Sunday, June 24, 2012

You Asked For It: More Mirror Shots!

  Last year, when we returned from our first visit to Panicale and I started this blog, one of the favorite posts was  Mirror Shots. I understand, because our family and friends want to see us in the photos...not just a bunch of photos of food, gnomes, and beautiful countryside. And this is a damn good way to get the both of us in a photo, and fun.
  This year I went for the mirror shots a little, but must say that my darling Hubby was not as keen as I was to stop at every bloody mirror we came across. He was a really good sport about it last year, so I forgive him. I did manage to get a few good ones, though, and these are the best of the bunch for 2012. 
  (next year, I'm goin' for costumes.... Johnny will really hate it)

With our friends from home, outside of Panicale.

I like this one in Piegaro...I like the stone walls.


  I do like getting the shots that show nifty background scenes

A chilly afternoon in Monticchiello.

  I was sitting in the car reading, while Johnny painted nearby. After he finished and put away his stuff, I took note of this rearview mirror scene (below) that was great. Johnny kindly struck a pose for me.

In the fields near Pineta.

  Last year, I took a shot of this mirror just outside of Panicale, near the park. But I wanted it again, only this time with the spring flush of leaves on the trees....

Standing alone...

The first shot I took, I didn't even notice the "ape" covered in brambles.
A great shot of a great work vehicle!

We both love walking over near La Mura, close to Panicale.
The little chapel is so pretty.

  Every once in a while, by accident, I'll get a passing car in the shot, but never a person...
  The photo below is so cool because of the guy in the background. I didn't realize he was there until I looked at the finished product. I was just trying to get a good shot of Lago Trasimeno with Isola Polvese far back in the distance. The passing local adds a nice mysterious quality to this one.

Yeah, but what was he thinking?

Just a couple of goofballs hanging around at the corner of Bliss and Heaven.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Me And Art 3

  When most of us think of Florence, Italy, and the art world, we think of the Accademmia and David, or the lovely room after freaking room of utter beauties at the Uffizi...There is the Bargello and it's sculptures by Donatello and Michelangelo. The Medici Chapels, the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio and the Pitti Palace all have Art History Giants coming out their stained glass windows. Florence is a treasure trove of all we think of when we think of the biggies of Renaissance Art, early and late.
  There are hundreds and hundreds of students from all over the globe roaming about, all studying art history. (Well, that's what they tell their parents, anyway...). It's a special place to visit, and everyone should make a point to, if possible.

  We have gotten into the habit of flying in and out of Florence, just so we can spend our last couple of nights taking in the splendors she has to offer. And don't get me going on about the delectable meals we look forward to... but that will be yet another post here, down the line someday soon.
 We knew we would see something fantastic, we always do. A favorite art venue of ours is Palazzo Strozzi. Located not far from the Piazza della Repubblica, the Strozzi offers Contemporary art, not always easy to find in Florence. We knew that there was a show featuring American Impressionists in Florence going on, but what bowled me over was the companion show "American Dreamers". 
  Chicago artist Nick Cave was one of the eleven American Artists being shown in this exhibit. Whaaaaa! When I realized I was finally going to see Nick Cave's "Soundsuits" in person, I was beside myself. 
  We all have our own tastes, likes and dislikes when it comes to Art. I've said it before, and I'll say it again... I am no expert. I just know what I like. 
  There. I said it out loud.

Come on, what's not to like?

  There were several Soundsuits on display. These are hand made in his shop, meant to be worn as well as displayed. They are made to move and dance in, each type making it's own unique sound.... I especially love these made from human hair. When they are worn the texture of the hair swishing around, or really flying about while jumping, is a joy. The really colorful ones are amazing to watch in action. Alas, I've only seen them move via youtube videos.

Mommy, Pleeeeze can we bring one home?

  I think the first Soundsuit was made out of twigs. The artist didn't realize the "sound" potential until trying it on and moving about a little. They did not have a twig Soundsuit here, but that's alright. They did have a couple of his pieces made from found fabric objects, like potholders and rag rugs. I think I love these because my Grandma Bea always made us potholders as gifts. I swear, I still have enough for a Soundsuit of my own. Hmmm...

Rag rugs on one, intricate beading and sequins on the other.

He finds sequined clothes and such to sew together at second hand stores, too...

  From what I've read, he likes to tap into the tribal and ceremonial aspects of costumes, but adding the sound element and general wackiness of the materials. Like the suit with the potholders, the suit with the tintoys, below, can't help but touch a nostalgic note in anyone who sees it.

Love, love, love it.

  The Soundsuits are often made with a fairly major metal armature piece, to help with the shaping of them. I love this tintoy piece - I love the human form underneath, all covered in potholders sewn together. I walked slowly around this one for quite  a while. Amazingly, there were very few people in the space.

  There was a video playing of a performance with the Soundsuits, which I've seen on youtube. If this perks your interest, take a few minutes to get lost in Nick Cave land. (Just don't get confused with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, a great band, but not the same dude).

  The three person button suit was oh-so-cool, and I can just imagine what it would sound like jumping around..

My next Halloween outfit...who's in? And what about the footwear!??!

Such intricate work..and the reverse side is even gorgeous.

  Last, but of course not least, this bumpy lumpy beauty made from string bags, potholders, and more rag rugs.

  Pretty damn fantastic to get to see even just a few of the Soundsuits. It whet my appetite for more, and low and behold, we come home to find that the June issue of ArtNews magazine has a Soundsuit on it's cover. A great big, hot pink human hair bunny type suit. 


  I could have stopped right then and there, but I really did enjoy a few other standouts. For me, anyway. 

  This big installation was cool, but my photos didn't come out great.... Mandy Greer, a Seattle artist, takes you on a trippy little journey here-


I like the shadows this creates in the room.

A big moon like sphere with stars all around at one end of the space..

One of the crystal covered stars from Seattle artist, Mandy Greer

  A few more stars were to be found in another room, by NewYork artist, Kirsten Hassenfeld. Again, not enough good images from me and my lil'camera...
  I did like the vintage paper star and this blue one, made with CitiBank invoices and envelopes, among other paper....

Vintage wrapping paper makes a nice glow. Kirsten Hassenfeld's
"Star Series".


The show had several artists that I thought were fantastic, but my photos were crappy, or I just didn't take photos. I really wanted to share this one, though.
  These little bitty, totally awe inspiring in their detail, "Dioramas" are by Brooklyn artist Patrick Jacobs. The room looked almost empty. Just a few small peep holes in the walls. But on closer inspection, well,   just look....

Holes about three inches in diameter...

Tiny, miniscule, perfect worlds....

Maybe two inches? Each hand crafted and oddly hyper realistic.

  I'm not sure if it was the lighting, or the souped up color, but these dioramas had me reeling. How were these done?? Well, I guess painstakingly, that's how. Each hand crafted blade of grass and dandelion flower had to be perfectly placed. So impressive. I want to know how these artists come up with the idea, and in this case, how they implement it.

The depth in this just blows my little pea brain. Blown!

Seriously cool.

  A last look through the little glass bubble world of Patrick Jacobs.

An entire story here, no doubt. 

  So that's my walk through the Palazzo Strozzi for now.
  Now get out and see some Art.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

May Day/Rain Day In Panicale

  All over Europe, on May 1st people celebrate "The Worker". I guess it's sort of like our Labor Day. Many towns have a festival, with all the trimmings. We were really happy to be able to enjoy at least part of the "festa" in Panicale.
  We knew to expect something going on, just didn't know what it would be. Early in the day the Pro- loco, which is a volunteer association that promotes it's town, in this case Panicale, set up a table for wine and porchetta to hand out later in the day. Walking around we noticed that most businesses were closed, except the bar and cafes. This is a big holiday.
  We also took note of the arrival of a marching band, just outside the walls... Nice!

Getting ready to rock our world. Sort of.
  Then with all the rumbling and bursts of fantastic backfire, along came the tractors. Cool. We figured we better high-tail it into the piazza and grab somewhere to watch the show from.

One of the tractors preparing to do it's thing.

   Of course, we head to Bar Gallo, because we knew we would see everyone there. Yep. Quite a few people in town by late morning. We visited with folks, ordered our espresso, and sat back to enjoy the scene.

The very stylish band.

  I've seen a few celebrations in Italy now, and I love that the marching bands are so multi-generational and usually sport both men and women. They must be volunteer, local people just having some fun. Proving that you are never too old to pick up a marching drum or a sousaphone, that's what I always say. Always.

Love the style of the base drummer.

  With the band doing all the great patriotic hits, in come the tractors. Right up and into the piazza. Everyone present had smiles and were loving it as much as we sure were. It felt good to see these hard workers getting their props.

Tractors all cleaned up for the day!
   After the tractors arrived and parked all around the fountain, there were speeches by a few people, including Ms. Mayor of Panicale. We don't understand enough Italian, but I got the gist of it. "Tough times, we are brothers and sisters, we will work through this together for a better day..."
  It was familiar enough, for sure. And quite touching.
  Also touching, was the speech made for one of the beloved members of the community who had passed away the day or two before. A moment of silence, and a lowering of heads. The trumpet player played taps. Very poignant.

  We decided to say our goodbyes to take a walk, planning to return later.

A big day in Piazza Umberto 1

Families and friends showing support for the workers.

  What we didn't realize, and why I don't have more photos of the festivities to come later that day, is that down the road, far from home and without coats or anything, we would get caught in a MAJOR thunderstorm with massive rain. Did I mention lightning?
  See what a nice day it was in these pictures? That was like, two hours before the sky opened up and held us in it's hellish grip. A serious enough situation. I was literally on my knees in the rushing rain/mud that poured down the road we were trying to walk on. I heard that you were supposed to get down low to lessen chances of being struck by lightening. It was a fifty/fifty thing...try to make it home, or duck and cover.
  We did a little of both, made it home cold, teeth chattering and feeling absolutely wiped out. Hot showers, jammies and wine helped.
  We did go into town later that evening, hearing everyone else's own rain stories. The festa went on, and people enjoyed themselves, eating porchetta and drinking the local wine.
  Just another May Day in Panicale. And, hey...big surprise? I would do it again, all over.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

La Saporita-More Farm Freshness

  I'm still barely able to get my head around being back home. Partly because in the two and a half weeks we have been home, we needed to hop a plane to LA for a couple of days, and then I caught a nasty cold (big surprise), and then my dear brother and his kids came for a visit. It's been a whirlwind of a return. The family visit was awesome, as well as the LA trip... just a lot to be doing while still in basic jet lag mode. 
  So. To help me adjust, again, I will keep sharing this year's adventures in Umbria. Helps to keep me sane. What can I say.

  A favorite find from the 2011 trip to Panicale was La Saporita. We were told about it by a couple we met at Bar Gallo one day. They told us it was a must visit, so off we went. We fell in love with most all of the apples, pears, veggies and various other local products. It was one of our first stops this year.

Entrance to La Saporita
   The most favorite, and coveted by all our visitors who tried them, were the roasted in the shell almonds. We gorged ourselves on these little guys daily. Seriously. They were perfect with yogurt for breakfast, lovely with cheeses and pears for lunch, the ultimate bar snack with wine in the early evening, and with chocolate at night while we watched wacky Italian TV.
  I can not begin to describe them. Well, ok, I'll try. The shells are still on, but cracked enough to just break open. The almond is unsalted, with a deep, nutty, sweet roasted flavor, crunchy enough to hear someone across the terrace enjoying...really perfect in every way.
  There was always a big bag of them on the counter, just ready for grabbing a handful as we walked past. All day long.... I can only imagine what Rinato, the gardener, must have thought of all the shells tossed down into the olive grove.

Almonds, far left bin. Wish I had some right now.
  They also have bulk dried beans and grains...ceci, faro, borlotti, lentils from the region...all sorts of bulk and bagged goodies. The produce is the best, and always different each time we went in. Always great quality. The red bell peppers were so sweet. I kept making these super thin frittatas with them. Yummy over crisp salad.

The selection on this day. Sfuso dispenser on the left.
One hose for red, one for white.
  We loved that La Saporita carried good, inexpensive local wines, wonderful apple cider and olive oils from the area, too. Also honey! Umbria is known for it's honey.
  They have a new product this year- Sfuso! This is bulk wine that you can get to fill jugs or bottles you bring in from home. Really inexpensive, and good, especially the red. Local, of course!

More treats to enjoy. Cider, honey and olive oil. Also good local wine.
   The big draw are the apples. This changes all the time, as apples come and go seasonally. The apples they grow on the property are amazing, and then they import some from Northern Italy, as well.
  We would watch in amazement as the locals would pull up in three wheeled "apes", old fiats and brand new sedans-all loading up huge crates of apples to take home. We would get maybe five or six at a time...but we loved going there, so it worked for us. It was only a few minutes away by car.

Tasty apples.
  I love the woman who runs the place. You wait your turn, as in so many small markets here, and then you have her total attention. She picks out the best of everything for you. You don't touch a thing. All the while, with our minimal Italian and her minimal English, we carry on conversations about food, recipes, politics, history and local theatre events. So nice.

Johnny catching up with the proprietor. She is a sweetheart.

Not big, but very mighty.
  All the fruit trees are espaliered, which I found so interesting.  We were there long enough to see them come into flower, and then leaf out. In flower, the fields were dreamy.
  To get to the shop, you have to drive down this long, long, long driveway with an allee of Umbrella pines and Italian Cypress. Very majestic arrival. One day, while Johnny was set up to paint not far away, I took a walk down this road. It was so cool to see the trees all clipped and budding up.
  They also have their own solar field that takes care of most of the energy they use here.

Apple trees in leaf, with Panicale way in the distance, on the hill.
Ciao, Panicale!

"Direct Sale", always a good sign to look for.

The entry to La Saporita, a drive I now know very well.
  As with so many shops, towns, trattorias, etc. La Saporita is a place we can't wait to return to. I will dream of their almonds for the next nine months!