Friday, December 2, 2016

Marietta Chalktoberfest 2016 - part two, and more ...

The Thanksgiving holidays delayed my writing the second part of this post.  We spent over a week in Tennessee with our daughter's family and the grand-children.  The weather was mild and sunny as we drove to and back from Brentwood, Tennessee.  I was surprised at the amount of color still left on the foliage.  I drove through the Chattahoochee National Forest, away from the main freeways.  As we drove past Cloudland Canyon State Park, in the upper elevation, it seemed that the red, yellow and gold colors were still prominent.  The bronze of the oak and beech trees and the red of the sourwood and sumac trees provided a magic canopy of warm hues to the highway.  The highway is GA 136 in northwest Georgia, going from Resada through Villanow and LaFayette, to Trenton and then into Tennessee.

The bad drought kept the colors on hold I think.  It was not easy taking photos though because the highway is narrow, very curvy with thousand-foot deep canyons, and the dense woodland by the roadside hide the view.  As we drove up high in the hills we could see smoke in the distance.  It has kept so dry around the South that there have been numerous wild fires.  Another reason is that parts of the forests are dying from absorbing pollution.  When we left Greater Atlanta we could smell the smoke in the air - and see a smoky haze, too.

When we returned home, a couple of days ago, I went in the front and back yards to take pictures (tree foliage shown in heading collage.)  It had not been cold and some of our annual planters were still looking good.  Some black walnuts were lying among the dead leaves and in just a minute or two I gathered a basket full of them.  Usually the squirrels eat them, but if they did they still left many nuts.  I am not sure what to do with them, as I know it is quite difficult to remove their outer shell.  The leaves are not falling from the trees very much and the whole yard has a golden glow.  Our cat Cody is happy napping though and does not look outside.  On Wednesday (Nov. 29) if finally rained; the first day in many weeks.  I hope it gave some relief and stopped some of the raging fires in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in Tennessee.  It is such a tragedy.

Now I need to finish my post on the chalk festival in Marietta that took place on October 8 and 9, 2016.  You can see part one of my post here.  The theme this year was "Old Masters."  The chalk drawing in the heading collage was done by Craig Thomas from Cape Girardeau, MO; below is a close up.  Naomi Haverland of Denver, Colorado, drew the Jan Van Heck painting.  Naomi has won 5 awards at the Denver chalk festivals.

There was so much talent there.  It must be quite tiring to draw like this, working mostly on your hands and knees.  Please click on collages twice to enlarge.

Sean McCann from Minnesota made his drawing on a large standing board.

Graham Curtis of Petersburg, Pennsylvania, drew "The Deity enthroned."  He began painting 16 years ago on a whim.  He says "The nature of this art form is delightful... The temporary nature of the art, the comradery of the artists at street painting events is unique and a very rewarding experience."

There was a large crowd around the drawings.  It was fun to people watch, too.  Most spectators were taking pictures with their cell phones rather than with cameras.  Many were drinking and eating in outside cafes around the square, or near Zion Baptist Church (founded in 1866 by former slaves) or on top of the Strand Theatre - "Have a Brew with a View" ... looking at all the drawings from above.  By looking at the drawings from below, on the ground, the rest of the view was mostly of people's feet ...

The name of each artist was on the pavement, next to the chalk drawing and the artist's sponsor.  Most often there was also a picture of the original artwork.  There was a little metal pot where people could place their ticket to show their vote for the drawing of the "People's Choice Award."  Below, in center of collage is The Bitter Draught of Adriaen Brouwer, Flemish 1640, drawn by Kevin Powell of Marietta. In the bottom of the collage is the tag showing that the artist is from Mexico - Margarita Botella Morales from Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

Being up, away from the chalk drawings is a better view point to take pictures, but since I was close to the ground I usually took several pictures - from the left, the right, and in the center to decide which was the best camera angle.  Here is an example below.  This is the drawing of Willie Zen, of Long Beach, California, titled Boys Eating Grapes and Melon, 1645 from Bartolome Esteban Murillo, a Spanish Baroque painter, 1617-1682.  (Do not forget to click twice on the collage.)

I would also place my camera above my head, to provide some added height, and aim at the drawing.  But then, it is a half hazard way and it is easy to cut some of the drawing off as shown below in the bottom two photos, or to show my shadow, as seen in Zuleika Hodges' drawing of The Girl with a Pearl Earring from Johanness Vermeer, Dutch 1632-1675.

To avoid the drawing to look distorted and a bit weird in a photo is to take the photo from a ladder.  Fortunately, this year again, I found myself next to the professional photographer who takes pictures on his ladder.  He graciously agreed to use my camera for a couple of pictures and took them on top of his ladder.  Below is the chalk art drawing by artist Chris Carlston of Denver, Colorado, who was sponsored by the Mazloom Law Firm.  You can easily tell the difference between the photos taken from the ladder and mine which are the two photos at the bottom of the collage.

The photographer is Craig C. Houdeshell.  His biography says that "He was born in Ohio and his education was in engineering, but he also has formal education in music and art.  Building on these disparate educations, Craig approaches photography with the practiced detail you would expect from an engineer and with the heart of an artist."  He has attended many chalk festivals including the one in Venice, Florida, another one in Sarasota (see Jay Schwartz' Skeleton Mona Lisa below) and Clearwater Beach (see Matt McAllister green masked man.)  He has also received several prizes for his photography (see his beautiful pre-dawn sky photo below.)  You can see more on his web site here.  (Photos courtesy Craig C. Houdeshell.)

While looking down at the drawings and seeing many sets of feet I photographed about 28 dogs among all the sneakers, boots, flip-flops, sandals, etc.  Having two cats at home and no dog, I was pleased to catch so many dogs, at least with my camera.

As we ended our circle promenade around the Marietta square we walked by the public chalk competition.  This non-professional chalk competition had been divided into Youth, Teen, School and Adult groups.


 We had enjoyed our afternoon enormously.  What a treat to look at such superb artwork.  All these fabulous artists spent many hours crouched on their chalk drawings and it would all fade away - ephemeral splendor.  It did not rain for weeks after the festival so vehicles drove over colorful roads around the Marietta square for a while.  What a wonderful giant canvas this had been.  I found out that Cuong Nguyen's Pavonia won the People's Choice Award.

Cuong Nguyen, originally from Vietnam, is a passionate and gifted artist.  His rendition of Lord Frederick Leighton's Pavonia is outstanding and sensitive.  The colors in his drawings are quite smooth and soft - the face looks lifelike and exquisite.  The award was well deserved.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Marietta Chalktoberfest 2016 - part one

For the fourth year now we have attended the chalk festival in Marietta, Georgia.  I wrote posts on this festival in 2013, click here , in 2014, click here , and last year, click here , for part one, and here , for part 2.  It is now called the "Chalktoberfest" because on the first day of the festival, on Saturday, there is a beer festival offering more than 125 craft beers.

This year the chalk and beer festival was held on October 8 and 9, 2016.  We went on Sunday afternoon, October 9, to see the finished chalk drawings.  There was a larger crowd than last year, and last year the visitors numbered over 30,000.  Live music was provided from the gazebo on the Square by the local variety band Prime.  I took more photos, about 455, and will have to write two posts to show some of them.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

The theme for the 2016 Chalktoberfest was "Old Masters."  More than 80 professional chalk artists participated in the festival.  The Canadian Consulate inaugurated their partnership with the festival this year and an artist came from Canada.  I stopped at the Canadian booth.  It was nice to speak French with a Canadian from Quebec - she gave me some sweet maple candy.

The event took place on three streets around Marietta's public square.  The fourth street was reserved for the public chalk competition.  Some of the chalk artists had chosen religious themes from the old masters.  Below at the top is David Lepore's art.  In center, is Lee Mobley's work, from Douglas, GA, and at the bottom is the drawing by Darrean Brown of Columbus, Ohio.

Anat Ronen, a fabulous artist, came back this year.  She used boards instead of the asphalt for her drawings.

Some of the chalk drawings were reproductions of well-known 16th century artists such as Botticelli (top drawing) and Johannes Vermeer, drawn by Jessi Queen from Atlanta, GA.

Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa appeared on the street, as well.  Below is Alexandra Alfeo's Mona Lisa.  Alexandra is from West Palm Beach, Florida.  She has been chalking for a year and a half and is 17 years old, currently in high school.  (There is a distortion when taking chalk drawing photos close to the ground.)

The chalk artists had chosen a variety of subjects from the Old Masters - such as sculpture, animals, flowers, battles, etc.

Food trucks and artisans' tents were set up along the chalk colored streets.

Ian Hugh Morris came from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada to participate in the festival this year.  He has been working as a chalk artist in Victoria for 12 years.  Ian's specializes in Renaissance masters.  Look at his beautiful work in progress below.

It was a warm and very sunny day.  Taking pictures with the crowd surrounding the chalk drawings was not easy and in addition, there were also some heavy shadows.  Below, Cheryl and Wayne Renshaw of Santa Clara, California entered a 3-D drawing and Joan Finn of Kansas City, Missouri, drew a portrait of Marguerite de Polon.

Lury Norris has been working in art in the San Francisco bay area for many years and chalk street painting throughout the state of California for the last 8 years.  See her chalk art below.

Another California artist who has been one of my favorites in the last several chalk festivals in Marietta is the very talented Joel Yau of San Rafael, CA.  He is very skilled and has an outgoing personality - he enjoys talking with the public about his art.  He has won many accolades and awards in the United States as well as Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico and the Netherlands.  This year Joel's chalk painting was Portrait of a Young Man by Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish 1577-1640.

We spent the whole afternoon enjoying the great festival atmosphere and the magnificent work of all the gifted artists.  There will be more drawings to see in part 2 of my post.  More to come ...


Thursday, September 29, 2016

End of Summer 2016, kudzu and Bucatini all'Amatriciana

The calendar tell us we are in autumn already.  Here, it still feels like summer, albeit the end of it.  Last Sunday the temperature was 93 F (33.8 C) but this week we are starting to have a "cold front" which means the temperature will be in the low 80s F (28 C.)  The little flowers you can see in my heading picture bloom in late summer and have a pleasant sweet fragrance.  What type are they? you may ask.  They are flowers of the Pueraria montana plant, from the pea family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae, or in plain English, they are the flowers of the kudzu vine.  (Click on collage twice to embiggen.)

I understand you can make jelly from these kudzu flowers, but I certainly don't want that many vines in our front yard as kudzu is invasive and will kill trees.  In the top photo in the collage above you can see a large black pipe in the background.  The county Water Commission cut over 30 of our trees (see pictures in my January post here) and their machinery propagated the kudzu vines to our front yard.  Kudzu is from Southeast Asia and was introduced in the US in 1876 as an ornamental shrub then later on, in the Southern US, to feed goats and as an erosion control.  But it grows rapidly and will cover everything in its path.  There was a field close to our house with a small abandoned house in the center of it.  Within 2 or 3 summers the field was totally covered with kudzu and the house was just a bump in the field.  Below are some photos from a road about one mile away, kudzu around our mailbox and climbing on pine trees in our front yard.  (The barn covered in kudzu courtesy UGA.)

Throughout August the Water Commission worked on our road, digging and installing big water pipes for their water main.  They even used dynamite which made our house shake.  They also cut our cable often and toward the end of August, for over 10 days, we had no cable access (no TV, no computer) from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Some days we could not get out of our driveway for hours, or get back home.

I took pictures as the work progressed.  It was noisy and dusty.

But the summer had some highlights - such as the Tour de France which I followed on TV.  In the evenings, from August 5 through 21, we watched the Olympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro.  The U.S. women's gymnastics team was spectacular, as well as champion swimmer Michael Phelps.  Congratulations to the athletes of Team America for winning 121 medals.  It was fun to watch small countries winning medals, such as Ahmad Abughaus, 20 years old, who won the first medal in the history of Jordan, in men's taekwondo.  Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan won the Olympic men's hammer title and captured the first gold medal for the Central Asian country since it gained its independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.  Majlinda Kelmendi made history by becoming the first athlete from Kosovo to win an Olympic medal (the first medal since Kosovo became a state in 2008.)  The Fiji men's rugby team finally landed their country its first medal, a gold one, when Fiji beat its former colonial ruler, Britain, by 43-7.

How about France's golden boxing couple?  France's Tony Yoka won the gold medal against Britain's Joe Joyce.  Tony is the first Frenchman to win gold in boxing heaviest division.  His girl-friend, Estelle Mossely, competed in the women's lightweight boxing match against Chinese boxer Yin Junhua and won the gold as well.  Tony and Estelle are planning to be married, and France is super excited = boxing and love! C'est magnifique!

But not everything was fun and love this summer.  There was the terrible tragedy in Nice, France.  When a tragedy happens in one's country, a city visited many times, it seems to hurt more.  We see so much bad news on TV that, unfortunately, we often cannot grieve as well for unknown parts of the world.  One year I purchased my flight on Delta Airlines months before flying to Paris to see my mother.  Then Delta had a sale.  They gave me a coupon for the difference in price.  The coupon turned out to be the same price as a round-trip flight to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  So, I flew there, by myself, and stayed several days.  Baton Rouge means "red stick" in French.  It was translated by explorer Sieur d'Iberville and his exploration party in 1699 from the native term "Istrouma" or the Choctaw "iti humma" which means red pole.  I took photos with my old film camera and also purchased postcards.  Here are some below.

I rented a car and visited many historic plantations along the Mississippi River.  I'll try to find my old film photos and if some are OK I'll have a post later on.  Below is a postcard showing some of them: Nottoway, Houmas House, Oak Alley, Destrehan and San Francisco plantations.

In mid-August I was so sad to watch on the news the extreme flooding in and around Baton Rouge.  It was difficult to look at the devastation - 60,000 homes damages or destroyed in Louisiana.  I remembered the city well with its friendly citizens.  I had even spoken French with several Cajun families.  Below are some photos showing the flooded Baton Rouge area (courtesy Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper.)

In high school in France we had to study two foreign languages: 1) English or German, 2) German or English, Spanish, Russian or Italian.  I took English as my first language and Italian as my second.  We were about 37 in my English class, but only 3 students in my Italian class.  Consequently, I spoke much better Italian than English when I finished high school.  I had an Italian pen-pal who invited me to stay in her home for several summer vacations and I went there during the months of July and August.  She lived on the bank of the Adriatic Sea in the town of San Benedetto del Tronto.  I remember when I arrived there the first time I was in awe.  Coming from grey Paris here was a town with palm trees and flowers in the avenues and a turquoise colored sea.  I did take pictures, but they were small and in black and white.  But here are some old postcards below.  I placed a blue dot under Ancona (under San Marino, on the right) in the region of the Marches, to show where San Benedetto is located.

The parents of my pen-pal Marisa, had a farm/winery inland also, in the surrounding area of Ascoli Piceno, near Arquata del Tronto (shown in pictures below.)  The Tronto is a river that ends in San Benedetto del Tronto.  We would drink the wine from their farm and it was very good.  They had a rose wine, like a sherry, in which we would place pieces of peaches and then eat and drink this as a dessert.  They also had an amber colored wine, sweet and strong, which was a good accompaniment to smoked ham and melon.  I was able to achieve a similar taste with a Serrano ham, a "melorange" melon from Arizona and a glass of Ipsus Pantelleria Passito.

On August 23, 2016, at night, before turning the light off I checked my iPad and saw that there had been an earthquake in central Italy at 9:36 pm US Eastern time, or 3:36 am August 24, in Italy.  I stayed up to find out where this earthquake had been.  The epicenter of the 6-2-magnitude quake was in Accumoli, 9 miles from Arquata del Tronto (where the family had their farm/winery.)

The next several days I was on the computer as much as possible (whenever the Water Commission did not turn our cable off...)  reading on Italian internet sites.  This quake caused the death of 297 people and flattened most of Arquata del Tronto, Amatrice and Accumoli.  Many injured were taken to hospitals in San Benedetto del Tronto, 44 miles away (71 km.)  Such a terrible tragedy - I'm deeply saddened by the loss of life and all the destruction.  (Pictures below courtesy La Repubblica.)

What a devastating loss for these close-knit communities that have been there for centuries.  These picturesque mountain villages are sparsely populated.  As you can see by my collage above most buildings have crumbled.  I heard an old man saying on TV "il mio paese non esiste piu" /my village does not exist anymore.  It is heartbreaking.  I read an article talking about the seniors living in these villages, saying (in Italian and I translate)  "...Old people who have lived their whole lives in familiar four walls saw them collapse in a matter of seconds.  They are lost in the crowd of desperate people who have lost everything, like them.  Almost.  Because when you're old you no longer have the time to reconstruct a different life.  You do not have time to get used to a house that is not yours, and that you never knew.  No time.  And perhaps not even want to.  They are left there to watch the ruin of their past and the massacre of their future..."  Below are photos of Amatrice from before (on left) and after the earthquake (on right,) courtesy USA Today.

I went to look at the internet site of the city of Amatrice, which had been voted last year as one of Italy's most beautiful historic villages.  It still showed an ad for their upcoming festival for the 50th anniversary (on August 27 and 28) of their famous sauce for spaghetti called Spaghetti all'Amatriciana (invented by local shepherds in the Middle Ages.)  I copied the artwork you can see below.  It also showed the welcoming sign, at the entry of the town which said "Amatrice, 955 meters above sea level, citta' degli spaghetti all'amatriciana/city of the spaghetti a l'amatriciana."

But the festival did not take place, alas.  For a sad remembrance of their beautiful festival and to honor the people of Amatrice I drove to the DeKalb Farmers' Market in Atlanta (40 miles away/64 km) to buy the necessary ingredients to make Bucatini all'amatriciana.  It is a classic, simple but hearty Italian pasta dish.  The dish has six ingredients: bucatini pasta, not spaghetti (bucatini pasta is thick and hollow,) guanciale (cured pig jowl) but pancetta can be used, pecorino cheese, red pepper, white wine and genuine tomatoes from San Marzano.  I added a small onion in mine.  I was pleased to find the bucatini pasta and a genuine can of imported San Marzano tomatoes.  It did not take long to cook and it was delicious, but bittersweet.


I wished to finish the end of the 2016 summer with something positive.  To bring these villages back to life, they should not be just names on a map.  There was joy there, the love of good food; so we need to keep alive their famous pasta sauce, Amatriciana (there are many recipes on the internet.)  (for those who wish to help, here is a link to ItalianAmericanRelief.org .)

I hope all my blogging friends had a good summer 2016, filled with good memories.

Above is a photo of the Frecce Tricolori (Tricolor Arrows) the aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian Air Force (the Aeronautica Militare Italiana.)  This is to express my sympathy to the members of the Italian Air Force (I enjoyed working with them for almost ten years) and to Italy.

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