I wake in the early hours from a dream in which I was weeping. He wakes also, a different kind of disturbing dream. A little later there’s a message from my oldest son who’s woken 7 time zones away from a nightmare. I am curious now about how many sleeps are disturbed by dreams this night.
The bright morning seems almost ordinary. There is a loose line in front of Annamaria’s bottega, the chitchat muffled by masks. Each bench has just a single occupant, two of whom shout at each other across the distance between them; the other smokes, his mask pulled down, and tilts his face to the sun that fills more of our small piazza than it did just a couple weeks ago. We are off the main road and there is less danger here of passing carabinieri or a ticket. On my short walk to the studio I am greeted by the twittering house martins who have returned from Africa to repair their nests or make new ones.
They swoop and dive around me in the narrow streets. There are the first red poppies, waving from between stones at the base of a wall. They’re early; there’s still snow on the mountaintops and their cousins in the fields won’t bloom for many weeks yet, but they are no less exuberant in their show.
In my studio there is the painting I’m starting. It is rather impractically large; split into panels. The realization of the entire thing could take a year, maybe longer. It’s been on my mind since last spring when I made my first sketches. Of course there is the voice in my head that tells me that focusing exclusively on smaller paintings, easier-to-transport paintings, less expensive and perhaps more saleable paintings would probably be wise right now, or at any time, regardless of the circumstances— one has to make a living after all and my work is my only means. Maybe it would be wise, I tell myself. Painting anything is better than not painting, should it come to that. With all the linen I’m using for this I can do who-know-how-many smaller works.
And yet… I didn’t chose to be a painter by trade because I was afraid; rather I chose it in spite of being afraid. It is impracticality over reason; freedom over security. This choice is something of a luxury, something I didn’t do when I had other mouths at home to feed. I was too afraid to risk more than my own well-being then; I painted always, but often on the side. I think sometimes that my life is my largest work of art. It’s this wobbly performance piece in which the artist invites Fear to a series of duels and is sometimes thrashed, sometimes messily victorious; sometimes crashing awkwardly, sometimes graceful in flight. I’m curious how it all ends. I know it doesn’t actually matter if I paint or not; my studio is just one of the places that my site-specific performance piece takes me. What matters is this today: Do I choose uncertainty over suffocating constraint; wild roaring wing-spreading joy over mere contentment?
I added this blog as a way to share some thoughts and experiences around the impact of Covid-19 on my life here in Southern Italy. These posts have been a near-daily practice during this time and are largely unedited, most having been first posted on Facebook. They are of course in order with the most recent entry on the first page. I invite you to explore previous posts or even start from the beginning.