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How our Artist in Residence inspired everyone at La Fortezza

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As most of you know, this July was the first time we hosted an “artist in residence” at La Fortezza.

Honestly, It was more than I imagined it could be with Steve McKenzie. His passion for learning about the region and everything related to the art and writings and the history here so inspiring to me. I thought he would be the most inspired, but it turns out our intern, Adri, and I were just as inspired as he was. His excitement was contagious.

From the time he arrived, Steve had a vision for his collection. He wanted to use old scripts, typography and maps from the region in his artwork. That was easy to accomplish since Fivizzano has a rich history with books and the written word. We made an appointment with the librarians at the library in the center of Fivizzano and were given full access to the beautiful and amazing collection. The librarians were so excited to share the collection of rare books locked away in the archives of the library. Rare books also line the shelves of a large book room located inside the library building behind a metal grid door that needed to be unlocked for us. There as special guests in the book room, we spent an entire morning perusing the beautiful books filled with rich history and beautiful script.

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One thing we learned was that the reason there are so many books in Fivizzano is that the Lunigiana was the center of the printing between 1470 and 1474. Jacopo da Fivizzano was the first person to work with the typographic characters that were used to print texts by Giovenale, Virgilio, Cicerone, Sallustio and Cornazzano.

In Fivizzano in 1802, the typewriter is invented, and so the story goes, that Carolina Fantoni, a young contessa living in Fivizzano, was going blind. Neither her parents nor her fiancé believed her. Only her friend Turri, an eccentric local inventor, understood. As darkness erases Carolina’s world, she discovers one place where she can still see – in her dreams – yet, she remains isolated from the outside world. Desperate to communicate with Carolina, Turri creates a peculiar contraption for her: the world’s first typewriter. His gift ignites a passionate love affair that will mark both their lives forever. The book The Blind Contessa’s New Machine, by Carey Wallace romantic novel is based on this story.

We learned that there was a handwriting school in Fivizzano as well, so at one time it was the epicenter of all things written in Italy. The librarian pulled book after book, Adri took meticulous notes and Steve photographed maps and script.

We also went to the nearby town of Pontremoli where we toured the Museo Statue Stele Museum. Steve was intrigued by these ancient sculptures from 4000 BC. The museum is gorgeous and is located in a medieval castle that is beautifully designed; we were all really inspired.

Steve’s been super busy in the studio working on his collection. We are so excited to show it to everyone on July 27th here at La Fortezza, our first opening party ever. But after this incredible summer, it won’t be our last! Big thanks to Steve and our first intern, Adri, from Wellesley College. This July has been amazing! Watch for a full recap of our artist in residence on the blog.

To purchase a piece from his collection link here

xx Annette

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Steve McKenzie’s Abstract Painting Workshop at La Fortezza + Artist in residence announcement.

567F7AB6-8841-48B2-B15C-B6FE204B368F IMG_2712 IMG_2788 Ciao all!  by now you know we have been trying out a few different workshops and retreats here at La Fortezza. A few weeks ago, I had my dear friend and amazing artist Steve McKenzie here with students painting all over the place. Of course like with all workshops, we served local food and our own wine. It was 5 days of pure creative bliss. Our newly renovated out building, known as the “dependence,” worked perfectly and all guests were comfy and cozy.

Our farewell pizza party was a huge hit and visiting a local castle owned by artists was a big thrill. Thank you to Steve for making every minute count and every lesson so valuable. I even stopped my duties here to paint one morning, and it was divine. Steve is an amazing teacher. Oh and we picked a few grapes with our handsome vintner Manolo since our grape harvest was in full swing! The looks on their faces tells the story. They were all so happy!

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We also had a cooking lesson, as we do with every workshop, with retreat chef, Teri. Homemade pasta was so fun to make.

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This season we have been thinking about how to come up with a way to offer a more flexible workshop experience to folks. I have people that email us all the time asking if they can come during a visit to Italy, but we were bound to our workshop calendar. I think we have come up with the perfect solution. We have a new and exciting addition to our 2019 summer retreat roster. We will be starting a new creatives program, an “Artist in Residence” program here at La Fortezza the entire month of July.

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Steve will be the very first artist to spend a month here creating under the Tuscan sun. He will be starting here the 1st of July. If you are in Italy during the month of July, or planning a trip here in July, here’s how it will work:

You will be able to book as many days as you like based availability to assist or create art with Steve. He will be working on a collection that will be hung here end of July. He will have an opening exhibition party here at La Fortezza which will be another opportunity for you to come join us at his opening the last weekend of July. More details about Steve’s art opening to come.

Your stay at La Fortezza will include:

  • Accommodations
  • All Breakfasts
  • Some Lunches
  • Some Dinners
  • Aperitivo-( Italian Cocktail hour) with me, author of Cocktail Italiano
  • Excursions with Steve
  • Lessons with Steve
  • All Art Supplies

If you’re not a painter but want a creative experience, you will be able to assist and apprentice with Steve. This retreat is open to all levels. The rate will be $500 per day. We have 5 rooms available, so if you are coming to Italy in July, please sign up early as this experience will be first come, first serve.

There will be more information on the website mid-November when we plan to announce all the spring and summer creative workshops. So if you’ve always wanted to live in the Italian countryside, paint and co create with other artists, this opportunity might just be for you. As always feel free to email me at annette@annettejosephstyle.com for more information about July’s Artist in Residence Program with Steve McKenzie.

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Have a peek at Steve’s instagram to see the whole story of his week here teaching abstract painting to our great group!

xx Annette

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The artists that live in a Castle

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When you live in Italy in an ancient place, you never know what is around the corner. There are always surprises. However, quite honestly, sometimes the surprises are not that hot. Like your kitchen is flooded because of a faulty part, or bees have decided to build their nest on your window sill (twice).

But sometimes something magical happens that makes up for all the mishaps and unfortunate situations. Last week I had some darling visitors. Full disclosure we have a rating system at La Fortezza: 1-5 (yes, just like Uber, we figure if you’re rating us, we get to rate you). These guests were a 5. Why you might ask? They are pleasant, funny, flexible, and non-complaining. Plus, the reason for a 5 rating is that they were very helpful putting last touches on the new guest rooms. As a special treat, I drove them to a nearby village that features a local specialty restaurant and a beautiful quaint village with a big ass castle perched on top. After a lovely lunch, we decided a stroll was in order. I vaguely remembered that the castle was inhabited, but I did not fully remember by whom, until we swung around the corner after ascending to the top of the village wall.

There stood a middle aged man in a red sweater with droopy shorts and cascading curls on his forehead. He looked a little like a middle aged Little Lord Fauntleroy. He smiled, and then I remembered him: we had met at a local pizzeria. He was with a friend, and my friend Forrest had introduced us. “I remember you,” I said. “You do?” he replied. “Yes, we have met before do you know my friend Forrest,”I responded. “No”, he said. After a rather confusing exchange, I did remember that he lived in the castle; he was an artist, and he lived with his mother. His name was Jacabo. That’s about all I was told. So it did not seem odd when he asked, “Do you want a tour of the castle?” Without hesitation I said “YES”. My friends and I looked at each other, and all said yes again in unison.

We headed through a gate. Off to the right, there was another gate with a barking puppy, and off to the left his Cordelia von den Steinen (his ,other’s) art studio, a sturdy, a low stone building with windows all around. We walked past her studio and up a small ramp to the giant castle doors. Inside the vaulted room seemed to climb up up up. With our mouths agape, we looked all around to find stone sculptures everywhere. It was massive and impressive. We all looked and asked questions. There were studies of what would become huge important sculptures, commissioned from all over the world. Jacabo’s parents were very important artists, highly regarded, and very successful, as was his grandfather. He and his family grew up in the castle. His father had bought is from a wealthy American who had bought it and painstakingly renovated it. They had moved there in the 60s, so this place was his childhood home. We could not get over the ground floor with all the gorgeous pieces displayed. We followed Jacabo, up the massive stone stairs to the 1st floor living space. When we entered the space, it impressed me how massive it was, decorated with modern low slung sofas, draped with Moroccan textiles with all the family artwork on display. It took my breath away, I felt like I had stepped into the pages of World of Interiors magazine. All I could say was “Wow.”

We strolled through the living area like it was a museum – which it was in a way. Jacabo casually told us about his parents and his siblings that lived in Rome. He was the only one living with his mother. He too was an artist, a painter. His work was surreal and impeccably detailed. I must admit, he is quite a character, a little eccentric and little disheveled, his shorts kept falling down to reveal his plumber’s crack. His English was all over the place even though I said to speak in Italian, he continued in his own form of English. The castle was spectacular, impeccable, a dream.

Jacabo was sweet, and he was so pleased we loved his place. After about an hour, the tour was finished. We found out a few things, but Google did a much better job of explaining the history than Jacabo. We thanked him and he asked for a small donation for upkeep etc. When he pocketed the cash I gave him, he stuffed it into his wallet that was literally filled to capacity which made me laugh to myself. As we were walking back to the car, we were struck by how wild it must be to have living in castle be your reality. A fun surprise tour, something that could only happen in Italy. It’s why I love it here so much. People just living and creating in the family castle as they say in Italy “Normale”. x

Read about Jacabo’s Father here

Read about his Mother here

Read about the castle in Veruccola here

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Noah’s Park Joshua Tree

I had an opportunity to visit one of my good friends Mikel at his Joshua Tree weekend retreat while I was in Palm Springs, so I skipped out on Atl Summit and headed to the desert. Joshua Tree has always been on my bucket list, so I got in my rental car and drove an hour out into the middle of nowhere. A dirt road and lots of Joshua trees later, I arrived at Mikel’s amazing home.

After a tour of his house, we headed into town for lunch, but first Mikel wanted to show me Noah’s Park. It’s an outdoor museum: an installation completely constructed of up-cycled materials. Noah Purifoy was truly a visionary man; Noah poured his entire soul into this art installation. I was blown away, and we walked for an hour among each piece of art, exploring interactive displays. Many works fuse architecture and art as the structures are towering.

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The theater is full scale and has a working stage. Many sculptures have messages. It’s an epic experience, full scale and moving, which was the artist’s intention. It’s obvious that Noah had a point of view, and it’s why the experience of walking the installation is so moving. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. In fact, I highly recommend a visit to Joshua Tree. It’s a national treasure, and there is nothing like it. I was not disappointed with the landscape and was happy I opted to skip out on the conference. After all, there’s nothing more fun than playing hooky, especially to enjoy a fantasy afternoon in Noah’s Park with a good friend. Plus I found my new hero, Noah Purifoy!

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I do not wish to be an artist, I only wish that art enables me to be.

– Noah Purifoy, 1963

Born in Snow Hill, Alabama in 1917, Noah Purifoy lived and worked most of his life in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, California, where he died in 2004. He received an undergraduate degree from Alabama State Teachers College in 1943 and a graduate degree from Atlanta University in 1948. In 1956, just shy of his 40th birthday, Purifoy earned a BFA degree from Chouinard, now CalArts.

His earliest body of sculpture, constructed out of charred debris from the 1965 Watts rebellion, was the basis for 66 Signs of Neon, the landmark 1966 group exhibition on the Watts riots that traveled throughout the country. As a founding director of the Watts Towers Art Center, Purifoy knew the community intimately. His 66 Signs of Neon, in line with the postwar period’s fascination with the street and its objects, constituted a Duchampian approach to the fire-molded alleys of Watts. This strategy profoundly impacted artists such as David Hammons, John Outterbridge and Senga Nengudi. For the 20 years that followed the rebellion, Purifoy dedicated himself to the found object, and to using art as a tool for social change.

In the late 1980s, after 11 years of public policy work for the California Arts Council, where Purifoy initiated programs such as Artists in Social Institutions, which brought art into the state prison system, Purifoy moved his practice out to the Mojave desert. He lived for the last 15 years of his life creating ten acres full of large-scale sculpture on the desert floor. Constructed entirely from junked materials, this otherworldly environment is one of California’s great art historical wonders.

 

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Biennale in Venice, Italy 2015

bienalle 2015 Bienalle 2015 One of the things on my bucket list was Biennale in Venice.

Biennale is an extraordinary art exhibition held in the most awesome locations in Venice. In fact, part of it is held in the Sale d’ Armi, an expansive building where ships were built for the Navy. The compound was a well-kept secret, and all employees lived and worked at this super guarded location. Cool, right?

I can’t even describe how huge the space is, and it goes on for many kilometers. It is the perfect venue for this worldwide exhibition. Biennale is held every 2 years (odd years), and the exhibit is titled All the World’s Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor; it will be up until November 22, 2015.

I had the pleasure of visiting with my dear friend Forrest Spears who is the owner and operator of Your Italian Concierge, a custom travel service that I have recommended to fans and friends for years (I will be doing an interview with Forrest in upcoming weeks, stay tuned). Forrest organized the entire trip. Despite sweltering, heart stopping heat, he managed to pull off an wonderful trip, including the Cipriani pool one day that was very appreciated indeed.

We soldiered the heatwave in Italy to glide through the amazing artwork at the Sale d’ Armi.

Below are a few of my highlights. I highly suggest that you go if you can, and I would definitely hit up Forrest to plan your adventure. He knows his way around Venice and will include a few unexpected secret haunts along the way. I am a lucky girl having Forrest as my tour guide, and I feel very lucky to have checked this off my bucket list…

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Thought provoking, textural, meaningful, and inspiring are words that come to mind. Art with a message with the entire world lending their voice, All the World’s Future took on many incarnations.

Some of the installations were depressing while some were hopeful and some were more than captivating.

It was amazing to see all the world’s creatives point of view in one place.

The exhibit contained performance art, along with photography, sculpture and paintings. Videos and grand installations were abundant. Vitrines with amazingly detailed crafts and interesting objects were sprinkled along the way. Visually, it was delicious.

 

Photo Credit : Me

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