Thursday, May 10, 2012

Community of Artists Florence Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

My life in Italy has been quite different from my last decade or so in America. In Texas, I was mostly alone working on my art out in my home in the country. I liked it. I loved it, really. I have always enjoyed being alone when I choose to be, regardless of how few or many people may be around.

To be honest, I did not know if I really wanted to enroll in art school … or any school ever again. I am not a patient person on many levels and I felt hard-pressed at times to finish my college degree. But I am really enjoying being at the Angel Academy here in Florence, Italy. While I still treasure the time I can find to be alone, I am relishing so much camaraderie in being with other artists. We work so hard and long, but there are laughs that we share, although I suspect that a lot of “outsiders” might find our humor a bit dull (puns on shapes, tones, lines… that sort of thing – generally nerdy humor, if you will). For example, the delight in objects… recently Luca brought in a collection of items he bought in Istanbul: A pair of knives in elaborate brass sheaths, small lanterns, Asian tea pots, and other exotic things. The fun lasted perhaps only 15 minutes as many of us stopped our painting projects to take a look at items from Luca’s collection, ahhing and oohing over each one and trying to figure out what the history behind some of the items might be. We looked, we touched, we played with some of them, and we passed them from one to another so that we could appreciate each object on our own. The most popular item was the traditional wedding headdress for an Asian woman. Several of us tried it on. Here is a snapshot that Caroline took of me wearing the headdress. I am standing in front of my cast painting (a painting of a plaster cast model made from an original sculpture), the Carpeaux. I am not quite the “Girl with the Pearl Earring,” but a moment of feeling a bit royal was lovely.

Angel is a painting school and is very strong in still life painting. In fact, I was surprised that this school could change my mind about still life art, not having been interested in it much at all before I came here. We do support one another in our choices of objects (models, as Jered calls them) and the compositions we attempt. It is a wonderful environment. One recent afternoon, a student gave the Maestro John Angel a gin and tonic (hey,… it was ALMOST five o’clock and I have never seen this happen before here), which he offered to share with several of us who were curious about the taste. [I tried it; I will try most anything. But it did not appeal to me much… tonic is too sweet and lingers on the tongue, making me want to drink some water to wash it down. I will stick to my vodka or girly liquors, thank you very much.] However, another female student laughed and asked, “Maestro, are you bribable?” He joked, “No, but I am flirtable!” I smirked, “Subtle.” And we all burst out laughing as he gave me a hug. Not all days are charming in this way, but there is some joy in each day with these other artists. I find that my heart is a little less lonely than it might be otherwise.

Last evening lots of “Angels” and I attended the opening reception for the Florence Academy of Art alumni exhibit. Wow… and I love the interaction between AAA, FAA, and the Charles Cecil Studios. Oh, and the newest classical art school in town is the Russian Academy. The Corsini Stables hosted the art event and the place was packed with artists last night. And as a little plug, I was surprised and flattered when I met a woman who already knew of me and even remembered a blog post from years ago! We were standing near the vintage cars and when I mentioned the photo of model Vida [“Il Dono”] and me inside the car, I did not need to introduce myself. The woman exclaimed, “I know YOU, Kelly!” Later she and her husband saw the Princess Corsini and we were all invited to come out to an event happening in her garden soon. Not lonely at all – Firenze feels so surreal sometimes!

Monday, May 7, 2012

War-Torn Tabernacoli Tuscany

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

On a recent weekend, I took some more painters out to my friend’s home in the countryside outside of Firenze, Italia. After a little walk around the vineyards and olive trees to get them acquainted with the landscape painting opportunities (and the fresh country air!), we ended up speaking with the neighbors here. There are multiple families nearby, but many of them are all related.

Bruno is in his 80s. He and his older brother Renato (who turns 90 years old this July 29th) grew up in their Tuscan “farm” during World War II. Bruno again brought out a picture he has of part of their family home at the time of the war. I had seen it before, but some things are worth doing more than once and my friends enjoyed the “live history.” These Italians seem to like me since I am American and they remember well that American soldiers stayed with them as they prepared to take back Firenze from the Germans. Bruno is in this first image as he shows off his bit of history to my friends.

We had asked about the tabernacle on the outside of the house. My friend Llewellyn is also interested in these. [Perhaps you will remember … or like to read … my art newsletter about the tabornacoli fiorentini that I wrote about some time ago.] Apparently, the original artwork in the tabernacle was a Della Robbia. This is a collective name for a historical family of ceramic artists and the studios are quite famous in these parts. The typically religious Della Robbias tend to be blue and white (white figures with blue glazed backgrounds), but not always. I must admit that they are not generally to my taste, but I have enjoyed some of them and their look is often easily distinguished from other terra-cotta or porcelain artwork of the time.

Bruno and Renato’s Della Robbia was bombed and destroyed during the war. Llewellyn is holding the image of the war-torn home, showing the tabernacle on the right. Later, the family commissioned a female artist with the last name Poggi (I believe), another well-known name in these parts, to create a new “Madonna and Child.” The last image is taken with the restored niche.

Happy Birthday, John Borsheim!