Friday, October 27, 2017

Traveling in Italy - Traveling


"Can't be late if you don't have a timetable
 Can't get lost if you don't have a destination."       
                                      Colin Stafford-Johnson

On a plane going to an airport I've never been to, in a country I've never visited, with a language I don't really know, to catch another plane to another country, to find a bus to meet a ride to a facility for an artist's residency.  What was I thinking!  But as one instructor told me if you aren't uncomfortable then you aren't learning.  I'm about as uncomfortable as I've ever been so I'm ripe for learning. I’m on my way to an artist residency and have no idea what to expect except that I selected one that allowed me do just one week in length, at La Macina di San Cresci, to try it out and also coincide with a workshop afterward in Florence that I’d already signed up to attend.

But, where to start on this journey?  There's been a minor seismic crisis of confidence and focus in my art related goals since I decided the crowd funding project called the Art of Food wasn't going to work out – it consumed my life for eight months and then cancelled for lack of confirmation of commitment by a partnering group.  Now, is food even still my focus?  Do I concentrate on egg tempera or oil as my medium?  Do I paint still life, landscapes or are there already enough of those or do I have a passion at all?  What do I do when I get to my first residency??  I'm beginning to panic a bit that I won't know what to paint or will be so overwhelmed I can't focus on painting at all. On the first flight I sat next to another artist with a similar problem. We both decided that it's time to explore and just see what happens. Serendipity?

After skipping over a few time zones it's actually the next day of my travels, but I haven't slept and instead have gone directly into travel mode. The airline delayed my checked bag containing all my painting supplies that were the whole purpose of this trip for an additional security check. My carry-on bags contained mostly clothes and more importantly this iPad and my cameras.  But I'm still tethered to the world of technology as my lost luggage included all chargers so this blog will only last so long.  The age of being wireless is a misnomer - it's only as good as it lasts without all the wires. Now, with all our technology, we’re really only pretending.

So here I am in the 10th century church of Le Pieve di San Cresci (pieve was a rural church with a baptistery, upon which other churches without baptisteries depended), known as one of the most important Romanesque structures in the region of Chianti, Italy, situated just outside of Montefioralle, above the town of Greve in Chianti.  After a shuttle bus from the airport into the Florence bus station, and a bus ride to Greve, I’m now somewhat settled in and Demetria has given me a tour of the facility.  She'll come back to collect me to drive into the town of Greve In Chianti to make a stop at the market for some food.  No, this isn't a hotel.  Artists are on their own for cooking and eating. The residency philosophy is ‘freedom’ – freedom to do your own thing.  This will become important later.

But getting too far ahead of myself.  Greve in Chianti is a small town about an hour south of Florence (towns in Tuscany, at least in this area, are referred to as the town name and then In Chianti) and is actually in the heart of Chianti and Tuscany wine country and this is wine harvesting season. The church and adjoining buildings have been restored by Demetria, an architect, and her husband Duccio, a designer, under the auspices and approvals of the national registry (similar to our historical commissions).  Part is their home, part is still owned by the Catholic Church (and although still sacred is no longer an operating church and, with approval of the church may be used for artistic exhibitions and performances) and the rest is La Macini di San Cresci that runs as an artist residency program listed with ResArtis and the Alliance of Artist Communities. 

Adjacent to the church and Mimma's and Duccio's home is the Artist's House where the artists live in two separate buildings. Each artist’s room is a sizable private room with sitting area, bed, and study area, two shared bathrooms, the main living room, and, in the building I’m in, a well-equipped communal kitchen.  Another connected building on the other side of the facility contains the studios, but was originally used for the olive and wine presses.  These are still there and meticulously restored - amazingly impressive since the olive press is about a two-ton mill stone and very large.  The wine press and original wooden vats take up two rooms.

In the center of all of this is an interior courtyard garden, open to the sky, and onto which my room overlooks. Bird song fills all the rooms.

All of this is set on the side of a hill overlooking a valley of vineyards and olive groves for miles in all directions, farms and a collection of very old and beautiful villas, a huge fig tree in Mimma's and Duccio's private gardens that makes the one I try to grow in my garden at home puny by comparison.