Thursday, April 16, 2009

Leaving Florence with an aching in my heart...

My goodness, it has been a while.  I’m sorry about this, but things have been quite busy.  Last week there was a bunch of art shows to put up and attend, and this week was finals.  Oh mama mia!

Its strange, to think about leaving.  My last few days in Florence are going to be spent walking around, crying, thinking...I don't know.  I'm so terribly sad.  Not in a depressed way, but in a quiet, calm way, as if it is a calm, deep stream that flows within me.  I feel like I am leaving a lover, in a way.  Not in a violent way, but in a way that must happen when both parties know it must be done. It is so strange.  My heart feels strange.   It is all just a dream and I'm about to wake up.

It’s also very strange for me to think about how much I’ve changed. There are things about me that are so much different than before.  I deal with unpleasant situations so much better than before.  I can let go of things so much more easily.  I freak out a lot less (I still have a long way to go with this though).  There are also things that are different about me that are the result of living in a city.  I’m completely desensitized to the homeless.  I can remember being a little girl and being afraid of homeless people when I was in LA.  I rarely see something that makes me jump due to despair or fear these days.  I’m also much more assertive and pushy, compared to how I used to be.  Only because I’ve had to become this way; when you come face to face daily with about 400 people trying to sell you something, or saying inappropriate things, or begging for money, you have to be able to say no firmly, push around a person, or simply walk away.  There are many positive things that have come with living in a city, too, though.  I love living in a city, for so many reasons.  Every day I look out into the same courtyard and walk on the same streets and every day it is different.  Every day I come into contact with human beings.  I smell them, brush past them, and accidentally end up in their photos.  I come face to face with people I will never see again, and these simple moments are so beautiful and have made me so deeply aware of how interconnected we all are. 

Coming here has really helped me to simplify my life, something I have been working on for the past two years.  I don’t text people constantly, I don’t watch television, I’m not on the computer often, I don’t online shop, I don’t read tons of magazines, and you know what, I don’t miss any of those things.  This simplification goes much father than no longer wasting my time in front of screens, though.  I find joy in simple things: cooking, reading a good book, writing, taking walks.  I am so much more aware and open to the simple beauty all around me.  I no longer (most of the time), waste my time with negative thoughts, self-destructive thoughts, and habits that go along with such thoughts.  I’ve become, not more self-confident, but more self aware, accepting and loving of who I am.  I hope, I sincerely hope, that once I am home I continue to keep my life simplified.  I am so much happier than ever before.   I think that the American way of life really goes against simplification, in many ways.  But it is so important for all of us to really earnestly search, within ourselves and our experiences, to find the lives we are supposed to lead.  We get lost in what is the culturally and socially acceptable way to live, but that is not how we are all meant to live.  I believe, in fact, that most of us are not supposed to live that way, and yet we do, because we do not know how to live another way, because we have not taken the time to find out what our own constitution is, and how it leads us to live.  Or we have figured that out, but we have not worked to live that way.  I am now, since coming here, beginning to see the way I am supposed to live, what my system and constitution is.  And I am going to work hard to live my way. 

Since coming here I’ve been able to really feel what my priorities in life are.  People are the most import part of my life.  My friends and family really are the most important things to me.  I also really do love travel.  I want to learn, I love to learn, I want to experience as much as I possibly can.  I don’t know what I want to do when I graduate.  I have no idea.  I don’t  know that I want to try to get into the art world.  I don’t know if I want to find a career path.  But I do know that I want to travel, as much as possible.  And not just hostel through places, I want to experience life in places.  I want to live in Morocco for a spell, I want to live in France, I want to live in India…I want to experience life in places, not just look at famous things.

I know, of course, that I have changed quite a bit, and that I won’t see the half of it until I’ve been home for a while.  I might not see the full effect until some time next year.  I don’t know.  That is very exciting, and is a big part of why I wanted to study abroad.  This whole experience, I don’t even know what to say, what to think!


You know, its funny, I came here to make art and become a better artist.  I don’t really know if that’s happened.  I’ve learned a lot about Baroque art and Italian Opera, two subjects I am much more interested and in love with than before.  Oh! I love Opera now.  And I love Batik, as well.  But I haven’t become much better of a painter.  I am more aware of why I paint and what painting means to me, which I suppose is good.  I’ve grown a lot as a person, so I think in the long run that will make me a better artist. 


All my love,


Thursday, April 2, 2009

We do actually do work...

Katy, Joey and I have been talking a lot about places we've been, things we've seen, and things we've tried, but we haven't discussed anything about why we came to Italy in the first place: our studies!

The school here is a lot different than our little art department.  There's a lot more students  here (around 150!), and of course it's in a city.  I honestly miss our department terribly.  Our sense of family, the way we interact, critique and encourage one another, and of course how much fun we have together, I just don't think you can find that anywhere else!  I find the environment here rather hard to work in.  But, nevertheless, I have been working!

I love my Batik class. We paint on silk, and we also dip silk scarves into different dye baths.  I am really on a roll with it right now; I can't get enough of it!  Up above you can see a detail from a scarf I just finished, with Pinocchio dancing!

I've also been painting, of course.  I'm not as much into painting right now as I would like to be.  Batik, writing and photography have been taking over my creative mind.  I have done some paintings based off of Paris architecture (the first painting), and some small paintings based off of quiet moments in my life (second painting).  I am also in the middle of two paintings based off of Pere-Lachaise (you can see one of them, the last).  My trip to France gave me a lot of inspiration, if you couldn't tell.  

So thats just a bit of what I've been doing.  Katy and Joey have been busy as well.  I don't want you guys thinking we've completely forgotten about our studies!

all my love,

Friday, March 27, 2009

a Roman holiday of sorts!

Well my dearest of dear friends,

Today, this fine Friday March 27, 2009, I went on a Roman holiday of sorts.  I went for an adventure. I woke up (really early), and went to Rome for the day, all by my lonesome. 

I wanted to go back to Rome for a number of reasons.  I wanted to see the Sistine Chapel and Vatican city.  I wanted to hang out in another country for a while.  I also wanted to be brave! 

So I know that going to Rome for the day isn’t an entirely courageous thing to do, not in the least.  But I’ve wanted to be less regimented and worried about planning things out perfectly here of late.  I want to have the ability to go with the flow, let things happen and not worry all the time.  I have a friend, Kas, who I quite admire.  She is a neuroscience major but decided to come to saci to study art for a semester.   Kas is funny, incredibly smart, a talented photographer, and a generally nice person to be around.  I admire her ability to simply let things happen and not worry about the future.  Recently I asked her how she does this; this going places and doing things without worrying about it.  She told me, quite simply, “Emily, sometimes you have to just go. Just go.  Leap and believe in the universe to catch you, or at least let you land where you need to be.” 

So today, I went to Rome in an attempt to push myself out of my hermit-y comfort zone (and to see some great art!).  I didn’t plan anything beyond getting my train tickets the night before, and I just went. 

And you know what, I had a really nice time!  Wandering around the city with just myself, deciding what to do as I went, working hard to not freak out about the little things, taking my time places, stopping to look at weird postcards…it was great! I enjoyed the time alone and spent a good deal of time reading in the Piazza San Pietro (you know, that area outside Saint Peter’s that’s supposed to be like two arms reaching out to the faithful to pull them into the safety of the faith, but really it just makes me think of a phallic symbol).   

Seeing the Sistine Chapel was neat.  The more time I spent straining to see it the more interesting and impressive it became.  But at the same time, all of the people talking and taking pictures and the attendants shouting for “silence!” and “no photos!” really kept it from being any sort of a religious experience.  I know people want to see it because it’s so beautiful and impressive, but all those people trying to see it make it so much less beautiful and impressive.  Its hard, this whole tourism situation.

It was strange, at one point while I was looking up, I realized that someday this ceiling would be like the ruins that are scattered throughout the city.  Someday people wouldn’t know who painted it.  Someday the whole ceiling might not even be there.  Someday there will not be people crowding to see it.  It was a humbling moment, and a shock as well. 


I also went into Saint Peter’s, which is large and in charge.  That’s really the only way that I know how to describe it, or the whole of Vatican City.  The interior is quite powerful.  What I liked about it most was the floor.  Beautiful different marble tiles in circles and squares (So of course I would like it)!  It was really quite impressive and beautiful.  I don’t know how many people notice it because of the ceilings and sculptures, which is unfortunate.


On the way home from my grand adventure, I got to watch the sun set over the Tuscan countryside.  All of the colors!; the blues and greens and purples, all fading off into the distance.  The last beams of sunlight falling on long-abandoned farmhouses illuminated their age and longevity, but stated quite plainly that these structures too would fade away, just as the sun was fading. 

My day of adventure probably doesn’t seem like much of an adventure to most people; wandering around a city, hanging out in a church and reading isn’t all that exciting I suppose.  But when I got to Rome, I knew what I wanted to do, and I just did it.  So I guess I can just go! and do things, my hermit-y things, all over the world.  Whenever and where ever I like.  I just have to go, like Kas says.  



Italy vs the US of A

I must admit, that you really could just come to Italy for the food alone.  It fabulous, filling, lush, rich, decadent, simple….any kind of meal you want, you can get, better than you ever imagined, in Italy.  But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when I’m not wishing for some cheesey-filleds from Padrones.  And so, this is how I find myself; torn between two worlds.  There are things about Italy that I love, but there are certainly things about America that I miss.  I want both worlds, but I guess you just can’t always get what you want. 

Things I love about Italy that you can’t get in the US of A:

-The coffee.  You won’t taste anything like it anywhere else in the world.

-The fresh food markets, which are actually all over Europe.  They have fresh local food for dirt cheap….big grocery stores with frozen foods just can’t compete. 

-The ‘oldness’ of everything around you, everywhere you go.  There’s something magical and overwhelming about walking on and in history at all times.

-Cobble stone streets.  They’re actually kind of dangerous, because the rocks stick up and move, but they’re cool looking. 


-The windows here are so cool.  We don’t have screens; we have shutters!!!!  Like you imagine in old-fashioned houses, except all the windows here are like that!!!!  Every morning I wake up and open the shutters, stick my torso out the window to look at the sky, and smile. 

-The Duomo.  I love this magnificent beauty and make a point to go and see it daily.

-Hearing about 17 trillion different languages every time you step out your door.  Sometimes this makes me feel stupid, but it’s also really beautiful to my ears, and has really motivated me to work on my French.  It’s just really cool living around so many different cultures.  And we get them all where our apartment is located.

-Being around and mixed in with tons of people everywhere you walk.  I love people watching, I love getting lost in big crowds.  I know I can do this in America, but there aren’t as many languages or goofy tourists in the mix.  Sometimes it’s overwhelming with all the tourists being here now, but it’s also really fun to watch them!

-Um, in Florence, everyone walks in the middle of the street.  I’m completely used to just strolling in roads where cars go nowadays.  This is going to be a huge adjustment to make when I get back to the states and is probably going to endanger me at some point. 

- The ability to walk to where ever to get whatever you need.  I love walking all the time.  I LOVE not needing a car, ever. 

-How fabulous and well dressed everyone is all the time no matter what the day.

-All of the stupendous, beautiful, interesting, (sometimes) decrepit architecture and buildings.

-Beaver-Rats!  Yes, I actually really enjoy watching these little critters and am going to miss them!


Things I love about the US of A that you can’t get in Italy:

-the ability to get food from a store after 8 pm.  I love all the fresh food markets, but sometimes I’d like to be able to run into a store and get some Ben & Jerry’s at 10 pm if I feel like it. 

-People aren’t constantly cat-calling and whistling at you everywhere you go!!!!! I’m looking forward to hanging out with some nice, funny, down to earth American boys this summer, who don’t act like I’m some sort of animal. 

-Cheesey-filleds.  Fred Frances knows what I’m talking about (mostly because he had to call Pedrones every other night this fall to order me some so I’d shut up about wanting them).

-People in lines.  Italians apparently don’t know how to make lines.  I’m being serious here.  I read an article that they had line-making practices in Beijing before the Olympics this last summer.  The Italians should think about doing that too…..This is not a whole Europe thing, its only in Italy.  

-Organization.  You guys think the American government is unorganized and all over the place.  You have no idea how organized it actually is.  In Italy, phone numbers can be however many digits long, because there is no set length for them.  I already told you about the line issue.  Those are just small parts of an over all unorganized painting that is Italy.  Who knows about Italian customs and mail….

-Using toilettes that don’t run on mechanical grinders, whatever those are. 

-Not constantly being around pre, early and high renaissance art.  OH MY GOSH I SAID THAT!  Yes I know that that’s a terrible thing to say.  I love it and appreciate the beauty of all of it, but sometimes it can become daunting and overwhelming, seeing that stuff all the time.  Oh man was it nice to be in Paris and see art that had nothing to do with Madonna and Child and was made in the 1900s.  Or the 1800’s.  Or just post Renaissance.  I like to see the painter’s hand in the work, you know?

-Um, I miss people speaking American.  I love the different languages, but sometimes I long to hear people saying things that I can understand.

-My friends, family and my poochies!  That’s cliché, but it’s the truth.  They’re the most important part of my life.



Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh, Vesuvius, you sneaky little mountain

Hello, all! Sorry it's been so long since my last post, I'm not so great at maintaining these things... just one of those things I need to work on I guess.

Anyway, two weekends ago I was able to go on the school-sponsored trip to Pompeii. Sadly none of the roommates were able to join, including Emily and Joey, but I was looking forward to it nonetheless. I didn't quite know what to expect- I'd heard and read about this ancient site for years, but never really had I had a clear understanding of what it looks like now- like the roman ruins? like abandoned cities we have today? a crypt? So, needless to say, I was quite excited to actually go.

After a long bus ride (+/- four hours), we arrive at the hotel we will be staying at in the modern city of Pompei, in the region of Napoli. A surprisingly lively city, considering what lies on the other side of the fence. And, actually, the ancient city of Pompeii is just on the other side of a gate from the modern city. Walking down the road, you would never know you are about to enter the ruins if it weren't for all the vendors outside of the gate trying to sell you souvenirs of Pompeii / Italy. So we enter the site on a beautiful, warm day, ready for anything. Everything seems to open up around me as we enter. Ruins, if I haven't mentioned this before, are one of my favorite places in cities, because they are so open and clear and green and quiet. Incidentally, the first road we walk down leads us through the old cemetary... it was odd how well preserved all the tombs were, in this city that really is a tomb in itself. It is also very cool how the cobblestoned streets preserved the grooves from the bronze wheels of ancient carts. And all the streets are still paved in their orginal cobblestone/ pavingstone, complete with stepping stones across some of the intersections so people wouldn't have to step through the muck of the streets. The whole ruins are cool. I thoroughly enjoyed it... I'm also just kind of nerdy that way. For those of you who aren't as into history / as nerdy as I am, Pompeii was silenced and preserved in 79 AD when Mount Visuvius erupted, covering the city in volcanic ash, and killing the inhabitants with noxious fumes and... volcanic ash. Because of this terrible act of nature, we now have a well-preserved ancient Roman site! And it is well-preserved. In the houses (the ceilings have since degraded/eroded away in many, though not all, cases) we can still found beautiful paintings, frescoes, mosaics, etc. The colors are so vibrant!! It's unreal thinking that they are 2000 years old. Animals, geometric designs, people, advertisements, landscapes, graffitti... all can be found in the buildings. It was refreshing seeing some good old-fashioned happy paganism.
So, lets talk about the people of Pompeii. They were small. Both short and thin. Also, contrary to the ideas that articles tended to put in my head, they are not all over the streets, preserved in agony. Maybe they were, but now there are a handful on display behind glass in one of the houses, as well as some stacked non-chalantly on shelves in storage rooms by the Forum. Very strange to see. If you see a body of one of the citizens of pompeii, what you are seeing is a plaster cast of the cavity the body left in the ash. The soft, organic material began decomposing as soon as it was uncovered, so this is the solution the archeologists or whomever came up with. It's really interesting, because on some of them you can see casts of the clothing and shoes, and some have bones (skull or finger bones generally) sticking out of the edges of the plaster. The actual bones. It was interesting, sad, strange, and a little surreal knowing that these people were actually people who lived, worked, played, in the streets of this ancient city; they had names, and families, and were part of the unlucky number who were unable to flee the horrors of the nearby volcano. Any yet, in this unlucky tragedy they suffered, they survive, in a way.... they allow us to study their lives, learn about the daily life of ancient Romans, the history of Western civilization, etc. I felt a little bad taking pictures, but I had to. I couldn't not document this moment for myself. So, yes, it was cool. We walked the streets of almost everything that has been uncovered (about 2/5 of the city remains covered), exploring houses, brothels, baths, temples, bars, shops, courtyards, etc. We then took our bus to Herculanium (by the sea!). Now, Herculanium is slightly different from Pompeii in two ways. 1. It was attacked by the volcanic eruption differently (namely lava), and thus has been able to preserve different elements of the city; and 2. A modern city has been built on top of the ancient site, which makes it a little difficult to uncover the majority of the site. Somehow, because of the lava rather than ash, wood was preserved in many places. Wooden window frames, ceiling rafters, etc. can still be found- they look like charcoal, all black and burned-looking, but they remain. It's pretty wild. Not much in the way of bodies, more skeletons, and most of the skeletons or other interesting object you see in the ruins are plaster casts of the original, which lie in the museum at the entrance (built but never opened in the 70s... it is now falling apart itself from lack of use and maintenance. Italian organization at its finest.)

After a full day of walking along ruins, we watched the sunset from Mt Vesuvius, then bussed back to the hotel. A friend (and roommate for the weekend) and I found some DELICIOUS and relatively cheap pizza, then sneakily took the elevator to the topmost floor of our hotel- which, come to find out, is the roof. So we hung out up there for a while, looking at the city spread out beneath us, lit up in the night, with lights on roads of distant mountains making strings of diamonds in the darkness. It was pretty cool.

Naples, the following day, consisted of museums and longing glances toward the beautiful park outside, full of families enjoying their Sunday in the sun and grass. Then lunch on the harbor next to a castle (that apparently at one point in its history housed a jail, and an escaped alligator which may or may not have been the cause of several prisoners' dissappearances, then masked as "escapes"), then back on the bus for Florence!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


look at that Beaver-Rat swim!  I watched him swim across the Arno!!!!

So, I know all of you have probably heard me mention Beaver-Rats.  If you haven't, let me explain.  Beaver-Rats (their real name is Nutria), are these giant Beavers, with giant Rat tails, that live in the Arno.  They swim along in the Arno. They sun themselves on the banks.  They relax all the time.  Whenever I walk to Cascine park, I see a few of them.  Actually, last sunday I saw 9 of them!  NINE!  How cool is that?  Three of them were cuddling.  Fred thought that they would freak me out, when I first told him about them.  I will admit, at first I was grossed out.  But the more time I spend near the Arno (and thus near Beaver-Rats), the more I have come to realize that Beaver-Rats are cute, cuddly, and pretty neat.  

So don't be alarmed if you see some when you come to Florence.  Remember they're friendly little (okay, not really little) creatures who just like relax in the sun, and don't be grossed out!


Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Grass is Always Greener?


I don't know what the weather in Ohio was like today, but today in Firenze, it was lovely!  

Since the weather has turned nice, I have been spending the last few Sundays outside; I go out by myself and explore the city, often plunking somewhere to read, sketch and write.  Today I walked along the Arno and stopped in the Cascine park.  I ended up spending the whole afternoon there, reading, sketching and relaxing in the sun.  

Before making it to Cascine I stopped at the Duomo to do some reading on her steps, but ended up talking to an Italian student, who is a friend of one of my friends.  He asked what I was reading ('A Tale of Two Cities' by Charles Dickens), and we talked about books and movies.  Both of us like Tim Burton movies and are looking forward to 'Alice in Wonderland', whenever that is coming out.  Of course he asked me where I was from, and when I told him Ohio he got very excited.  He looked at me and said, "You live in the middle of America.  The largest university in the States is in the middle of Ohio!  That place is like a city!"  I found it quite astonishing that he not only knew where Ohio was, but he knew about OSU, and knew how large the campus was.  He remarked that he liked it there, and then went on to say "I love America!  Every few years I feel that I need to travel to America, and I go there."  He is a Florentine, and I had told him earlier how much I loved it here and how sad I'm going to be to go home.  He didn't seem to be excited about Florence at all, and talked about how much larger OSU was, and how much he loved America.  I wonder, if because we live somewhere, we become so accustomed to the beauty and 'coolness' of the place that we can no longer see it?