Wednesday, May 26, 2010


While preparing for the NadaDada Motel show in Reno, NV (June 17-19), I made an amazing discovery: sometimes the different sides of my brain fight with each other!! I've always been a fairly balanced brain artist - working from both right and left sides, especially as a theatre director. My brain got pretty good at zapping from one side to the other depending if I was dealing with actor or set issues or scheduling issues.

When I work in visual art, I sometimes (though most often not) have a glimmer of an idea that I soon forget once I start moving images around and together and sizing and resizing. I work in a very intuitive way that is totally on the right side of my brain when I'm developing a series of work. But for the new series I'm developing for the NadaDada Motel show, I knew it was going to be about angels because I had photos from a shoot with a model last year. I've already begun the series which you can see here 

So my big brain problem started in Venice when I saw Bellini's Red Angel Madonna, which flipped me out.  Here was an artist who had studied with the Symbolist Painters of Northern Europe before coming home to Venice to paint this strange Madonna.  The "angels" or "putti" as they're also known are almost demonic looking, some with bored expressions on their faces.  Then notice the hand of that Madonna, almost as if she's trying to hold that baby Jesus back from something.  The baby Jesus has the face of an old man !?!

Then I started thinking (I'll know better the next time) about Elaine Pagels book, "The Origin of Satan", in which she posits that the whole concept of the devil comes from the Jews and Early Christians wanting to vilify the "other".  Pagels thinks we all have the spark of the Divine and Evil within us, as do I.

Then I started thinking of the Swiss psychiatrist psychiatrist Carl Jung and his concept of the Shadow self, which can be seen as the devil in us.  Well there was just too much thinking and too much reading and not enough art making without thinking.  The irony of all this is that when I direct I've forever telling actors to not think, but just do.   So now I've learned that in visual art, I need to take my own sage advice.

In other breaking news ...  one of the sites where I have my artwork available for sale (go ahead and buy something just to make me happy, OK?) is expanding in a couple of directions.  The are partnering with ABC TV to allow the set designers to troll through the art to see if there is any art that they want to license to use on one of their shows!  Brilliant idea I think, but since my work is not very representational and at times is dark, I can't see them wanting to use any of it, but one never knows so I'm leaving the door cracked on that one!

And they are also setting up separate web pages that could serve as websites for artists.  Check out mine HERE.  Not too bad for a freebie, eh?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Help Women's Wisdom Art

Come on down to Tangent Gallery, 2900 Franklin Blvd. (at 4th Ave.) in Sacramento, 2nd Saturday, June 12th from 6 to 10 pm.  The gallery is also open on Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm or by appointment.  George Streng and I will be showing our postmodern portraits of women who have been helped through difficult change sin their lives and the art that helped them heal.  We combine their portraits with photographs of their art.  After we have the show at Tangent Gallery, we will then have a show of the work at the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services (which runs Women's Wisdom Art), 3333 Third Ave in Sacramento's Oak Park area in August.  After that show, the women each receive their portraits.  Some of these women have not had a "portrait" done of them since they were in high school.

The woman who runs the program is Helen Plenert, a wonderful artist in her own right!  Check out her website HERE.  But we will be collecting art supplies and/or money for the program the night of the reception. 

Women’s Wisdom Art, a program of Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services (SFBFS) is in need of the following items. You are welcome to bring any of the following items you may have in your studio to the Art Show reception on June 12th or drop them off during week at SFBFS. Check out for more information

Materials needed for art classes:
Fabric Class
Working sewing machines
Fabrics of all types
Needles and stick pins
Threads of all types and embroidery floss
Ribbons, buttons, zippers, hooks, straps
Watercolor Class
Water color sets, paper, brushes, pallets
Yarn Art Class
Yarn of all types
Knitting needles, crochet hooks
v  Table looms

Poetry Class
New composition books, paper, pens
Acrylics Class
Brushes, canvases in all sizes, pallets
Acrylic paint, easels
Pastels Class
Chalk and oil pastel sets, paper
Ceramics Class
Clay, clay tools
Collage and Mixed Media Class
Broken jewelry, wire, magazines
Small wooden boxes, cigar boxes
Color paper

Classroom library 

Old magazines - especially art magazines
Art books - any type                                               
Classroom restroom
Paper towels, toilet paper 
Sanitary napkins

Helen’s wish for 2010 is to give each woman who attends regular classes a new hard bound sketchbook that they can gather ideas, jot down thoughts, practice sketching and share ideas with their fellow students. This is also a great way to chart their progress. I've seen some wonderful books at University Art for under $10. We will have a donation jar near the front door so you can help me make this wish come true.


There is absolutely nothing in the world that I have experienced like Sicilian hospitality!  Maybe our wonderful experiences also came about because we are Mimmo's "American family".  Even though we brought a few small gifts, I was overwhelmed by Mimmo's sense of love and hospitality to his guests. 

We had a late afternoon flight into Palermo and by the time we collected luggage and the like, it was beginning to get dark.  Mimmo needed to stop at one of his local farmer stands to pick up some vegetables and fruits as he was going to make us a light dinner.  It was a delightful place and instead of using bags, the store clerk took a piece of paper and rolled it into a cone-very eco-friendly way to shop.

Mimmo has a wonderful house which was fallen into ruin when he bought it about 10 years ago.  It took him two years of repairs to make it habitable and you can tell he's still working on some areas outside - like an outdoor kitchen (near his attached to the house but outside laundry room) for entertaining in the summer.  He made a marvelous pasta with artichoke and a little bit of tuna in it for dinner.

"Villa Lombardo" is about 10 minutes from downtown Palermo atop a small hill with a wonderful view of the ocean, where he swims when it warms up.  He's also close to a beach area which is reminiscent of any beach-side tourist town with vendors and boats and nearby restaurants.  There is a turn-of-the-century "bathing palace" (like the old Sutro ruins in San Francisco) which has been turned into a restaurant there.  You'll see some photos of it on the Flickr site after this has posted,  We even found an outdoor cafe which offered the Venetian spritzs.

That evening we were invited to his friend Louisa's house for dinner.  I asked Mimmo if I should dress up a bit, but he said no worries.  I should have been worried, as when we got there, I felt like a schlump in my black T-shirt & jeans, while the other ladies were more elegantly attired.  I should have known better than to ask a guy that question though.  I take complete responsibility.

Not only did we have dinner with Louisa, but with three other friends - Massimo, Tomas and Anna Maria.  They were all doctors with the exception of Tomas, who is a landscape designer.  Mimmo works for a national history agency where he is working on a program to overlay maps from the old days with maps from the present day.  Or that is what I understood.  Although Louisa and Anna Maria had some English, Mimmo did most of the translating.

What a meal it was, first starting with some mushrooms and olives for appetizers, then the soup (tomato and other veggies with short, thin noodles in it).  Next was the fish, two of them actually - one which had been baked in salt and the other breaded and then sauteed - both were mild yet flavorful.  After that came the salad and then the desert - a special Sicilian cake made with marzipan with beautifully crafted marzipan fruits on top accompanied by a local Muscato, a light but sweet dessert wine.

The one day trip we took was to Erice, some 60 miles SW of Palermo.  The guide books say that the town is over 3,000 years old but what remains today is a medieveal, mist-shrouded city high in the mountains.   We has lunch there and tried to get into the castle there, but it was closed with no reason posted?!?   I was very interested to see this image that depicted a woman's face, wings and 3 legs spiraling out of it. 
Our final day there was wonderful.  We had a fabulous 3 course lunch made by Mimmo's sister - Pasta Alla Norma; a great pork roast made by her Georgian (country, not US state) friend that had a marvelous eggplant sauce, then salad and desert with wonderful wines.  That night we were invited over to Tomas and Annamaria's house.  Another feast ensued with a fabulous pasta that had been poured into a baking dish that had been lined with slices of eggplant so after it cooked, you inverted the baking dish onto a platter and had this very impressive dish!  My memory is a trifle clouded now as to what else we had for dinner, but I remember shrimp and these fabulous stuffed artichokes and onions that Annamaria's mother made for us.  By the time I got to dessert, I was not only feeling but beginning to look like a stuffed sausage!  It was a beautifyl Sicilian ricotta cake that Louisa had made.  I was only able to eat part of a slice and really wanted to take it on the plane with us that next morning... but knew it was nutty to even try it.

I was lucky enough to find a cookbook that had the two pasta recipes we had at Mimmo's friends' houses when we toured the Cappella Palatina.  I will also post some of my photos but this will give you a sense of the beauty of the place.

The next morning, it was airport for us to travel back to Rome... where JK & I then took separate flights to San Francisco, where we had our car and a room for the night.  It was a marvelous trip and I can't wait to have the opportunity to get back to explore more  of Italy and spend more time with Mimmo, who is a delightful guy.  We're hoping that he and his friend Louisa will come to visit in San Francisco next year.  Would be great to make it a semi-annual thing to visit each other.

In another couple of days I will get the rest of the  photos posted to the Flickr site, so be on the lookout in the near future.  I've been amiss not posted for so long because we had family in town for my niece's graduation, then JK's cousin who he hadn't seen in 45 years showed up and then I got sick.  I'm also working on art for the NadaDada Motel show the 3rd weekend of June up in Reno.  More about that later...

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Our two and a half days in Venice just weren't enough!  My first day there (JK arrived there a day ahead of me due to volcano-fu) was spent walking around Campo Santo Stefano, in the San Marco district of the city, where our hotel was located.  Mimmo, the foreign exchange student who lived with JK's family in 69-70, was helping a friend that day, but we made plans to meet him along with two of his friends in Campo Santa Margherita in the San Croce district.  We waited for them in a small outdoor cafe since it was a beautiful day and in the 60s still.  I'm not sure where we walked to get to the Slow Food restaurant that we had a marvelous dinner at that night.

The next day we made plans to meet Mimmo at noon at the Plazzo Grassi, where there is a huge modern art museum owned by a very rich Frenchman - Francois Pinault.  His foundation organizes shows of his collection of modern art - Big names like Paul McCarney (not the former Beatle) and Marlene Dumas.  We got there a bit late and Mimmo was already touring the exhibit.  They wouldn't let me shoot there, even without a flash!  So I was forced to buy the catalog for the show - which must weigh a good 10 lbs.  Some of the work that I really enjoyed was Mike Kelley's "Kandors Full Set" (05-09) which you can see part of here.  And then almost from the opposite side of the spectrum the work of Maurizio Cattelan's "All" (08) - link here.

After a lovely al fresco lunch of the best pizza I think I've ever had, we went to the Gallery of the Academy of Art in Venice, which was near our hotel.  Italian masterpieces from the earliest Venetian painters to those of the 18th century.  The one painting that struck me the most was Bellini's Madonna of the Red AngelsThis painting is dated  1480-90, which was a pretty conservative time in the art world.  Those red angels just freak me out!  If you'd like a small art history lesson on him, click here.  Since he did use the kind of symbolism common to the more Northern European painters, I know they must mean something,  And this just might be the springboard I need to launch my ideas about an angel-devil identity installation for Nada Dada this year in Reno (3rd weekend of June).

A short rest and then onto dinner about 8:30 to meet more of Mimmo's friends in Venice at a little restaurant that I will probably never again find.  We took the water bus to the train station stop and then met Mimmo there and walked over to his friends' apartment and then onto dinner.  After dinner we went back there for drinks.  It was a lovely place, but again up stairs (damn my knees).

The photo was taken on the water bus that cruises the Grand Canal on the way to meet Mimmo for that dinner.

The next day, we walked over to St Mark's Plaza, had a bit of lunch and then it was time to get aboard the water bus to get to the airport to fly to Sicily.  O Venice, we must meet again, when I'm not gimping around!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bucharest to Venice

My flight to Venice went through Munich before arriving in Venice.  But in Munich, I got several opposite directions for finding my gate - got my exercise that day!  I find the gate and then am escorted to a bus, which drives along the airport to an Air Dolomiti plane, a regional carrier, where the attendents have killer aqua uniforms!  I should have taken a photo with my phone as my Leica was safely stowed in my carry-on with my computer.

My Sweet Hubby met me at the airport there and we got to Venice via a water taxi!  I hadn't realized that Venice is really an island!  Not the best place to be if you have any kind of handicap, as no cars are allowed and there are many, many, many stairs and bridges etc.  I had tripped over a huge cable in a dark alley in Bucharest at the top of my trip and really screwed up my knees, so I'm anxious to go back when I can navigate a little better.

But I took it slow and easy and kept up my wine consumption so all was good.  We met our friend Mimmo in Venice.  He was a foreign exchange student from Palermo, Sicily with Hubby's family who lived in a small town north of Milwaukee, WI in 1969-70.  Talk about your culture shock!  But he considers John and family his American family and has been to visit us twice - once for Al's (my father-in-law) 80th birthday and again for his 90th birthday last year when he stayed with us at Dragon Hacienda.

We met him for dinner that night with two of his other friends, a delightful couple whose names I cant remember right now, but have emailed Mimmo to send me the information.  We had dinner at a "Slow Food" restaurant - info about that HERE.

We had an amazing dinner and lovely conversation with the husband of the couple having some English and Mimmo translating for us.  We really need to have more Italian when we go back!          

One thing we discovered in Venice is the Spritz... a strangely nuclear looking cocktail of prosecco, Aperol and sometimes a splash of  sparking water.   Although the Times' TOBY CECCHINI  says the new fad is to add a green olive to it, we didn't see it in the places we went to and I think I like it better with just an orange slice.          

So I've been up for over 24 hours due to crazy flight plans and Sweet Hubby isn't expected in for another couple of hours because of flight cancellations due to that damned volcano, so Ciao for now!