello, some chattering.

I still talk to my father when I am alone in the car or my room and I tell him the extra things I don’t mention here.  It gives the mosquitoes something to talk about.