Saturday, August 13, 2016

VINNIE AND ME

In this never ending series of cocktail paintings I've been doing  Pastis never crossed my mind.
Pastis is a French kissing cousin of the legendary drink de jour of French ( Post Impressionist) painters. Absinthe ( a killer drink..literally).
One spring day in Italy I had the pleasure of a studio visit from Peter B. and his wife, Sarah, who together own a house in Umbria. During their stay in Italy they often make a visit to Provence. After seeing an in-progress Martini painting leaning against the wall, he recommended Pastis as a subject matter. 
Who knew? And why not? But, what is it?


Pastis
James Aponovich
oil on canvas, 10" x 8"


Naked, Pastisse is a clearish, golden color,,,,well, actually, it looks more like urine...albeit a really nice urine color. However, when water is added, it turns into a beautiful, pale aquamarine cloud that is the perfect refresher on these hot Provence summer days. So, since friends Jim, Debbie and Robbie were traveling to Provence, I requested they bring back some souvenir Pastis glasses, for as you know, each drink deserves it's own carrier. As I painted, a thought came into my mind of a one-time visitor to Provence who almost everyone knows.....

VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)



Vincent Van Gogh
Self Portrait 
Oil on canvas, 1889



CRAZY VINNIE


Vincent wasn't the type of guy you would like to have over for dinner, way too intense, manic, bipolar and epileptic. He was only 37 when he shot himself and only really painted for 17 of those years. During his life he only sold one painting, but he was supported by his normal art dealer brother, Theo, dear Theo. He desperately wanted  companionship, but he drove away everybody he ever got close to, the ultimate bad body language guy. His own mother couldn't take him for God's sake!


 Vincent Van Gogh
Cypresses
oil on canvas, 1889


So, to tell the story, I have placed the Pastis glasses( only his is full) and water pitcher in front of a landscape from his Arles period. It was there, in Provence, that Vincent wanted to establish an art colony, but only succeeded in driving Gaughin away and cutting off his ear in a drunken fit. Oy!



Vinnie and Me
James Aponovich
oil on canvas, 15" x 12", 2016


Then, I attempted to translate Vinnie's vision into my own. After all, I've read all of his letter, know which paints were available, and painted a few Mediterranean landscapes myself. His painting sits on an outdoor easel in front of the French landscape he saw. His painting, palette and brushes sit as if he had just completed an afternoon's session. He has poured himself a glass os Pastis........
want to join him?





Friday, August 12, 2016

LE CELLE...... a place of reflection


James and I make a visit here each time we are in Italy. It was at this place on the side
of Mount Sant' Egido that St. Francis began building this Hermitage, known as Le Celle, with a few of his Franciscan followers.





The sign as you enter the sign asks for silence, but you understand this immediately upon your approach that this is a quiet place, a place of reflection.



The descent down takes you across a bridge that crosses a stream that has craved a waterfall through the rock. The entire hillside is rock which makes this place seem even more spiritual. This indeed is one of those places where heaven and the earth come together , a 'thin place'.





I did not take photos inside the cell of St. Francis, but I can tell you it is small and contains a plank for a bed and a table and chair. Very minimal. He was here to contemplate and write.
It was here in his cell that he wrote his will passing the Franciscan order's leadership to
Brother Elias of Cortona.



Respecting the quiet is essential to understand the uniqueness of place. The sound of water, birds and leaves rustling and your own footsteps become apparent. The view is across a valley with the near ground of cypress, the middle ground the valley with Holly Oaks and the far ground the Val d' Chiana.



The door frames the walkway that leads to the stairs which take you up to the cell of St. Francis.



Today, Le Celle is the residence of seven Franciscan Capucin Friars
that carry on the teachings of St. Francis.





Le Celle is just outside the Tuscan town of Cortona. On a clear day from Panicale, we can see Cortona  perched on a hillside that is beyond Lake Trasimeno.





Monday, August 1, 2016

WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVER PASTA



Cooked, leftover spaghetti with olive oil, pancetta, cheese with the addition of cultivated asparagus


I always cook too much pasta, so, when James found a Marcella Hazan recipe for Frittata with Pasta I was absolved from my need to add too much pasta to the boiling water.

In Marcella Hazan's recipe for Frittata with Pasta she uses spaghetti because , as she explains, it bonds with the egg mixture. She also says the cooked pasta must be sauced first and recommends pasta tossed with butter and cheese.


When James and I are in Panicale we are often recipients of fresh eggs from  either the nonna of Katia or from Ruth. In the spring Umbrians forage for asparagi selvatico ( wild asparagus) and when we receive a bunch from Katia or Daniela & Aldo, it is like receiving a beautiful edible bouquet. Here in Umbria, eggs and asparagus are a natural combination.

We have experimented with a variety of leftover spaghetti dishes and I agree that the cheese and butter works well. We have also used spaghetti with tomato sauce or spaghetti all'Amatriciana.
All are good, but  our favorite is when we find a bowl of pasta in the refrigerator from the previous night's dinner that is a simple spaghetti with olive oil, pancetta& pecorino cheese ( maybe a few hot pepper flakes). And, also in the refrigerator from the previous day is leftover asparagus! We' ve hit the jackpot knowing that yesterday we bought fresh eggs from the Farmer's Market!







In a bowl beat the eggs (3-4) and salt & pepper, add the cooked spaghetti.  Turn on the broiler. In the meantime, heat a oven proof saute pan, add a tablespoon of butter , melt and add the egg/ pasta mixture when the butter is sizzling.
Cook for a minute or two without moving the pan and at this point add the asparagus (optional).
tip the pan gently allow the egg to cook around the edges. Cook for another few minutes and sneak a peek by lifting an edge to see if the bottom looks cooked.

Put pan under broiler until the top is beginning to brown.







Remove from broiler and slide frittata onto a plate. Cut into wedges and serve.




Frittata can be served hot, cold or at room temperature which make it not only a good lunch or light dinner , but it is terrific picnic food.








WHAT TO DO WITH LEFT OVER PASTA



Cooked, leftover spaghetti with olive oil, pancetta, cheese with the addition of cultivated asparagus


I always cook too much pasta, so, when James found a Marcella Hazan recipe for Frittata with Pasta I was absolved from my need to add too much pasta to the boiling water.

In Marcella Hazan's recipe for Frittata with Pasta she uses spaghetti because , as she explains, it bonds with the egg mixture. She also says the cooked pasta must be sauced first and recommends pasta tossed with butter and cheese.

When James
 and I are in Panicale we are often recipients of fresh eggs from  either the nonna of Katia or from Ruth. In the spring Umbrians forage for asparagi selvatico ( wild asparagus) and when we receive a bunch from Katia or Daniela & Aldo, it is like receiving a beautiful edible bouquet. Here in Umbria, eggs and asparagus are a natural combination.

We have experimented with a variety of leftover spaghetti dishes and I agree that the cheese and butter works well. We have also used spaghetti with tomato sauce or spaghetti all'Amatriciana.
All are good, but  our favorite is when we find a bowl of pasta in the refrigerator from the previous night's dinner that is a simple spaghetti with olive oil, pancetta& pecorino cheese ( maybe a few hot pepper flakes). And, also in the refrigerator from the previous day is leftover asparagus! We' ve hit the jackpot knowing that yesterday we bought fresh eggs from the Farmer's Market!







In a bowl beat the eggs (3-4) and salt & pepper, add the cooked spaghetti.  Turn on the broiler. In the meantime, heat a oven proof saute pan, add a tablespoon of butter , melt and add the egg/ pasta mixture when the butter is sizzling.
Cook for a minute or two without moving the pan and at this point add the asparagus (optional).
tip the pan gently allow the egg to cook around the edges. Cook for another few minutes and sneak a peek by lifting an edge to see if the bottom looks cooked.

Put pan under broiler until the top is beginning to brown.







Remove from broiler and slide frittata onto a plate. Cut into wedges and serve.




Frittata can be served hot, cold or at room temperature which make it not only a good lunch or light dinner , but it is terrific picnic food.








Monday, July 25, 2016

PINK PHLOX



I late July Julia's garden was filled with a backdrop of pink phlox.  Like her, they were tall and elegant. Pink phlox always return me of Julia's garden in Maine where, many years back, she taught me to be a gardener.
There are times when I step into the perennial garden here that I see Julia, of course not her but the influence and memories of her garden. I continue to use elements of repetition, scale and color combinations that I learned from  working  together with her in her garden.


In our late July garden  in New Hampshire the daylilies are in full swing and the violet of passing nepeta and salvia continue  to add notes of color to the border. There is white Phlox 'David', which has not yet flowered and the pink phlox that I have just added. To our dismay the woodchuck has once agin tunneled into the garden, so I am alarmed at the prospect of the damage he  (or she) may once again cause with his hearty appetite.



Julia introduced me to Rose Campion which always has a place in our garden. The pale cool green of it's leaves and the bright pink flowers add a delicate punctuation to the garden and I do hope this hydrangea hurries up and blooms because it will be a stunning combo these two beauties dancing together,


Nicotiana adds her bright stars to the front of the border.


James and I agree that this daylily, 'Elizabeth Salter' is our favorite. It is compact and carries many blooms with tightly held foliage. This is one of the flowers that we use to repeat to carry your eye up and down the border, again one of the elements that I carry into our garden from Julia's.



'Elizabeth Salter'




A look down the late July border where I hope the newly planted pink phlox will  grow to be tall and graceful in next year's garden.




Monday, June 20, 2016

FIRST DAY OF SUMMER IN THE GARDEN (2016)



At this moment, as Spring turns to Summer, the peony is the queen of our garden. 
A former neighbor of ours in Maine used to say, you can never have too many peonies. We were often the lucky recipients of armfuls of his peonies.


Each year since we moved here we have put in at least  one or two new peonies, and this year I am able to cut enough to bring in for a vase yet leaving plenty for the garden.
After watching Spring come to life in Umbria, from tulips, lilacs , wisteria , poppies and peonies, it was good to find late lilacs here and these gorgeous peonies.




Year by year we have been adding and editing the garden that was here when we purchased the house.  I have always liked the punctuation of yellow flowers and silver green foliage provided by Yarrow 'Moonshine'.



A long view of the walled perennial border that has full sun with it's two ends in shade, giving opportunity for a wide variety of plants.
While we away in Italy we had a visitor to our garden. It first came to our attention when James spotted a good size hole fairly well hidden......hmmmm.
The next thing we noticed  were some rather bare spots along the back of the border. Realizing that the tall garden phlox and at the New England Asters had been chomped on, one suspect came to mind.....woodchuck.
James immediately put 'chicken wire' on the gate  and fencing at entrance to the garden blocking this critter from anymore feasting in this garden.








The boxwood add structure as well as some formality against the loose quality of many of the perennials. Quite romantic!




This Heuchera with it's green edged almost white foliage and it's pink whirl of rose pink flowers above is a real eye catcher in shade at the front of the border .




Always a favorite, the beautiful flowers of the  foxglove, and you are never quite certain where she may show up year to year.




Cool shade for a hot day like today. The heuchera in the dappled sun planted in front of  soon to flower
'Peach Blossom' Astilbe, so stunning and fragrant. The shady corner filled with ferns and hostas along with some beautiful moss.


Long morning shadows on this first day of summer.

Bringing some summertime inside.












Monday, May 23, 2016

RAVENNA , MOVING ON TO PADUA


After drinking in the mosaics of Ravenna ( and some local wine) we set our sights on
 Padua ( Padova), a city just north of Venice and about a two hour drive up the coast.
But before we shove off there is one more person we must visit in Ravenna....



DANTE'S TOMB



Dante Alighieri was about as Florentine as you can get. He is what you might refer to as a Medieval Romantic. Example: One day he just caught a glimpse of the beautiful Beatrice as she walked along the Arno and he was smitten for life. One glance!
Why mess up a good thing with familiarity. Anyway, he ran afoul of the higher-ups of Florence so they threw him out of town...ejected...exile...the worst punishment. Dante spent his exile in Ravenna until he died of Malaria. And guess what? The City of Florence wants him back! After all, now he's the hometown hero. Ravenna's response?...a flick of the hand under the chin...."Basta!" You didn't want him then and he ain't moving' now!





So, what does Dante have to do with Padua? Well, it seems plenty.


THE SCROVEGNI CHAPEL




As the story goes, Reginaldo degli Srovegni was an important Paduan Financier in the 13th Century. He made his fortune as a Usurer, a lender of money who extracted large interest payments from his clients. Nothing like making yourself rich on the misery of others. However, according to the Medieval Code, Usurey was a sin, a big sin. Dante, in The Inferno, being a guy who liked to put people in their place, placed old Reginaldo in the inner ring or the Seventh Circle of Hell where the violent are eternally punished by fire. Users were considered violent because as Virgil explains in Canto XI:

"Usurers sin against Art
and 
Art is the grandchild of God.: 





The tomb of Enrico degli Scrovegni

THE APPLE DOES NOT FALL FAR FROM THE TREE

Eternal damnation is a long stretch to serve and it just so happens that Reginaldo's son, Enrico picked up Dad's dirty business and figured he needed a couple of 'get out of jail free' cards real fast. So, to save his and pop's eternal souls he built a Chapel and to cover all the bases he dedicated it to the lives of Mary and Jesus. To decorate the Chapel walls he hired the top gun painter out of Florence....
his name was....

GIOTTO




THE BEST MONEY CAN BUY

Scrovegni spared no expense, a lot was riding on this. Giotto was on top of his game and came with a large contract. The dominate blue is crushed lapis lazuli, a semi- precious stone from Persia. The reds were Vermillion and Dragonsblood ( try buying that at your local art store). Everything was top drawer. At one end of the Chapel rests the Scrovegni Tomb with sculptures by Andrea Pisano, from Pisa.




The other end depicts Giotto's The Last Judgement
which Michelangelo surely saw before he painted his in The Sistine Chapel in Rome



The walls are arranged on three themes: The Lives of Joachim and Anna.


A most sweet kiss under the original Golden Arch. Giotto was really the first artist to embrace tactile humanity into his paintings.





A domestic scene of the birth of Mary.






Jesus: not such a sweet kiss.








Once again we leave under a star studded lapis lazuli sky. and without a doubt, this is one of the highest levels of artistic achievement in all the Western Civilization .
It was an honor to be there.





For further information and reservations:
Padua, Italy


Photos courtesy of Stew Vreeland
Mille grazie, Stew!