Red Geraniums in a Japanese Teacup
The first time I visited Florence, Italy was in 1996. I stayed at the home of my friend Luigi Gagliardi - who's now the Artistic Director of the Tuscan Institute of Music and Art - for three weeks. It was during that time that I first experimented with oil paint - having been inspired by all of the beautiful Renaissance paintings I was privileged to view around the city.
My first painting (which I believe is now lost) was a large golden circle, with a red 'devil' circle on the bottom left corner, and a blue 'angel' circle on the bottom right. I painted this on a large piece of discarded cardboard. My second painting was a self-portrait on a metal panel (also sadly lost) with my lips sewn shut - the thread spelling "I AM" across my lips. I really wish I still had that painting - or at least a picture of it!
I also made a few small paintings - I believe I made two crude ones of a crucifix (see below), one of which I kept, and another which I sent to a friend of my family - Susan Duff Smith. I painted another in a notebook I'd stitched together - a small painting of a sun with a red stripe around it which I named Sunspots (see below).
I returned to live in Florence in 2012, and stayed until mid-2013. I began to paint in earnest there during that time. I wanted to imbibe all of the Florentine Renaissance art I could find, and so I got a yearly membership to the Uffizi, which afforded me free access to the Uffizi, the Academia, Boboli Gardens, the Palazzo Pitti, and elsewhere. It was incredible, and I did manage to figure out a little bit about High Renaissance techniques by studying the works of Antonello da Messina, Bellini, Ghirlandaio, Masaccio, Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and others.
This brings me back to my latest painting Red Geraniums in a Japanese Teacup, which I painted as a housewarming gift for my friend's new apartment. When I first stayed in Florence, I would traverse its labyrinthine streets and every here and there I would come upon red geranium petals which had fallen onto the sidewalks from flowers on people's balconies. These little bright red petals came to symbolize Europe for me - specifically Italy and the Mediterranean, but also Europe as a whole. When I moved down here to Barcelona in 2015, I began to see those same red petals on sidewalks. It meant a lot to me -- that I had been given another opportunity to spend time on the Continent and in the Mediterranean. So now that I have my own Mediterranean balcony (The Royal Jasmine Balcony) here in Sitges, I planted red geraniums so that their petals can fall to the path below.