Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Assisi, Italy: Painting in the Piazza de Santa Chiara

As I mentioned in this post, Assisi was hot this summer.  We could not stay out in the Comune all day, so we had to search for places with shade.  In a way, this turned out to be a good thing as we visited parts of Assisi that we missed last year.

We found the perfect place to do our morning painting session:  the Piazza de Santa Chiara.  Santa Chiara is a huge church with a lovely square as well as a beautiful vista that we had such fun painting.  Most important, the church is so large that we had shade from the building until about 1pm.

We came over here nearly every morning.  The square was a fun place to be.  There were many people visiting the church, school groups putting on performances, tons of fun shops and, most surprising of all, an angel!

This is the landscape looking out from the piazza.  It was beautiful and I did three paintings there.  I did two landscapes that were just small studies, but I did finish a painting that I actually like.  Very unusual for me with outdoor painting.

The photo above is the view that I painted.  It was not easy given all the perspective, but luckily I had time to work on it.  That does not always happen outdoors so it made things much easier for me.

This was my initial block in.  Getting that perspective right was not easy, but with time (and a t-square), I was able to get it done.  After that the sky and the mountains went in.

This was my second day working on the painting.  It was so warm that the paintings dried over night, making it very easy to continue on the next day.

Here is the finished painting on the easel in my studio.  I decided to sign this one, something I never do with my outdoor studies, but I'm very happy with the way this painting turned out.

As I mentioned, while we were in the piazza painting, there was a lot happening.  One of my favorite things about Assisi is that at any moment a singing, musical or dance group will just show up and start performing.  One day a school dance group came by and they were great.  Everyone in the piazza, including us, stopped what they were doing to watch them.

And my favorite part of the square:  the angel.  She was there every morning at the same time we were painting and she would come over to see what we were working on.

Here she is with one of my landscapes.

This was her little set up in the piazza.  In the photo above the three men talking to her were bikers, but this being Italy, they were very fashionable bikers!  She would talk to you for a few minutes and then write out a piece of advice on a card.  We gave her a few Euros one day for writings, and then on our last day she came over to us with a writing for each of us as a gift.  She told us she liked having us around because having artists work in the piazza brought good energy to the place.  I'm not a religious person, but I told her we felt the same way about her.  She definitely had a very intuitive/good energy vibe and I could feel it.

We had a such a  fun time painting here and I hope I get to do it again someday.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Visit To the Pollock-Krasner House And Study Center

I'm as far from a modern artist as you can get, but after seeing the movie Pollock years ago, I became obsessed with visiting Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner's home and studios in the Springs section of East Hampton,  Long Island.

The two artists relocated out there in 1945 and the property is now the Pollock-Krasner House And Study Center.  According to the website, Peggy Guggenheim, an early supporter of Pollock's, loaned them $2,000.00 for a downpayment, enabling them to get a $3,000.00 mortgage. Crazy when you think about what the prices are like out there now.  Five thousand dollars wouldn't get you a one week  summer rental!

I finally got myself out to see the house in person and I'm so glad that I did.  Considering it did not even have running water when they bought it, Pollock and Krasner did an amazing job of fixing it up.  The home is lovely and has been kept up beautifully by the foundation.

The front porch.  It looks like a fabulous place to take a break in the afternoon.

We toured the grounds before going into the house.  They had all this amazing scenery and never painted it.  I can't imagine not being out there everyday, but landscape painting was just not their thing.

Next, we visited the barn Pollock had converted into a studio.  I love visiting artists studios and this was no exception.

While Pollock was alive he used the barn studio.  Lee Krasner moved her studio in there after his death in 1956.  There were a ton of supplies and even Krasner's painting shoes.

And here is the famous studio floor, covered in paint from all the drips.  I would have loved to see inside the studio, but I hit a serious snag.  To preserve the floor, anyone who goes into the studio has to wear special shoes.  Unfortunately, I did not know this and I was wearing sandals.  There is NO WAY I was putting my bare feet into shoes worn on a regular basis by the general public.  If you want to know how I reacted to that news, picture Felix Unger, Jerry Seinfeld or Sheldon Cooper and you'll know exactly what I was thinking.  The security guard found this hysterical and took pity on me.  He let me take a few photos from the steps leading into the studio so I could get a few photos of the floor.

We then went into the house.  You can enter through the back door and step right into the kitchen.

Across from the kitchen is a wall with some art work on it.  One of the paintings is a copy of a Lee Krasner work that was done by artist Margaret Von Biesen for the movie.

Also hanging there is this painting by Jackson Pollock.  Gerard Weinstock, his neighbor across the street, was an attorney and Pollock asked him to draft a will, leaving his entire estate to Lee Krasner.  In exchange for his legal services, Pollock offered Weinstock his pick of several works of art and this is the one he chose.

This was the first painting to enter the museum's collection.  After Mr. Weinstock's death, his wife donated the painting to the study center.

There is a large display case in the living room showcasing papers and receipts.  I loved being able to see the paperwork and receipts relating to the sale of paintings and gallery shows.  It really gives a sense of what was going on with their art at the time.  I always wonder about things like this.  None of the people involved had any idea that this paperwork would end up in a museum one day.  I wonder what they would think about it.

Contract between Jackson Pollock and Peggy Guggenheim for Pollocks show at Art Of This Century Gallery

An invoice from The Museum Of Modern Art for one of Pollock's paintings.  They paid $3,000  for the painting from the Betty Parsons Gallery

A gallery goer at Betty Parsons clearly was not a fan of Pollock's artwork

Moving on through the house, there was a little den housing books and music as well as some art work.  It looked like a great place to sit and relax after a day of work.

A letter from Sidney Janis

There are a few rooms upstairs.  Lee Krasner painted up there before taking over the barn studio.

The drawing above of Lee Krasner was done by Igor Pantuhoff, a fellow artist with whom Krasner had an eight year relationship before meeting Pollock.  A drawing using the features of Marcia Gay Harden was done for the movie.

The front of the house.  By all accounts the relationship between Pollock and Krasner was tumultuous at best, but their home was and is a lovely, peaceful place.

A few blocks from the house is the famous Springs General Store.  It looks much the same as I imagine it did in the forties and fifties.  There is a scene in the movie where Pollock can't pay his tab at the store so he offers the owner a painting.  I was dying to ask the people working behind the counter if the story was true, but didn't want to sound like some nut from the city.  It would not surprise me though. Every once in awhile a story comes out about someone finding a painting in the attic that may or may not be a Pollock. (Update-while looking for a link for the store, I happened upon this NY Times article and the story is true!  The painting is now hanging in the Musee National d'Art Moderne in Paris.  They sell a poster of it in the general store.  Mystery solved :)

This gal was greeting everyone who came into the store

We had lunch there and I had one of the best veggie burgers that I've ever eaten.  The store is in a really  beautiful spot.  You can sit outside and eat or sit on the front porch and they have kayaks for rent to take out to the pond.

I'm not sure why all of this resonated so strongly with me, but I suspect it's because every once in awhile I fantasize about giving up my apartment and New York City and moving to a quiet area and doing nothing but painting.  I don't think I could live in a rural area as this was when Pollock and Krasner were there, but I'm fascinated by those who can make that leap to fully support their art.  

If you find yourself on the East End of Long Island, do stop in to the museum and the general store.  We had a great afternoon filled with art history, good food and beautiful scenery.  And check out the movie.  Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden gave amazing performances.  It's one of my favorites.

Pollock-Krasner House And Study Center
830 Springs Fireplace Road
East Hampton, NY  11937
(631) 324-4929