Thursday, June 3, 2010

Festa della Repubblica Italiana

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

The second day of June is a national holiday in Italy. They celebrate their unification as one country. The day here is called Festa della Repubblica Italiana. I was walking around the neighborhood of Piazza Santo Spirito in Florence where I currently live, wondering if I would find something to eat for breakfast. And I was delighted to peak into a church that I have only had brief glimpses into before.

It is actually the Ex-Church of San Carlo dei Barnabiti.. There was an exhibit going on of old photos during the war, soldiers lost, and atrocities faced in desolate places. Here is the text that I could read on the sign outside, although it has been disrespectfully covered with graffiti.

“The building was restructured in 1636 by the architect Gherardo Silvani for the Barnabites, who already had a small oratory on the site. The importance attained by the Order in the early 18th century is reflected by the decoration inside the church: the ceiling frescoed by Sigismondo Betti (“Glory of the Virgin with St. Paul and St. Carlo Borromeo”) in 1721, the architecture by Bernardino Ciurini (1743), the perspective views by Domenico Stagi (1757-58), and other paintings by Giuseppe Zocchi (dome and pennacchi, 1747). With the Leopoldine suppression of 1783, the building passed into private hands until 1838, when it was acquired by the Scolop[] Fathers, who kept it until 1866. Since then it has been used as a school and as a gymnasium, and is now a center for cultural activities.”

I have to say that this is the first example I have seen of someone created the illusion of a terrazzo (balcony) in a ceiling with columns the way that Domenico Stagi has done here. And the faux marble is some of the better work I have seen in that genre of art as well. It is a peccato (sin) that this building has come to such disrepair and the Florentines simply do not have the funds to restore it.

You will note the netting beneath the ceiling, but well above my head. It is there to catch parts of the plaster as it falls and protect anyone from being hurt. I am happy that people are at least using the space and hope that the constant visual will someday earn a restoration patron. In Italy, one finds treasures in every direction.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Streetpainting Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Last week I visited Vatican City and so this Thursday chose to recreate in the streets of Florence one of the Sybils on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. I hope you like my self-portrait in this “work-in-progress” shot. I did not realize I did that until I saw the images later.

I was delighted later that afternoon as a class of Italian children came to watch me work. I offered one a pastel stick, but she shied away. Instead, her classmate asked if she could try and next thing I knew, I was passing out various orange colors and pointing to the sections of the Sybil’s skirt in which each child should color.

The kids and I had a blast together. I wanted a photo of all of our orange hands and one of the teachers offered to take it for us. I asked the kids if they wanted to be on my blog and the idea seemed to be fun to them. I handed out the last of my wet baby wipes to clean their hands a bit and then they were off to catch a train. What a delightful day and great experience for us all.

Later that evening, the capo of our group of madonnari (street painters), Claudio, arrived to see my colleague Johnny and me. [Johnny is not in most of these images because he had another job and joined me for only parts of the day.] Since he had another commission to work on with our colleague Tomo, he offered to let Johnny and me draw that next day (their normal day).

So, around midnight that first night, I wrote on the street in Italian, “Please do not clean” and we set cardboard boxes around our drawing in hopes that the street cleaning truck would pass us by the next morning. It worked this time, although when I arrived on Friday, an older Italian woman complained to me that it was bruttissima that I left such ugly boxes in the street overnight. And while protected from cars, I noticed that someone rode a bike and/or stroller through the drawing and there were lots of footprints in different directions, implying that at least one person was dancing on our work overnight!

Also, the next morning I arrived to see a man erecting scaffolding close to my work area. I am starting to wonder if the city really does own the scaffolding company as one friend told me. Florence has an abundance of this and I have yet to see the famous Duomo without it!

He was breaking off some of the metal “T”s that were used to adjust the height of each leg, telling me that it was for public safety. I photographed this one young boy who was fascinated by the process and kept telling his father to wait a moment more since he did not want to leave. He was quite cute. We finished up around 5:30 pm. People were out and complimentary, but I had dinner plans and needed to get home to wash up. Enjoy these images.

And if you are interested in learning pastels in a fun and beautiful environment that allows you to focus on art and nature, please check out my pastel workshop in Hawaii in September.