Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Grožnjan Grisignana Istria Croatia

Dear Art-loving friend,
While I was sculpting stone in Bulgaria this past July, I met a slew of artists.  One of them was Marino Jugovac from Grožnjan [known also by its Italian nameGrisignana].  It is a part of Istria, the north-western part of Croatia.

Grožnjan is a beautiful little town, full of stone-paved streets, old buildings, and lovely views from its hilltop location.  Marino had invited me to visit for a long weekend during an arts festival, held annually in late September.  Normally, many told me, the foliage is a bright red during the festival, a vision I wish that I had seen.  However, it has been a strange year for weather for many, Croatia included, and autumn has not really arrived yet.

Grožnjan / Grisignana is a city that is known for a two-string “cello” called “Bajs,” instruments that are played in Istrian folk music.  There is a "string" of music fests during the summer.  They are famous for jazz, too.  Also, in 1902, a  set of railway tracks named the Parenzana were built so that trains may aid in the transport of agricultural products and general commerce.  The trains no longer run, but many bicyclists and hikers follow the existing trail through this beautiful region.

According to the brochure: “In the 3rd century B.C., all of Istria including this region was settled by the Illyrian and Celtic tribes.”  Romans began to dominate by 539 B.C. and later (around 339 B.C.) Istria was under Byzantine domination.  In more current times (1358-1797 A.D.), Istria was under Venetian administration.  Grožnjan prospered under Austrian rule.  There is a lot more to her history, but in 1954 she became under the rule of Yugoslavia, after which three-fourths of the families decided to leave.   Proclaimed in 1965 as a city for artists, Istria is now part of Croatia.  This means that she, for the time being, is NOT a part of Schengen territory (hence my immediate interest).

Allora, through my lack of language skills, I arrived not really sure that the festival was happening during my visit.  I had looked at various Web sites and it seemed unclear to me what was or was not going on in Grožnjan.  But before 2 a.m. I was on the overnight train from Firenze to Trieste (Italia) and my friend was there to pick me up in his car at the station around 9 a.m.  It was not a far drive (one hour?) to Grožnjan. 

After a coffee (only an expression for me since I rarely partake), I got to explore the area a little bit, snapping off a few images as something caught my fancy.  Then we had pizza for lunch at a new place in town called “aModoMio” (My Way).  It was very good!  After that, Marino took off for a bit and returned with a blank canvas (60 x 80 cm).  He told me that he was giving it to me so that I could enter the competition.  We walked over to a “loggia” (covered porch) and the canvas was stamped on the back.  I was given a number and became officially registered!  Now what? 

Apparently “Extempore” is an arts contest that wants to insure new work.each year, days or hours old even!  They do so by having many registration points in the cities and towns in the around Istria, including Trieste in Italy.  Artists bring any canvas or art support they choose and have it stamped on the back to verify its “blankness” as they officially register for that year’s competition.

After that, we drove out to San Valentino (population of 3, I was told) to paint for a bit in Marino’s studio.  It was lovely to pass giant pumpkins being harvested by, I supposed, the other two citizens.  After a little tour and then a delicious nap lying in the outdoors, I started on the only real idea I had had after seeing that I was to work with acrylic paints and stuff very stiff old scraggly brushes.  I am not known for my speed, so I can tell you that I was a bit mortified at the idea of creating something pleasing in a matter of hours using materials that are not my own.

Thankfully, engineer John Borsheim had given me an interest in Nikola Tesla and electricity in general.  Often when traveling I find myself taking photographs of insulators and such, thinking to send them to him once I am home again.  Marino had suggested that I try something way more abstract than my usual work.  I tried to see this as an opportunity, since I have wanted to loosen up a bit anyway and push myself in a more free direction. 

Here you may see my inspiration: a spider-like arrangement of electric wires.  They are actually right around the corner from Marino’s Atelier / Gallery in Grožnjan and come out the wall of his sister’s home.  All I had with me was my camera, so I looked at the image on my small camera screen, drawing the lines in charcoal onto the canvas after I painted and let dry the yellow and grey background colors.  I wanted to enjoy the process of being outdoors to paint and just breathe in clean air, away from any city.

I had hoped to see a lot of artists around as Marino took me back to Grožnjan.  I had a room for myself above his gallery in the center of town.  But he said that most were off in their studios working away.  By the time dinner was finished and Marino had left me in town, even the tourists had gone.  But what a lovely evening!

I will be back tomorrow to tell you want happened on festival day! 
Thank you,
Kelly Borsheim, sculptor, painter, writer, teacher

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