The last works in Otranto

These are the last works from Otranto.

The experience has been a very positive one. There will be a few changes when I get back to Canada. I feel much more confident, more assured, more in control and cognizant of my own abilities, in so many different ways.

These artworks are based on the birds that flew in the courtyard where I was staying, but they were hard to catch in a photo. They had a joy of life, of freedom, and they taught me so much.

Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops
Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops - now in the BAU collection
Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops
Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops
Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops
Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops
Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops
Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops
Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops
Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops
Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops
Untitled Charcoal Pastel Acrylic Painting Julia Trops

One of the processes to a self portrait

I did a self portrait near the end of the residency. I was quite captivated by Andy Warhol’s Saint Apollinia, which was on display in the gallery of the Castello Aragonese.

Andy Warhol's Saint Apollinia Silkscreen print
Andy Warhol's Saint Apollinia Silkscreen print

I liked that image so much, that I did a grisaille with my minimal palette of white, titan buff, and earth tones in pastels, fixed with medium. This is a process I follow (doing a rendition close to the original) when I am going to change the image in to my own expression. Not always, of course, sometimes I just paint …. but this time I did:

Self Portrait after Andy Warhol's Saint Apollina
Self Portrait after Andy Warhol's Saint Apollina Minimal Palette

And the final expression with the same materials:

Self Portrait Acrylic Pastel Painting Julia Trops
Self Portrait Acrylic Pastel Painting Julia Trops

More on the artwork from Otranto

There are no titles for these works just yet. I do know they are responses to the environment, the people, the energies in Otranto and the surrounding area.

Charcoal Graphite Drawing Painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite Drawing Painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite Drawing Painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite Drawing Painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite Drawing Painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite Drawing Painting Julia Trops
Charcoal Graphite Drawing Painting Julia Trops Italy
Charcoal Graphite Drawing Painting Julia Trops

The most beneficial thing I did in Italy was give myself the permission to create works as they came, without judgement or contrived artifice. As both Lucio Pozzi and Gianni Sirch (the visiting critics) said, these are very honest and open.

The Story of Otranto – Part 2: The Cathedral

The Cathedral dominates the old town. It sends out peals of joy, expectation and command. From early morning salutation at 7 am to the end of the day notification 12 hours later, it reminds residents and visitors of its presence and symbols.

Here are a few excerpts from the book “Perle del Salento”, published by SOSalentovacanze.com. It tells the story of the area in the south of Italy.

The Cathedral built in 1068 Otranto Italy
The Cathedral built in 1068 Otranto Italy
The Cathedral built in 1068 Otranto Italy
The Cathedral built in 1068 Otranto Italy
The Cathedral of Otranto
The Cathedral of Otranto

So many stories and myths here. Some have been captured in the images on these columns, and the multi-level education on the mysteries of existence are available in the mosaic floor. Art speaks to the subconscious and many surreal images are present in great abundance.

The columns with many symbols and stories Otranto
The columns with many symbols and stories
The columns with many symbols and stories
The columns with many symbols and stories - closeup

There is a shrine to the Otranto Martyrs (more to come). This is a visual reminder of steadfast faith, a belief in a higher power for all to see.

The Otranto Martyrs shrine
The Otranto Martyrs shrine

Those who come to Otranto can not be but affected by its sublime energies. I’ve said it’s a different world here, and it is. It is in the land, in the sea. Its very existence is primal, and pure, and authentic. The connections to a higher plane, in my opinion, is strong and tangible. This has definitely had an impact on my work here. If you are open, you can feel it. It’s wonderful.

Untitled Charcoal and Graphite drawing painting
Untitled Charcoal and Graphite drawing painting
Untitled Charcoal and Graphite drawing painting
Untitled Charcoal and Graphite drawing painting
Untitled Charcoal and Graphite drawing painting
Untitled Charcoal and Graphite drawing painting

I am still processing what these images mean. Once that is done, they will have titles. So far they are experiences and a record of existence.

Some of the history of Otranto – Part 1

There is a strong sense of identity here. People appear to know who they are. The rest of the world exists, but it does not seem to touch them.

Here are a few excerpts from the book “Perle del Salento”, published by SOSalentovacanze.com. It tells the story of the area in the south of Italy. Thousands of years though can not be put in one or two paragraphs, but it becomes clear that this area has a strong history from megaliths, dolmen and menhirs to current religious bent. But there is an undercurrent that I am feeling that leads me to believe the old gods are not dead, that there is a co-existence of beliefs, that it is in the south of Italy where the spirits of the air and sea join with those of the earth and fire.

The history of Otranto 1
The history of Otranto 1
The history of Otranto 3
The history of Otranto 3
The history of Otranto 4
The history of Otranto 4

More to follow.

Trip to Lecce, Roman Ruins and the Duomo

June 4th, the first Monday was our trip to Lecce (pronounced Lay’ cheh) and to the art supply store. It was a beautiful walk around the city centre to the ancient Roman ruins, and the Renaissance Duomo. Barry was not at the first trip, but he was at the second time I was there, so I took pictures with him:

Barry at the Duomo in Lecce Italy Where's Barry?
Barry at the Duomo in Lecce Italy
Barry at the Roman Ruins in Lecce Where's Barry Koala Hospital Australia
Barry at the Roman Ruins in Lecce Where's Barry Koala Hospital Australia
Barry at the Roman Ruins in Lecce Where's Barry Koala Hospital Australia
There's a concert tonight at the Amphitheatre in Lecce Where's Barry Koala Hospital Australia
Barry got locked up in Lecce Where's Barry Koala Hospital Australia
Barry got locked up in Lecce, Italy

I am not much of a church person, but the architecture was wonderful, the places people lived, again was stunning. Old balconies, palaces that have been turned in to flats, the history, the feelings, the eminence of life and living, souls who were trapped or who chose to stay. The streets were quiet when we went, as it was still the quiet time of the day where people did not go outside.

Dinner was at Alle Due Corti, and was grand, I thought. Many dishes were passed around, appetizers of zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, red pepper, so much! Then there was the actual dinner of pasta and vegetables. I have no idea the names of them, but the Italians certainly know how to cook!

Memory brings its own identity

The Overview of the residency

When I applied to the BAU residency for Otranto, my project proposal was fairly specific. My focus in art is the female nude, the female identity. The area and the country was important because of its cultural significance to the perception of the female. I was going to explore the idea of the feminine as it manifests in this specific area and in Italy in general, through stories and observations.  The first week was going to focus on sisters, the second, the female as a sensual/sexual person, and the third mothers, and the fourth, grandmothers/aunts.  In this way, I would be able to have goals to work towards, and have an outline that would guide the works. It was a way for me to focus, and produce, and I thought it would be a fairly easy month.

That’s not how it turned out.

As I settled in to the castle, where my studio is, and as I walked around Otranto, and as I lived in my flat, which is in the old castle walls, and I participated in the field trips, the dinners; I was open to it all. I experienced a shift. I brought nothing with me but knowledge and memory of the past and the present: who I am, where I came from. Memory will bring its own identity.

The works that I started to produce were …. fine, I guess, but they were not sufficient to express what it was that I was feeling, that I was absorbing … The first weeks’ works are below … I am sure you can see where the shift took place.

Each set of works has its own story to tell, the progress of an artwork is closely linked to the progress of the experience, the progress of a soul.

Food in Italy does not have to be expensive

When I first thought about coming to Italy, one of the considerations was the cost of food and restaurants. How expensive was it going to be?

Having a kitchen was an expected thing, but for someone like me who is kitchen challenged, I was a little nervous on how it was all going to happen.

I learned about the market on Wednesdays, and how inexpensive everything was. A full bag of groceries – 4 potatoes, 8 zucchini, 2 red peppers, 2 small onions, 3 large spinach bunches, and about 8 cups of full green beans was about 3EU. This was enough for me to have dinners for the week.

Veggie dinner potatoes spinach red pepper onion green beans zucchini
Veggie dinner potatoes spinach red pepper onion green beans zucchini

I brought with me some Body by Vi protein powder which I have twice a day, breakfast and lunch, so I don’t have to think about it. I bought some cooking cocoa for about 1EU, and I have nescafe for my morning coffee, so I make a mocha shake with ice for lunch. So so yummy. And refreshing!

I have a gas stove hooked up to a tank. I have never used a gas stove before, so did not realize the height of the flame is important. Well it is. Combine that with a pot that is too small for the burner, and can you guess what happened to the handles of the pot? I have to buy a new pot.

Size of the flame and the burner really does matter
Size of the flame and the burner really does matter

In addition to the protein shakes I have for breakfast and lunch, sometimes I will have a small snack of Crustinis, cream cheese and jam. If I have run out of veggies, this becomes my dinner. Believe it or not it is very filling.

Sometimes a dinner, sometimes a snack: cream cheese, crustini and jam
Sometimes a dinner, sometimes a snack: cream cheese, crustini and jam

Dinner can be inexpensive at the restaurant if you have a panini or a pizza. The pizza here is sublime with a thin thin crust and yummy cheese and veggies on top. These will run you between 4EU to 6EU.  When I get a pic of the Spinach pizza, I will post it up. So yummy.

Internet connection thoughts – free(!) wifi or Internet cafe?

Arrival in Otranto was wonderful. It was like walking back in to a different time, a different part of existence. I realized that time and space was not the same here, as the rest of the world. There is magic here. Traveling throughout the country side, it felt that the elements themselves held sway: by the Adriatic Sea, it was water and air, and the deeper inland, it was fire and earth. Kinda reminded me of the Robert Jordan tale of Rand Al’Thor and the Aes Sedai.

How to keep connected to the outside world was a hard one for me to decide. Because of my budget, I had to forecast how much the internet cafe would be, and how much purchasing a phone would be. At the internet cafe, it cost about 2EU for half an hour, and that was the minimum amount of time that I was spending on the net per day. I did all my typing at home on my mac, and brought a thumb drive to upload. Even so, keeping up with  my family, my husband and children, was an important thing for me to do.

The town has a free wifi, but in order to get a login, I had to send a txt message to them. The response from them was one’s login and password. Seemed easy enough. My blackberry worked with SMS, but I never got an answer back. After a few attempts and trouble shooting (which cost about $25 Cdn in SMS charges) I realized that it had to be an Italian phone. Checking out prices, I found I could get one for about 50EU.

Weighing out the costs, I decided to purchase the super cheap Samsung cell phone. No bells and whistles, it only does calls and SMS, no camera etc. I already had a camera in my ITouch, so it was not important. Instead the importance was cost. I did have to provide my passport as identification, but that was not a problem.

The phone was 25EU, activation was 10EU and I got a 5EU prepaid card. For being in Otranto for 30 days, at a minimum of 2EU a day, was 60EU. Even with the SMS charges already billed, it made sense to do this, so that is what I did. Plus, when I come back next year, I will be able to use it again, and it is good to have in case of emergency should we need to call anyone during the remaining time in Italy.

The only downside of this equation is that the service is not guaranteed, it is interrupted and disconnected often, and it is very slow. But for what I need to use it for, it is excellent. And with this much magic in the area, how can it not affect the mundane connections?

Lastly, if you are ever in a cafe in Italy, ask if they have wifi. The answer may be yes, they just have to turn it on.  There is also a required by law pre-amble of proper use (i.e. no porn sites), but the shop owner is happy to oblige. He will tell you what the connection name is, and just let him/her know when you are done, with Finito, grazie!  I leave a few EU for them, as a thank you when they do not charge.

 

Rome Day 4 and departure for Otranto

I had been dreading this day since I got off the metro with my humungous suitcases.

I thought perhaps i would walk to the Termini rather than take the metro, thinking it would be too complicated to go through again. I started out, but neglected to consult my map. As a result I got turned around by the next block. Thinking that I knew my way was a mistake. Got out my trusty map and checked my bearings. Walked back to the metro station and gave in. I took the elevator down. I had only one small set of stairs to drag up both suitcases, about 14 steps, so that was not too bad. The rest was all escalators. The train station is very well laid out, and I found the departure track very easily.

The train itself, the FrecciaArgente, was nice and clean. I had a guy across from me who was addicted to his cell phone and had to be calling on it constantly. Apparently he didn’t buy the right ticket, and I understood enough Italian to hear the porter tell him he should have bought the right ticket at the beginning of the trip in Rome, rather than then, with her. He had to pay her an extra 25EU. He was embarrassed and said that he is getting reimbursed for it anyway and it was no big deal. After she left, he called someone and told them he had to pay extra. I thought that was funny.

Throughout my trip, I have been paying attention to the female and the roles she is playing in this society. She really does have a lot of power here. It’s quite interesting to see, because the average female does not seem to be aware of it.

Arriving in Lecce (pronounced Laycheh), we had a cab driver named Guido, who took three of us, another Julia and Robert Solomon to Otranto. It was an interesting cab ride in that it reminded me of the driving in Cairo. Lines were decorations on the road, and if you could pass someone you did. Speed and the proximity of the car in front of you did not seem to matter. He was a good driver for sure, because we got to Otranto safely.

Dagmar and Paola met us near the Castello, and Dagmar walked me to my flat. Twenty five stairs straight up to a flat that is on the primo piano in the old wall. I loved it!