More new pieces, May

L-478
“River Slant”    60 x 44 inches, oil on canvas

 

L-483

“Ranch”   30 x 60 inches,  oil on canvas.

 

L-cliff

“Cliff”   7 x 5 inches,  oil on board.

 

L-pig

“Happy Girl”  7 x 5 inches,  oil on board.

 

L-re-river

“Curve”   7 x 5 inches, oil on board

 

N-clutch

“Clutch”   7 x 5 inches,  oil on board.

 

L-vinello

“Cloud”   7 x 5 inches,  oil on board.

 

N-apples

“Eve and Eve”   7 x 5 inches,  oil on board.

 

N- pop

“Pop”   50 x 60 inches,  oil and pencil on canvas.

 

N-spat

“Spat”    6 x 6 inches, oil on board.

 

N-Collie

“Alpha”   7 x 5  inches,  oil on board.

 

desert storm

“Dust Up”   7 x 5 inches,  oil on board.

L-hillside

“Valley”    7 x 5 inches,  oil on board.

Some new pieces

N-146
Match         Mixed media on paper,     28 x 22 inches
N-143
Thomas     Oil on canvas,   22 x 22 inches
N-145
Tom       Oil on canvas,  24 x 24 inches
N-144
Boyce        Oil on canvas,   22 x 22 inches
L-474
Hill Country Storm        Pastel on paper,     12 x 8 inches
L-473
Red Barn      Pastel on paper,    12 x 8 inches

 

 

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Thanks eternal to you, Ian Dury.  This is a nice edit of an evergreen song.   Don’t worry about Ian, he left us long before the Corona Flu, sad to say.

https://soundcloud.com/search?q=Reasons%20to%20be%20Cheerful

Because there are!

And here are a few new pieces I have been working on, nothing has really changed in this artist’s studio quarantine, which is how I normally work anyway!  The studio is my refuge, and my ball and chain, depending on the mood.  But I am so thankful for it.  Wasn’t it Virginia Woolf  who wrote about one’s room….

What have you all been doing, other than trying to stay cheerful?

 

N-142

“Corona Queen”  –  oil and pencil on canvas,  27 x 20 inches.

 

N-139

“Lady with Cape” – oil and pencil on canvas,  41 x 31 inches

 

L-469

“Fichi D’india” – oil on board, 5 x 5 inches.

 

N-141

“Mixed Signals” – oil on canvas, 26 x 20 inches.

 

L-466

“Snow melt, Arizona” – oil on canvas,  34 x 76 inches.

 

L-470

“Fichi D’india”  (many)  oil on board,  6 x 6 inches.

 

N-140

“The Wait” –  oil and pencil on canvas,  36 x 32 inches.

 

L-472

“Feeding Time”  –  oil on board,  5 x 5 inches.

 

L-467

“The Path Less Traveled” – oil on canvas,  40 x 38 inches.

 

N-138

“Blue Yonder”  –  oil and pencil on paper,  58 x 44 inches.

 

L-471

“Fosso Bufalara” –  oil on board,  5 x 5 inches.

 

L-468

“Big Barn, Tiny House” – oil on canvas, 18 x 28 inches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://soundcloud.com/search?q=Reasons%20to%20be%20Cheerful

https://soundcloud.com/search?q=Reasons%20to%20be%20Cheerful

Italia s’e desta!*

It is a beautiful day today, cool fresh temperature and light breeze, the birds are everywhere and vocal, frogs have begun to call in the pond. If it weren’t for the terrible drought it would be heaven.  And then there is the virus.
But how quiet! Quieter than usual, and the lack of tractors grinding, people calling out, cars whizzing by, airplanes overhead is…ominous.
As it should be. It is symptomatic of the paralysis gripping everything and everyone in this time of epic battle against an invisible enemy. The Black Swan holds sway whether we like it, believe it, or not. Our warm and fuzzy interdependence has coddled us through these many years of technological marvels and immediate gratification. How dare we be forced to endure this discomfort!
And yet people here in the south of Italy are not so easily shocked by hardship; they have had plenty of upheavals inflicted upon them; mistreatment by geography, history, ineptitude, poverty and graft. It gives them a psychological advantage.
I am here too, and I will remain here until traveling again becomes as simple as it used to be, hopping a plane over the ocean on a whim and back again. Not so easy now. Not easy for my husband and me, far away from our sons who are just beginning to experience the effects of the virus in the United States. At least our technology has made the distance between us bearable.
And it is going to get worse. If Italy is a bellwether, and experts believe it is, then things are going to get complicated in the USA. People are going to have to face the inevitable conclusion that sometimes quantity, not quality, determines an outcome. I heard pundits today talking about how Italy is in its current situation simply because their healthcare system is incapable of coping,  inferior in every way to the American system. I don’t think people understand the dynamism that drives the Lombardy hub of Italy, nor do they understand that Italy is very much a nation of “pendolari”* who come and go frenetically from that hub constantly. And together with these commuting masses are far superior numbers of people from all over the world who pass through it daily. No wonder, that in those first days and weeks of poor and erratic information, things got out of hand.
You are welcome, world. Italy has provided your best guide as to how to deal, and not deal, with this situation. It really has nothing to do with the quality of care, (cushy single rooms,  surgeons doing laparoscopies from Tokyo, well-stocked gift shops with flower delivery, state of the art billing), but that the needed quantity could not be met in the short period of time allotted by progression of the contagion. Too many patients, too little time, and too aggressive a pathogen.  People tend to ignore that Italian researchers actually are on the cutting edge of scientific discoveries, some of the best being in the U.S.
Those of you who know me will know that I lean hard away from the “progressives.”* But among the things I have learned from living here are appreciation of community, and when government fails to provide, the carefully-cultivated network of friends, family and neighbors can take up the slack. The Italian healthcare system, with all its horror stories and scandals, is a machine that runs on attenuated funding, and lots of humanity. This humanity of the Italians, often denigrated as cowardice or lack of courage, is laudable. It allows mothers in prison to raise their children there. It forgives first transgressions with the law. It allows an extra place at any table, no matter how meager the fare. It allows nurses and doctors to dedicate their last strength to caring for their patients, and necessitates their collapsing in tears when forced to make a decision which turns someone away from that care. There surely can be nothing worse in this life than having to make that kind of call. It is a new, and devastating, effect of the virus.
But here in small town Italy we are getting along. The streets are deserted, and aside from the one family member permitted to buy groceries, no one can be out and about. But the supermarkets and pharmacies are stocked. Gas stations are open and I can ride my bike as long as I don’t go through town. If you are stopped, you will be greeted by a smiling officer with a mask, who will invite you to try and not venture out unless absolutely necessary. Trucks with megaphones crawl the streets at six PM, curfew, to warn people to stay in their homes.
And sometimes, as happened the other night, one might hear a frail orchestral version of the national anthem wafting from the quarantine trucks, music which seems to be joined by a tenuous accompaniment…which grows in strength and volume until the town stridently vocalizes its defiance, its faith and its grief— in song.

It isn’t perfect, but it is human.

 

N-6 Little Slice oftweak

“A Little Slice of Heaven”  oil

 

*1   Italy has woken!

*2 commuters
*3 Where “progressive” is intended to mean “forward-moving,”  but actually means (simply) moving,  heedless of  trajectory or consequences.

OK, “we” are going to discuss pizza.*

To begin, just assume that I have already distilled my rant down to the essentials, which follow:

  1.   Pizza dough can vary, in texture, in flavor, in ingredients.   There are so many good ones here in the US that I cannot criticize.  The purebred Italians in my family even enjoy Pizza Hut, on nights when they don’t really feel like chewing.
  2.  Mozzarella would be SO much better if they would skip the “low moisture” concept, whatever that means.  Best I can tell, it means we are going to substitute the closest industrial thing to Scamorza and just call it mozzarella.  Because  real mozzarella is mostly liquid, and gives the pizza its moisture in the very hot oven.  This is the difference between rubbery chewy melted cheese, and delicately tender, flavorful melted mozzarella, whether cow, buffalo or goat.
  3. Toppings?   How about squid, or mussels in the shell?  (Italy)  Or  french fries and hot dogs? (Italy)  Tuna and onion?(my favorite, Italy)  Potato? (Italy)  Or just whatever leftovers you have brought from home to the pizzeria and thrown on there? (Italy).   I am not immune to the charms of a luscious sugary cinnamon-apple concoction either, if cooked to perfection.  (Definitely NOT Italy).   But you can keep your pineapple (USA) and your chicken (USA) and your Canadian bacon (America, one presumes) but I don’t want to be interpreted as the food police so: whatever.  Put some kale, peanuts and corn on it if you want, but I am not eating that thang.
  4. The major problem, above all the others (to my mind):   Why…  good Lord!  …do pizzas of every type here in the US have something resembling cooked tomato sauce on them?  Something called “marinara” (what the heck is that??)  A cooked tomato stew that could as easily go on pasta or be used for their version of lasagne or a base for stuffed eggplant?  And why, oh why, does this sauce contain sugar and dusty shelf-scrapings that pose as spices?   Uck.    Italy:   Crushed tomato, lightly  pureed, and a dash of salt.  That’s it.  Raw, never cooked.  THAT is what goes onto the dough before it is tricked out with all the other stuff.  Good olive oil  (if you can find any)  over the final build, and into the HOT oven it goes.  Wood, gas or electric, as long as it is hot enough.  If you want some basil then for heaven’s sake, go get some fresh leaves and tear them onto your dough, tomato, mozzarella, and whatever else.
  5. OK.   As I write this I am digesting the pizza I had at a popular pizza-and-beer place, along with a salad, one thing that the Americans excel at creating.  Nothing like a good Caesar salad in “Murica!”  And good beer!   But after that pizza,  I am going to have to brush my teeth to get rid of the
  6.  heavy,
  7.  cloying,
  8.  sugary,
  9.  overcooked aftertaste.

*…and everybody has opinions.

230 Super Heroes Day

“Super Heroes’ Day”   (oil on canvas)

Another article about southern Italy

N-38

My sister sent me another article, a travel piece, in the New York Times: another visitor  comes to the south of Italy for a genuine adventure.

I am disgruntled, strangely annoyed at the tone and the usual observations it makes about the place.

It mentions that Molise is the second least-populated region of Italy   The least-populated is Basilicata, where I live.  Basilicata and Molise have a lot in common on many levels; the lack of tourism, (a blessing in my eyes, but then I don’t have to try to make my living from tourism),  the lack of economic vibrancy, the difficult terrain with not much infrastructure.    These are a few of the obvious similarities: both regions “suffer” from being little-known by the casual visitor.

L-412

Reading this article, as another about Matera which recently came out,  (see below)          gives me the impression that I am being schooled about the goings-on of a population in a petri dish;  it reminds me of the notes jotted down by travelers from centuries past of indigenous populations and their quaint customs.   Blessed in their ignorance, with interest primarily in the simple pleasures of the gastronomic palette and strolling on Sunday, the local traditions rarely changing due to outside influences.  How lucky for the world traveler, how charming that this area of the world has been preserved thanks to ignorance and lack of imagination, weighed down by the ball and chain of tradition for so long, preserved for the sightseer’s pleasure.    Shucking and jiving in a dream world of homemade pasta and sausages, religious celebrations and traveling circuses.   Happy  negroes indeed.

OK, maybe I am being a bit drastic.

At the same time that my gut reaction to these articles is negative, I also have been known to wax poetic with this blog, so there is that, too.  I agree wholeheartedly with the mayor of Matera, who voices what so many of the locals here think about the influx of tourists.  It is only logical that if you have a limpid pool of pure water, the arrival of thousands of frogs at once will extinguish its appeal forever.

Sometimes it seems as if there is a turf war among people who travel, each person who spends more than a week in some far place  expounding on how they have been allowed an inclusive picture that OTHER visitors are not privy to.  “I discovered it!”  Indeed, just tell the inhabitants…One need only read through the comments on this type of article to see that there is a clamoring status war to “discover” some new part of the world;  first.   I read books sometimes,  about Americans or British who move to Italy,  and they are inevitably filled with incorrect translations or blatantly inaccurate observations.  One in particular, something having to do with renovating a property as I recall, was laughable in its lack of understanding.  However, I have been here near Bernalda, with the indigenous population (HA!) for almost 40 years.  I know a thing or two.

There are other visitors who have stayed here, I know some, and I am happy they have found their little niche as I have.  But without exception, these people seem not  to comprehend what is going on around them to any extent.  I am envious of them because they can still see the wonderful town square with its quaint benches and old men whittling away their time, accept with graciousness the tidbits offered, and enjoy prolonging their initial impression of travelogue  Italy indefinitely.   How lovely!

And it is lovely.

But do they know that among those men there are some who have been castigated and shunned by their wives and neighbors for being different, or for daring to tell the truth about  someone important?   Among them is  the one who engages in pedophilia with various unlucky schoolboys while their parents turn a blind eye because of the compensation offered.   Also the one who pretends to be civil when later he will refuse to pay the rent, again,  to his landlord who has no recourse.  There might be the guy who carted off an entire farm full of animals because his private loan’s exorbitant interest was too much for the family.   I know where the Nazis executed partisans in that doorway, and where the partisans lynched a Nazi sympathizer.    I know that once there were tall trees that were ripped out to make room for grass which could never survive, because traditionally trees and sod are planted but the Socialist hierarchy assures that watering will be nobody’s job.   I know that later this year there will be, yet again, protests here because people are held hostage by European Union regulations that threaten to strangle local businesses.  I know how some immigrants are mistreated, and how others behave abominably, and I know that most locals would prefer that they don’t come at all.  I know that the cancer rate here is unnaturally high, and no one knows why, although the region has been used as a toxic waste dumping ground for generations.  I know that since recycling has eliminated the dumpsters, there is no hope of finding that litter of puppies that someone has–again–thrown away.  I know that the corner market stall with all that beautiful produce could very well be selling you vegetables and fruit that is so impregnated with toxins that you would do better to not consume it.  I know that the farmers who grew the produce will die early because they refused to take any precautions when dealing with pesticides and herbicides which are sold and consumed like water in big unlabeled plastic bottles.  I know that the same person who exchanges a warm greeting  may later tell her neighbor a devastating untruth about her friend for no reason other than malice that in a small town such as this can be a communal pastime.  I know that every kindness, every generous gesture or helpful offer will go down in “the book” for posterity, and close tabs will be kept.  Debts will be payed back, one way or another, eventually.   I know these things because I am part of it, I understand the dialect perfectly, as well as Italian.  I have been absorbed into the fabric,  and therein lies the difference.

N-104

I can go weeks and weeks without speaking English to anyone, although the web has upended any illusions of isolation, one of the factors that made this place so fascinating at first.

So don’t tell me how “it is in Italy,”   because I know, at least in this tiny part of it.   Perhaps most importantly, do tourists here know that even in this little paese  of 12,000 souls, the population is well-supplied with world travelers, people who are off at least twice a year or more to Japan, to Los Angeles or Boston, to South America, to Russia, to China, on cruises, to do research at prestigious universities, to study  foreign languages?

I remember how it used to be for me here, immersed in archaeological work and planning my next escapade in order to stay a little longer.  But I have lost that shiny mirage, the impression of simplicity that was my pleasure for many years in coming back over here, feeling that this world was indeed a miracle of visible riches, and the substance under that surface was all good.  I suppose I didn’t care so much about the substrate reality because of the richness of the light and landscape.  It IS a fantastic landscape, and it still has much to offer, but for me it must be absorbed with all the unfortunate  history, and reality,  that comes with it.  Ask me if you really want to know…or better yet, ask my husband and kids: they were all born here!  And in all probability, I still don’t know what is really going on…

 

 

Recent Work, (in progress)

What was I doing all year?  Who can recall?   But I have my ideas…

Here are some new pieces from recent months:

L-436z

“Texas Stock Tank”

 

L-443

“Sandhill Cranes, New Mexico”

 

L-442

“Central Texas, September”

 

L-441

“Ombre lunghe, Il Tevere”

 

L-437

“Flash Flood”

 

L-438

“Shade”

 

L-439

“River Slant”

 

L-435

“Maybe Today”

 

L-433

“Black’s Fort, November”

 

 

L-504b

“Near Garberville”

 

N-127

“Soul Laundry 2”

 

 

L-501

“Steerage”

 

 

L-450

“Desert Rumble”

 

L-502

“Cereal”

 

L-417

“Almost Full”

 

N-125

“Battle of the Sexes”

 

Whole Hog

“Inevitable”

 

L-505

“Black’s Fort, October”  (A)

 

L-507

“Black’s Fort, October”  (B)

 

L-506

“Black’s Fort, October”  (C)

 

L-422

“North San Gabriel”

 

L-421

“Bend In The Road”

 

L-420

“High Pressure”

L-503

“Grano, luglio”

 

L-424

“Cliff Dwellers”

 

N-126

“Royalty”

 

N-121

“Paradise Closed”

 

L-423

“Fast Dry Day”

 

L-419

“Straight Path”

 

L-418

“Canal near Spineto”

 

N-123

“Package”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to the eucalyptus

It is summer again; a particularly rough one this year.  No rain, and then no rain, and heat that is epic and relentless.  Poplars, plane trees, loquats and willows and  almonds;   all are losing their leaves to the wind and scorching sun, and the smoke from the fires that are never far away adds a red filter to the landscape.  But trees are intelligent, and by throwing their leaves to the ground  they conserve their diminishing reserves by transpiring less moisture to the air, and at the same time create their own mulch as dropped leaves carpet their personal patch of soil.  It is sad to see, and their humans can be seen on watering days dragging rubber hoses around like ships’ anchors, sweating and swearing in consternation at the lack of moderation that nature sometimes exhibits.

www

And yet there is a tree here in Italy (where it was introduced and thrived just as it has in any  temperate climate where ships and currents  have brought its seeds the world over) which seems to luxuriate in this weather.   Not drought, not floods, not cold (not too cold!) not even fire or the ax can deter them from occupying their position as conquering barbarian horticultural horde.  They persist, gritting their woody teeth and snickering at their vegetable cousins’  frail designer foliage.

With this in mind, I would like to post my favorite description of Eucalyptus trees, written by a fabulous author who traveled in this area over a hundred years ago.  He was a character, and I highly recommend my favorite book by him, “Old Calabria.”   His name was Norman Douglas and he was an undisciplined, embibing  Scottish wanderer with pedophile tendencies, a world traveler with no fear, and a tough old coot who could really write.

From “Old Calabria,” *  the author describes his distaste for these trees as he makes his way from the station of Policoro up toward Rossano Calabro, localities which are about fifteen miles from our house:

“You walk…from the station along an avenue of eucalypti planted some forty years ago.”  (circa 1875)  “Detesting, as I do, the whole tribe of gum trees, I never lose an opportunity of saying exactly what I think about this particularly odious representative of the brood, this eyesore, this grey-haired scarecrow, this reptile of a growth with which a pack of misguided enthusiasts have disfigured the entire Mediterranean basin. They have now realized that it is useless as a protection against malaria.  Soon enough they will learn that instead of preventing the disease,  it actually fosters it, by harboring clouds of mosquitoes under its scraggy so-called foliage.  These abominations may look better on their native heath:  I sincerely hope they do.  Judging by the “Dead Heart of Australia”–a book which gave me a nightmare from which I shall never recover– I should say that a varnished hop-pole would be an artistic godsend out there.

But from here the intruder should be expelled without mercy.  A single eucalyptus will ruin the fairest landscape.  No plant on earth rustles in such a horribly metallic fashion when the wind blows through those everlastingly withered branches; the noise chills one to the marrow; it is like the sibilant chattering of ghosts.  Its oil is called “medicinal” only because it happens to smell rather nasty; it is worthless as timber, objectionable in form and hue–objectionable, above all things, in its perverse, anti-human habits.  What other tree would have the effrontery to turn the sharp edges of its leaves–as if these were not narrow enough already!–towards the sun, so as to be sure of giving at all hours of the day the minimum of shade and maximum of discomfort to mankind?

But I confess that this avenue of Policoro  almost reconciled me to the existence of the anaemic Antipodeans.  Almost; since for some reason or other (perhaps on account of the insufferably foul nature of the soil)  their foliage is here thickly tufted; it glows like burnished bronze in the sunshine, like enameled scales of green and gold.  These eucalypti are unique in Italy.  Gazing upon them, my heart softened and I almost forgave the gums their manifold iniquities, their diabolical thirst, their demoralizing aspect of precocious senility and vice, their peeling bark suggestive of unmentionable skin diseases, and that system of radication which is nothing short of a scandal on this side of the globe…”eucalyptus summer 2017

 

  •  Norman Douglas.  Old Calabria, forward by Jon Manchip White, 1993 edition, The Marlboro Press, original publication 1915.  page 95-96