Another great show opening!

Thanks to everyone who came to the opening, and especially to Sam Yeates whose work is half of the event, and quite wonderful.  The show at Davis Gallery will be up until about mid-November, so we hope you all can make it!  Meanwhile, below are some of the pieces of my work that are in the show.

The Davis Gallery is located at  837 West 12th Street, in Austin, Texas.

L-334 (2)

L-339 L-340 L-345 L-347 L-348

L-302 L-304 L-305 L-306 L-308 L-309 L-310 L-311 L-312 L-313 L-314 L-315 (2) L-316 L-317 (2) L-317 L-323 L-324 L-325 L-327 L-328 L-329 L-330 L-331 L-337 L-338 L-350 L-351 L-352 L-353

N-59 (7) N-59 (8) N-61 N-63 N-97 N-98 N-99 HH Clitoris N-105 Lady Parts N-106 Feeding N-107 Package N-108 N-109 N-110 Gadget 4 N-111 Gadget 1 N-112 Gadget 2 N-113 Gadget 5 N-114 Gadget 3 N-115 Gadget 7 N-116 Gadget 8

O-14 O-15 O-16

L-248 River Slice 2 L-257 L-262 L-276 L-289 L-290 L-293 L-300

(ceramic pieces to follow…)

A death here, a death there…(part one)

We shift our eyes away  and sidle toward  another subject if we can. But I believe most of us are curious about our inevitable demise, (of course we are curious about our own, but who can we ask?)  and it is particularly enlightening to observe how other cultures deal with IT, when the time comes. Our customs, naturally,  say a lot about us.

L-153 tweak for blog

“Rusty Gate”  oil on canvas, 40 x 38 inches

My mother passed away recently, and my father followed her by only a few months. We lost my husband’s parents, my brother-in-law, a couple of friends, all  in the past few years.   So I have had occasion to experience the contrasts in how we treat our dead, those mysterious  and terrifying leftovers of the people we once loved.

My mother was efficient in her passing, not one to needlessly draw out her time in the spotlight.  After all, she wasn’t discussing politics.  We called the “funeral home,”  that most uncomfortable term,  and a soulful duo appeared, he tall and she short, demure and helpful ravens in swooping black coats.  Disguised in a black zippered bag, she was rolled away, negotiating the doorways on her last exit from her home.     Since my mother’s specific request was not to have any viewings, a practice she considered crass and an  indulgence of base human curiosities, we never saw her again.   Our dealings with the funeral folks were short and sweet, just a subdued shuffle around the casket car lot, the exchange of documents and signing of checks, and off she went on her final flight to her  resting place in Oklahoma.  She  told me that the term “at rest” would soon mean much more to us as we put on years.  She was tired.    As to the preparations carried out in the facility, the less known the better.  I think we all understand that the ultimate, “prepared” version of our deceased relatives is nothing if not husk-like.   When my father followed her, the mechanics were the same, although his hospital death  allowed for even less family participation, making the “undertakings”  even more obscure.  He would have appreciated the pun.

Here in Basilicata things are different.   There is no “funeral home.”  Among the first  to know will be the local printers shop, who will prepare the black and white  manifesti*  which will go up around town before the deceased begins his or her preparations for departure.   Provisions for the body’s burial are entirely the responsibility of the closest relatives, and  home is where the funeral starts.   Those preparations usually involve  washing and dressing, maybe shaving, combing the hair and placing the hands upon some treasured item.  There is no embalming.   The household where the deceased lived prepares for visitors by placing the body in a central position, usually on the dining room table, and chairs are circled around the periphery of the room  in anticipation of a day of visitations by friends and relatives.  We arrive, are greeted, a hug or  a nod, a few words, and we find a chair and sit down.   Sometimes a daughter, a brother will be carrying on a long conversation with the deceased, softly  murmuring, chuckling, or more rarely, tearfully grasping at  clothing or swaying from side to side.     There is hushed conversation between visitors, mostly remembrances of episodes in the life of the  departed, but sometimes wholly unrelated to the matter at hand.  “Remember when he fell out of that tree stealing figs?”   “What did you buy to cook for lunch today?”  “Did you hear about Pinuccio who is still in jail?”    Each visitor is free to stay as long as he needs to, or wants to, or, in my case, as long as I can stand it.  It is distressing for a “sanitized” American to participate somehow.   I admire the customs immensely, but intellectually.  I am uncomfortable.  Until recently, there were  places where a family could hire one or more women, the “prefiche,” who would carry on  lamentations for a fee.  These “chiangenn”**  have often made their appearance  in  literature, understandably: they are  equally fascinating and horrifying.

In a small municipality, the funeral procession is on foot from the home to the camposanto.***    Visitors to Italy may note that the most attractive area of a little town is often the cemetery, clipped and polished and centrally-planned.   Family chapels are complete, and the larger areas of communal use are tastefully decorated  with flowers on saints days and birthdays.    What a contrast to the rusty  rebar and cement which  festoon the town’s buildings, adding subtle anguish to  our streets, unpainted stucco revealing that a dwelling for the living  is of secondary importance after all.    Larger cities often have towering cement cell blocks of tombs, accessible from indoors, the crusty concrete bleeding white lime deposits, fading  pictures of loved ones.  Anemic electric candles flicker in the gloom.   These are not peaceful places for contemplation, and I am reminded of our “self storage” lockers for our overflows of junk…  “Self-storage” indeed!

We are used to saying our final goodbyes and leaving our loved ones to their final rest, in peace.   Things are different in Italy, but more on that in part two.


**  lamenters, (in local dialect)


The Rush of Time

Putting yourself out there isn’t always gratifying

Una mostra d’arte!   A show in Italy, in a beautiful little hill town in a charming antique house, what could be better?  I would love to be positive, but  waxing poetic won’t put much of a shine on this experience, I am afraid.

I have a couple of dear friends, who are also women who paint.  This being so, we like to get together every so often and show what we have been doing, exhibiting our new work with a relaxing meet-and-greet.   I anticipate these occasions with warm feelings of camaraderie, and I wasn’t disappointed with our hours together this time; chit-chat on the couch, tarallini and some decent prosecco. Pisticci is a magical little white fairy town, an aggregation of cubic ticky-tacky dwellings, aligned as if to shout down the Italian tendency toward disorderly conduct, on top of a steeply-eroding hill. Words don’t do justice to the spectacularity of its appearance, day or night. It is the perfect ambiance in which to display one’s paintings.

Or so I thought, until our numerous visitors began to shun anything which didn’t depict either a familiar house, a favorite corner, or a relative or friend. I have always intended that my landscapes would proselytize Lucania, showing its singular charms as I see them.  I am out for the “feel” of the place, and my subjects are often invented, changed-up, amalgamations of places.    They are not immediately recognizable places which  can be classified as “my uncle!” or “my uncles house!”   I underestimated our visitors’ predilection  for familiarity with the subject!   So each evening progressed, our lovely, tiny little gallery having an invisible divider at half-room.   It was as if a provincial deus-ex-machina had plugged in  one of those ultrasound machines for mice, keeping out onlookers who might venture beyond the confines of their tiny known world. I can only imagine what reaction, or lack thereof, an abstract or conceptual piece might have instigated.  I am sure that if a conceptual piece included local white houses and relatives it would have been a resounding hit!

Not all our visitors were affected by the force field, and there was an occasional  request about prices…Oh mortification!   Why even offer for sale in an ambiance in which potential buyers expect to get two for the price of one?   I had three requests and each  simply stared blankly and turned to leave after I supplied a price. To add insult to my own injury, I even misquoted a price to one gentleman, multiplied by three, and I cannot blame him for asking me, (bless him) “Isn’t that a little high?” Yes, I said, and I truly meant it.  Please forgive me.   I never expected to sell in this little venue, and having to quote American gallery prices, even reduced by half, is one of the things I detest most.  This is where the gallery should take over, the smoothest of middlemen, to relieve the artists of being subjected  to undue suffering, making them barkers at their own humble sideshow act. The bearded lady shouldn’t have to sell discounted tickets to the same people who will come to snicker and throw popcorn at her in the half-light, after all.

I packed up my wares and dashed away as quickly as possible on the last evening, with the knowledge that my best-laid plans again had gone askew.  When selling is not the target, what we artists have to give our viewers is a glimpse of what we love, what we see, what we wish to say in our particular language. I don’t believe there are any artists who, having dedicated  themselves to learning their craft, producing the work, putting together and publicizing a show, expect that practically no one will even look at the pieces there!  It had never happened to me, up to now that is.   A word of advice to the wonderful people who come to see a show, and are precious:  If the artist is present, please have a look around at all four walls; it is small payment for artists who work very hard to share their work with you.

And so I am left with the impression that in some way I have given the best of myself for nothing.  “First world problems, mom!” my son says, and he is right.  Of course it is an exaggeration, a small tempest which has made the tea in my pot bitter.   With this in mind, here are a few of my paintings of Basilicata.  I hope  (and I absolutely trust you will!!) that you will look at them, and they will brighten your day. Will I show again under these circumstances? Of course I will, mothers never remember the birth, after all.    And there will be more work, new work, and I simply cannot resist sharing with anyone who is willing to come and see them.  Thank you all for allowing me to show them to you!



2-44 Basento, November










L-257 L-258





My country tis of thee

I heard a song on the radio tonight, a woman singing about “America,”  lamenting its propensity to become ever more unsatisfactory.   I cannot disagree with her criticism, yet maybe she is just too close to be able to appreciate its positive nuances.  Or maybe there is another song which sings the praises, I don’t know.   It made me think about what it means to love a country, an abstract ideal of a place contained within corporeal geographical boundaries.

You might think that I, having abandoned my country, would be less than patriotic.  It seemed almost effortless to go elsewhere.  Actually I was born in Canada but was thoroughly absorbed into the United States by the age of about eight, whether by indoctrination or simple distraction I don’t know.   I do know that when I was born my mother was gnashing her teeth at the snow and darkness, waiting for the day when she could return to a place as close to Oklahoma as her husband’s professional life would allow.    I know this necessity was  critical   because we lived in a motel in Austin for a couple of months until my father could maneuver his way into a job at the University.  He arrived confident that he would be indispensable  here, and his wife’s urgent need for her “America”, as soon as possible, lit a fire under him.

I think it killed my mother’s soul that I decamped as I did, allowing myself to be absorbed in the form of  duffel bags and boxes into the Italian miasma.  Surely at first she couldn’t foresee the months stretching into years and decades.   She and I had never liked Italy, briefly visited twice in my childhood.  There was nothing of value I could see here;  just shabby truckloads of tiresome paintings and architecture,  broken statuary and annoying men who stared for too long.   She was forever a rural Oklahoma girl, who, in her own time, could not wait to get as far away from home as possible.   She was always much too  diplomatic  to tell me how my choices had hurt her.   I wonder how her mother, in her time, had thought of her daughter’s own wanderlust and rejection of life on the farm.  I am betting that she  understood.



“Home Sweet Home,”  mixed media on paper

It is a terrible thing to try and express  provincial metaphors which no one shares.  Or crack a lame joke which is met with blank stares.  Or endeavor to recount a wonderful experience which becomes tedious in the telling, as every nuance must be explained in plodding precision,  patiently tolerated by the listeners as long as  it does not go on too long.   A shared culture is a wonderful thing, do not underestimate its charms!

Imagine telling a story without being allowed to use certain ideographical  expressions,  or word forms such as pronouns or adjectives.  Who was this Jackie Gleason fellow?  What do you mean, the  five second rule?  Why would a person be a potato  on a sofa?  Why do you insist on using those bucket-sized drinking glasses?    A friend once provoked me by saying that I could never really understand a certain Italian singer/songwriter because I lacked the baggage, the cultural knowledge,  the historical background.  So right he was.   Intellectually I can understand the meaning, certainly the musical sounds, but what I hear is unavoidably different, somehow skewed and hollower than the artist intended.

I think that living in a different place, a culture where much cannot be taken for granted until it is internalized, creates a unique appreciation of  provenance.   Imagine a woman who finds the presence of children irritating  up until the day she finds herself unable to contemplate life without her own.  Suddenly she understands that her offspring have given her a stable and sustaining anchor, and she is able to love all those other children as well.  She knows what they are, is able to empathise with them. Being away from my home has allowed me, as I came to absorb the Italian culture, to appreciate my American-ness.   My country has become so much more important to me in its absence because I have been able to distill my ideas of it through a foreign filter.   It is almost intoxicating.

So this is how  I have come to be a fiercely patriotic person, and while I am forever attached to Italy with many roots, it is the United States of America that I love.  Can one really love a country?  No, probably not, but I carry around inside me a solid and comforting load of  shapes, smells, stories, and conventions that are uniquely my own and are dearer to me than most things.  My hope is that my children will also absorb this love and weave a truly wonderful tapestry out of  their double load of culture.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if they married members of yet other cultures?  I am prepared to travel.

252 The Choice

“The Choice”  pencil on paper,  28 x 40 inches

Some new paintings

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this is my longest post to date.

A lot of Basilicata, a little bit of Texas, and Momo the dog.


“Strada Rosa”  5 x 5 inches,  oil on board


“Mattina Soleggiata”   oil on board,  5 x 5 inches


“Canale per Irrigazione”  oil on board,  6 x 6 inches


“After the Drought”, oil on canvas, 11 x 41 inches


“Autunno in Umbria”  oil on board,  5 x 5 inches


“Ohio Barn at Sunset”  oil on board, 5 x 5 inches


“Sotto Pomarico”  oil on board, 5 x 5 inches


“Senza Tetto”  oil on board,  5 x 5 inches


“Home on the Range”  oil on board,  5 x 5 inches


“Orange Trees with Thunderhead”  oil on board,  7 x 5 inches


“Oliveto Lucano”  oil on board,  5 x 7 inches


“Tra Pisticci e Bernalda”  oil on canvas,  15 x 60 inches


“Tramonto, Contrada Scorzone”  pasel on paper,  8 x 8 inches


“Mandorle in Fiore”  pastel on paper,  12 x 8 inches


“Dopo il Temporale”  pastel on paper,  5 x 5 inches


“Bather”  pastel on paper,  5 x 5 inches

Momo the dog

“Momo”   oil on canvas,  12 x 12 inches

Una guida per chi guida*

I ran upon this article, which is a guide for Italian drivers  visiting the U.S.A.     I find it says more about our differences than many things  I have seen.   You can see the original at

“Un grande paese si riconosce soprattutto dalla civiltà delle persone che lo abitano e nelle strade USA ho avuto modo di apprezzare quanto sia importante un popolo che rispetta le regole.”

(A great country is recognized above all by the civility of the people who live there, and in the streets of the USA I have had the chance to appreciate how important a populace which respects the rules can be.)


“No Roads Here”                              Oil on canvas

Here is a partial rundown of the article, paraphrased in italics, with my comments, of course:

Forget all the moral infractions that are committed regularly in Italy. Here are some things you will never see in the US:
Cutting and zig-zagging through traffic to get past everyone
Cars cutting into the line at a traffic light
Using the horn intensively
Super-high speeds on the highway or worse, in town
Disrespect or total dismissal of the STOP sign

More rules of the road which are different in the States:

You must actually stop at the STOP sign. You cannot just slow a little as we do in Italy.
It is permitted to turn right on red in many cases. (I turned right on red in Italy for about 20 years until I realized it was not allowed, never did anybody even look at me sideways…)
American police are quite rigid, (and you cannot expect to talk them out of a ticket.)
You are required to wear your seatbelt. Well, yes,  you are.
You can use your cellphone while driving, even without an earpiece. (This is funny, considering that Italy was one of the first places to prohibit driving and talking on the cellphone;  just imagine one hand to hold the phone, and one hand to gesticulate, which leaves you driving with some other appendage. I have always said that most men drive with that other appendage anyway!)
You cannot pass a schoolbus which is stopped, and you cannot drive with open containers of alcohol in the car, even if you are not drinking.

Here are some other curious facts about the USA:

Traffic lights may be at the center of the intersection, or on the other side. (I have always been astounded that the first in line at an Italian intersection often cannot see the light because it is almost always invisible and behind or above the line of sight.)
Another sign of great civility is the 4-way STOP. Instead of giving the person on the right precedence, it is the person who arrives first who has it. In Italy something of this nature would have the inevitable consequence of immediate chaos.  Idem.
Carpool lanes are to be used only by cars with more than one passenger, in order to free up space: (In Italy I believe this was attempted in the Napoli area and led to a huge increase in the sale of inflatable half-dummies. Or maybe I am thinking of the seatbelt law, which led to the sale of T-shirts with the belt design stamped diagonally across the front…)
Beware of road blocks caused by people driving with cruise control who refuse to speed up in the passing lane. (Hear hear!!)
Beware of slamming on the brake with your left foot, thinking that the brake in the automatic transmission is the clutch.  The resulting screeching halt will be perilous indeed! (My husband once brought us to a head-banging stop on the highway trying to “change gears to slow down” for an accident ahead.)
In case you are stopped by the police, slow down, pull over, and keep your hands on the wheel. Fines are paid by mail and never on site (so don’t offer any money to the officer to forget the infraction, one presumes!)
The cost of gasoline is quite low which explains why there are so many huge automobiles on the roads. (I would say so, my last fill-up in Italy cost me 140 Euros, about 188 dollars.)

Here are a few they forgot to add, possibly the most important ones:

Warning signs often actually correspond to road conditions.  Not as in Italy, where warnings are so greatly exaggerated that no one pays the slightest attention to them.  It is a practical demonstration of why someone Crying Wolf can eventually get you killed, because once in a great while  the warning sign is accurate!

Traffic flow in the US is mostly an “Each Man For Himself” proposition.  Not as in Italy where the entire formation will work as one organism, flowing organically together in poetic motion, while seemingly in chaos.  Watch out for US drivers who, as long as they believe they are not at fault, will totally ignore other drivers.  I prefer the Italian way.

Helmets in some states are not required on motorcycles, but are required on bicycles, (and recently have been proposed for soccer as well!!)  Go figure.

White lines and yellow lines are actually intended to be heeded.  (Not as in Italy where straddling the line is expected of most drivers, especially when passing another vehicle.  After all, if I pass you I need to rub it in, no?   So I will be moving over into your lane at about the level of your front door latch.)

Roadside conferences for smoking, snacking, and urinating are not allowed in the US.  There are actually designated areas for these activities along most state and interstate highways!  Remember that while in Italy you can stop anywhere, (after all there are two lanes for traffic on most roads, which leaves one lane empty) to chat or smoke or conference, this is severely prohibited in the US.   People will likely protest loudly or threaten you in the US  for stopping your vehicle in the middle of any road for no apparent reason.

Prostitutes are much more difficult to locate in the US, if this is a potential problem for you.    ( You will not see them sitting on buckets by the side of the roads or standing under red fabric swatches, smoking or playing cards as they eye drivers intensely, hoping for a customer.  You will not have to explain to your kids, in the US, what these  dark-skinned “ladies” are doing  congregating at the edges of town.    Interesting to note, in a country which seems to be somewhat bigoted towards blacks and gays, that  the first choice in prostitutes are black women and transvestites.  Ah, but this is for another post…)

In America throwing your garbage out the windows of your car is highly frowned-upon.  Roadsides do not reveal, in the autumn after catching fire, a foot-deep treasure trove of plastic and glass.  There are even places where highways are maintained by private individuals!   (This is a fantastic and unbelievable concept to most Italians, I know.  I have often suggested that this, if a plaque could be put up to designate the parties responsible for the clean-up, might actually work in Italy.  Deaf ears.)

And finally, if you must relieve your bladder, or your bowels, it is highly recommended that you stop at a gas station, roadside park, or restaurant to do it.  You will rarely see a vehicle’s driver casually relieving himself, family jewels in hand and in full sight to passing traffic.   You probably will not have to use a flashlight when, after dark, you stop to change drivers and are in danger of stepping in a fresh sidewalk muffin.    After all, there are some things that you have to give up when traveling to a foreign country!

179tweak copy

“Behind Every Man”                                                                                                                                                pencil on paper

*”A guide for drivers”

Mamma ha fatto la pasta al forno!*

All hail the leftover!   Especially that huge pan of Pasta Al Forno lurking in the fridge.   An anecdote which exemplifies its temptations:           Four friends, youngsters on a road trip, depart Bernalda with a lovingly-prepared (Grazie Mamma!)  mega-pan, ( at least eighteen inches diameter) container of pasta al forno for lunch.  They leave at at five in the morning, and after ten minutes the  foil was already being peeled off.  Hunks were being scooped out by hand  by the time they had reached the main road,  and by Ferrandina all that was left was a greasy pan.


                                                    Casetta A.N.A.S.,  Matera                                                       Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches, 2013

Its summer,  its hot, and who wants to cook?   But you have to eat, and the best way to get around spending regular hours in the kitchen is to create a dish that will carry a family through a number of meals.     Here is a summertime standby which, though it is a little time-consuming to create, will feed folks for a few days at home or at the beach.   It is good cold or heated, and it only gets better with time!   This is my recipe, tweaked over many summers.

Ingredients for about six hungry people:

4-6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped, (not diced)

Thinly-sliced hot Calabrian salame, or equivalent:  the best is a genuine sopressata piccante.  If you can’t find it, then get the reddest and hottest dry salame you can find.   You will need about a half pound.  Slice each thin slice into half-inch strips.

One can of drained pitted black olives, nothing fancy, just the good-old California kind.

Fresh mozzarella, at least  three cups chopped and tightly-packed.  Lacking the real thing, use some chopped American “mozzarella” which is actually more like Scamorza, as it is low-moisture.    Use the whole pound block, why not?

One cup plus one cup of freshly grated Grana Padano, or Parmigiano,

A freshly-made tomato sauce, about three cups.   This can be made using ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced, cooked in a half cup of  extra virgin olive oil over a lively flame, until broken down.  Add about 4 cloves of chopped garlic to the simmering tomatoes.  Add about a teaspoon of salt, and no,  I repeat, NO,   spices!   ( Here I am making the ancient sign against evil pointing my index and little finger  at the ground.)   Why would you take a perfectly good tomato sauce and add some dusty old shelf-scrapings to it?

One 500 gram (call it a pound)  bag of rigatoni pasta, or other medium pasta, cooked al dente in generously-salted water, and drained.  Don’t skimp on the salt!  (See previous post about pasta.)   Rinse and leave in cool water to  keep it from sticking.

Get yourself a great bowl and dump the mozzarella, salame, eggs, olives, and sauce  together with the drained cool pasta.   Mix in one cup of the grated Grana Padano cheese.   Make sure the sauce isn’t boiling hot or it will cause the mozzarella to melt and become stringy and incorrigible.  Mix everything well, and pour into whatever baking dish is large enough to hold the mixture.  Make sure to oil the pan (or pans) well before hand, or everything will stick.    Cover the top with the remaining Grana Padano.

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake at about 350 degrees  until it is bubbling and begins to brown on top.  Place the pan where the bottom will not burn, in the oven center usually.   About an hour should do it.   ( Be careful not to allow the aluminum foil to touch the tomato sauce, or you will be adding some unwanted elements to your diet when the acid melts the foil!)

Cool a little, or not, or reheat in the microwave tomorrow,  and serve.


* Mamma made pasta casserole!


Summer sweet and sour     Oil, 6 x 6 inches