Friday, April 29, 2016

New Studio Anniversary Tuscany

Dear Art Lover,

      Today is an anniversary of sorts for me.  It was one year ago today that a friend of mine introduced me to the man who would become my landlord.  He then showed my friends and me the house that would become my home and studio in the hills of Tuscany.

Tuscany Italy unfinished art studio space
2015 April 29 - future art studio - Tuscany, Italy

    You may see here that my main studio was not a finished space.  There were many problems with the house when I saw her one year ago.  It was mostly empty and the upstairs (which had never been used) had only new bare walls from an extension that my landlord did after he inherited half of his grandfather’s home.  [The other half was given to his aunt and uncle, who . . . naturally . . . live next door to me now.]  The woman who lived here before me made a complete disaster of the home, leaving animals locked inside while she moved out to a new love, I understand.  The kitchen had been completely gutted when I saw the home.  Parts of the house reeked of cat urine.  I was not so sure that would be salvageable.

     He had not been ready to show the house, but because I was looking and we had mutual friends, I saw this house along with many others around Italy.  But I had not made any decisions.  He told me that by my return in October, the house would be ready for me to see it again.  I then went to the USA for four months last summer. I looked around the States, as well, in every place that I visited, desperate to find a place to call home and stop the loss of time from constantly having to move.

    While I was still in the US last September, I was told that I needed to get my stuff out of storage in Italy immediately. I was desperate to find a home and not have to move my things twice. I wanted to see if this place had improved.  Over the summer, the long searching had tired me and I decided that I would take one of the two homes that I saw in this village.  I had decided that this one would be the best for me as far as access [for stone carving] and my friends being neighbors.  However, my landlord had had a terrible summer caretaking for his wife until she passed, just about two weeks before I returned to Italy.  My friend was afraid to even ask him about showing the house.  And, naturally, not much in the house had changed in those four months.

     In the end, this dear man not only let me sign the contract, but he gave me a place to store my things across the mountain while he continued working on the house.  He found me a driver with a van that I hired to move everything.  For two months, I stayed living out of a suitcase in temporary quarters in Firenze.  I was waiting for a student who later cancelled the trip to Tuscany due to a serious injury. On December 3rd, I moved into the house next door until my house was livable. This was wonderful.  I was amongst the trees and each day, I got to see what the workers were doing and even helped my landlord with various tasks and decisions.  It was a fun way to get to know someone and I began to be happy again.

home and studio of visual artist in Tuscany, Italy
2015 October 12 - for the love of Nature - view of studio
     I could see that he was getting tired and I felt that the approaching holidays were depressing him.  He just said that it was best that he keep busy.  So, we did.  I moved in after my Christmas guest returned to her home in Firenze.  So, here is an image of my main studio room on 29 December 2015.  My neighbors and my landlord gradually helped me to move my things from across the hill, even before I moved to the real house.  Each day, my future brightened and my heart soared. 

Tuscany Italy moving into art studio space
2015 December 29 - moving into new studio - Tuscany
      Just before Valentine’s Day, I had my first official and overnight house guest, a dear friend from Serbia.  It was cold and rainy most of the visit, but hey, I have a fireplace now, and so we snuggled up in front of a roaring fire, playing music videos on my laptop, dancing, singing along, drinking wine and together making quite a good meal. And the chocolate… with rum inside!

two women friends relax before a fireplace in Tuscany, Italia
2016 February 12 - Enjoying a fire with a friend - new home!
     However, I still had no heating upstairs and told my landlord that I thought it might be more economical to buy a stove in the springtime. I was fine living on the bottom floor this first winter.  Italy often teaches foreigners a new sort of patience, but also, what sort of person would ask a grieving and hard-working man to add to the list of all he had done for me to also climb up high to cut a hole in a ceiling or a wall and all that?  In the middle of winter?  It could wait.  It has waited. 

     However, the temperatures are warming.  I have not used my upstairs studio room much yet since I am working on a mural and a sculpture commission now, had been to Firenze to teach that healed-up student for a month, and am still recuperating from two [same] knee injuries already this year (stupidity and a lack of grace are not good bedfellows).  And my sweet landlord and I still have a few things we want to do for the studio [going vertical!].  I hope my long-winded story did not bore you, but seriously, every single day I feel grateful. 

     And a nice “Pay It Forward” thing is that I get to spend my house anniversary today helping my foreign neighbors apply for their residency. What a process life is!

Tuscany Italy art studio space, Toscana, Italia
2015 April 28 - Art Studio with pond diagram on floor - sculpture commission

Tuscany Italy artist art studio space, Italia, Toscana On Easel
2015 April 28 - WIPs [works-in-progress] on the easels in new studio

Monday, April 25, 2016

Festa della Liberazione Italia

Dear Art Lover,

     My friend Ale popped onto Facebook chat this morning to say hello.  It went like this:
Alessandro:  Buon giorno!
Kelly Borsheim:    ciao! Come stai e buona .. FESTA???
Alessandro:  bene,oggi è il giorno degli americani!
Kelly Borsheim:  cosa? pensavo partigiani.
Alessandro :  senza i soldati americani sarebbe stato impossibile! anche se i partigiani si prendono quasi tutti i meriti......

Which all means:
Alessandro: Good morning!
Kelly Borsheim: hello! How are you and happy .. HOLIDAY ???
Alessandro: Well, today is the day of the Americans!
Kelly Borsheim: What? I thought [Italian] partisans.
Alessandro: Without the American soldiers, it would have been impossible!  Although the partisans take almost all the credit ......

protecting art and sculpture with sandbags on Church Orsan Michele Florence Italy
Orsan Michele, Florence, Italy circa 1944
     My 93-year-old friend Renato in Casignano (where I go to help with the olive harvest each Novembre) told me the first time he met me that he was just a boy when the American soldiers came to live in his home.  They made quite an impression on him… polite and friendly people, he said.  He also had the opinion that the Americans saved the Italians and I seemed to earn immediate bonus points with him, even though I could not have possibly had any connection to events of World War II.  Casignano is in the hills outside of Florence.

     Also on Facebook I got lost in looking at tons of images of Hitler and Mussolini’s visit to the Renaissance City, as well and the hideous scenes of the city after the bombing.  The images come from an album on the FB Page: titled Firenzepoco conosciuta  [The lesser known Florence]. 

     This first is an image of Orsan Michele, not far at all from where I used to street paint in Florence.  The Florentines moved most paintings and other portable artworks and valuables outside of the city and often into the hill country surrounding the city.  But for fresco and larger works, they built walls of sandbags and sometimes brick (as for the original ‘David’ by Michelangelo in the Accademia).  Granted if the art took a direct hit, it would be gone, but they were mostly trying to protect from shrapnel.

     This second is a gorgeous photo with the light and composition, but what a horror!  Hitler ordered some Florentine Jews rounded up, about 300, and sent to Auschwitz.  Only 107 of these people were deemed “good enough” for the camps.  The rest were killed right away.  In the end, only 8 women and 7 men survived the camps.

Florentine Jews rounded up and sent to Auschwitz
Florentine Jews rounded up and sent to Auschwitz

n bombs placed along the Lungarno Archibusieri-never detonated
Bombs along the Lungarno Archibusieri
     This third is an image of the bombs set up under the Lungarno Archibusieri, beneath the famous Vasari Corridor and beside the Ponte Vecchio.  The caption says this was August 1944, but the bombs were never detonated.  Still, what a sight.. and sadly, there are so many much more terrible!


     This last I share with you today from this historical album first struck me for its beauty.  The light on the ruin of Borgo San Jacopo is striking in its shape and contrast with the surrounding city.  But, oh, such loss!  Borgo San Jacopo has been rebuilt and you might never notice how ravished it once was.

Borgo San Jacopo Bombed During WWII - Florence, Italy
Borgo San Jacopo Bombed During WWII - Florence, Italy

Here is a good explanation and other context for 25 April 1945 and what it means to many Italians.
Google Translate does a good enough job on this article for you to understand it.

     Also, I shared an album of war-torn Florence on my Facebook page.  The album comes from a page titled “Firenze poco conosciuta”  [The lesser known Florence].  Find them here:

So, happy Liberation Day, Italia!


Kelly Borsheim, artist