Here are excerpts from emails to my Mum, quick observations during my stay in Farindola. She has travelled with me to Glori, a similar village in Liguria, so I knew that she would visualise these scenes so well!
Arrived in Farindola, a small village perched on the mountainside in Abruzzo. Ten artists and three partners, on a two week residency organised by Paul and Helen Critchley – the first Farindola International Arts Festival. The next day we wake to stunning blue skies and scortching sunshine. We all start to organise our studio spaces and materials, we are painters, sculptors, printmakers and sketchers.
Last night the Mayor invited us to a big communal meal in the square; complete with a band in long wigs, locals dancing and us ‘Artistas’ presented on stage – waving frantically – due to the total lack of Italian language (and a lot of wine)
Our pad is a hostel for under privileged kids (they are not there!) We are two Dutch, two German, four English, three Americans. We are all in our own small dorm with lots of bunk beds and a makeshift double. No windows, no fresh air…so I move my mattress down into a communal area with a window so I can sleep. Quite happy here.
Two days in, things are falling into place …we are all in seperate abandoned houses along a fiesta/food trail. We are being jolly British and accepting that there will never be electricity in the studio ( to work the fan that torments me ) that we will always have to walk up and down that damn hill dripping with sweat, that the breeze will always just miss my studio door….
The town coucillor has agreed to put the electricity on ( it is plugged into the streetlamp ) for one hour in the morning, alas like most mornings his mobile is not on, so no electricity. The sun beams on the front of my studio until 2pm. It is airless due to unusally hot weather for this area. I stick my collages with glue and sweat! Open studios in Italian each evening! My language skills are improving rapidly. ‘Complimenti’ ‘Bellissimo’ ‘Grazie’
Otherwise I am getting up at 6 to avoid the heat and collaging lots, the others are painting and sculpting.
I have about 10 collages on the go and some big stick drawings. – all which confuse my Italian neighbours.
Well today is the BIG preparation day for tonight’s fiesta…you can imagine the last minute sweatiness and chasing around..
Claus wants to erect a ladder on the top of the church…! He has signed two disclaimers and only when the midday sun was burning high did they all go up and have ‘many discussions and fixings’. It is up! A ladder to the sky. Two pigeons perch on it, quite unimpressed, just before the grey skies rolled in with thunder and lightning…there is a rumour that God is not happy with the meddling’s on his church roof! Danny needs to move his carved stone head up and down steps to my studio, Melanie’s plaster is taking a long time to dry, Hans needs power for his laptop…I would just like my fan to rotate…:)
Day 8 in big brother house. 8 am and all the inmates are sleeping. Karen has done her washing and made lentil soup.
‘Karen, come to the diary room. Why the sudden domesticity?’ Richard arrives into all this madness tonight I reply, I am slightly concerned about how he will acclimatise to the heat and all these smiley happy Italians who run around doing everything tomorrow. Will he like lemon liquors for breakfast and deep fried pizza at midnight? Will he mind sleeping on the common room floor in our home for wayward, grubby artists and being woken by flies, baking heat and barking dogs? I console myself with the fact that he has his saxaphone and a tiny car, he could always sit in it with the aircon on!!
After a week of walking up and down hills and steps I can now say ‘stankissima’ – I am so tired. At last my legs feel much stronger and my hamstrings have stopped hurting! (Different muscle useage to my usual Iyengar yoga and cycling)
Yesterday evening was pretty quiet in the studio, apart from the odd band that popped in! The singer told us that he lived in America and this was God’s place and he had never known such wonderful people. His mama is 96 and makes fresh pasta every day. They really are so happy and friendly, the young and old mix, talk, laugh and dance together. They tell us long stories about their village and family (in Italian) and for three days now I have tried to pay for my morning tea and croissant and always someone has already taken care of it.
It gets more bizarre day by day. Today my job was to be in the square at 7.30am (after walking up and down dale) I thought that I would be alone with the tour groups; they were due to leave every half hour on a two hour walking and food sampling tour ( Camminarmangiando) aided by very strong liquors!
But the square was buzzing with all our new neighbours, dressed up for a spot of country dancing, a man making honey, ladies lace making,chopping salami and dancing, and a beautiful 12 year old girl playing the accordion. A lot of jolly singing and dancing then the first walking group set off and everyone sat down for a chat, I sketched.As soon as the next group appeared around the corner everyone leapt to life! Full on music, dancing, eating, and drinking for 10 minutes then all quiet again. After four hours of this we began to feel like performing chimps! Homemade lemon liquor made by such a sweet lady made me cross eyed. Then we walked slightly wobbly, up and down steps to dine in another square…..
It’s now 9pm and we have another two hours of Open Studios before we catch the minibus back to the ostel; a group of tired, sweaty grubby artists (last night we just squeezed on before the band and all their instruments) One more night to go and we realise how much we are going to miss this place; the wonderfully open hearted locals, the italian ‘organisation’, Paul, Helen and Michael,our little band of pioneer artists, the magnificant scenery….’Grazie tutti’ I am sure we will be back.