One Day in Rome

Today I went to Rome with two of my house mates. According to my Fitbit, we walked 29,000 steps today, which is not surprising at all. 
Because tourist season has begun, the cheapest train tickets we could get were for 5:50am, so we started our day at 4:45am. 
Once we arrived in Rome, not long after 8:00, we caught a bus to the Vatican City. We promptly walked in the wrong direction and ended up walking more than half way around the city to the entrance of the Museum. Once we arrived at the museum, We were blessed that my dear friend, Sophia, who was in Rome from Denmark for the weekend, was already waiting in line for us! Getting to see Sophia was an unplanned joy. She just happened to text me earlier in the week inquiring about Florence’s distance from Rome, only for me to realize we would be in Rome at the same time! We went through the Vatican Museum together, along with Sophia’s friend, Lindsey. The Sistine Chapel was smaller than I expected, and the men working inside it were very grumpy. 


After the Museum, we went out to lunch before Sophia and Lindsey split ways with us. Lauren, Clio, and I went back to the Vatican, this time to the city. I discovered that I have a dreadful verbal filter and need to significantly decrease several words from my vocabulary. Hopefully, I also got a little tan. 


After the Vatican, we walked towards Largo di Torre Argentina, a square containing Ancient Roman ruins, that also conveniently contains lots of cats! The cats who live there help Rome with its rat problem in exchange for health care and housing. The US government should probably check this system out. I also lost my new camera lens’ lens cover in pursuit of a cat. I do not recommend repeating this, but I made a pretty spiffy tape replacement. Good thing I loved duct tape back in middle school– still got my skills.


The rest of our day contained lots of walking– a half marathon total. We got gelato at Giolitti, a gelateria that is supposed to be one of the best in the world. For such a rating, it was surprisingly well priced, and quite delicious. I indulged in a white chocolate dipped cone with white chocolate, cinnamon, and bailey’s Irish cream gelato. I do recommend this combination. 


The rest of today’s walking included visiting the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, which contains three Caravaggio paintings in one of its chapels. One of these paintings actually contains a self portrait of Caravaggio because a lot of Renaissance and Baroque painters would paint themselves into scenes as one of the characters. It’s always fun to find those portraits within paintings. 


We ended our day with a rushed walking tour past the Colosseum, which was closed for most of today due to a European Union meeting taking place close by, and then walked in the complete opposite direction to the Trevi Fountain. After this, we rushed to catch our 8pm train, excited for the chance to finally sit. 

My Tummy Project and Where it’s Coming From

Working on my mid term paper for my art history class, Women and the Arts in Italy, I found myself looking through the photos on my computer of paintings in various museums. I accidentally hit a key on my keyboard, and my computer jumped all the way back to pictures from my senior year of high school. Oddly enough, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about that time in my life. The series of paintings I’m currently working on, casually being called “The Tummy Project,” for the time being, was actually brought about as a celebration of sorts of how I’ve changed and grown in the last three years, since my senior year.

The Tummy Project started the first week of this semester with me painting a picture of my tummy from when I had an eating disorder during senior year. I chose to paint the picture because I ran across it on my iPad one night, and was struck by how I no longer envied that stomach. The last week of February this year will be my three year anniversary since entering treatment in 2014. Though I entered treatment in February of 2014, it wasn’t until a year later in January of 2015 that I truly became invested in moving forward. Despite not always fighting for my own recovery, prior even to entering treatment in 2014, I always wanted my peers around me to view their bodies with positivity and love. In dance after school and in the AP art studio, the fall of my senior year was when I really started exploring this artistically. As I sought out peers to model for me, I found myself drawn (hehe no pun intended) to those with insecurities surrounding their bodies. I hoped that by painting or drawing them, they may begin to see themselves in a different light, as uniquely beautiful people. Since I began working figuratively that year, I have continued working with models who shared their insecurities and difficulties with me. Some of my work has stemmed by photographing someone the way they wanted to be, and other times, I made specific requests, but as my relationship to each person has grown, they’ve taken more risks in telling their own stories, both to me and others, in an effort to inspire continued recovery and growing positivity.

After painting my tummy a month ago, I realized that if I painted that old, skinnier tummy of mine, then I need to also paint the tummy I have today. With this, I decided to start painting other tummies as well. I reached out to some friends who I knew needed to appreciate their tummies a little more, and I put it out on social media as well. Since posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat that I was in need of tummies to paint, I have been sent over twenty images from people I see regularly, to people I haven’t talked to in years. People of varying body shapes have sent me photos, and I feel so blessed. I am thankful that so many people trust me with their bodies, and I am thrilled by how many people I wouldn’t have expected to participate who chose to put themselves out there. As I continue to paint stomachs, the project is taking a turn in the direction of becoming an installation in the future.

As I see these images of women at varying stages of life, I’m noticing how similar and different each stomach is. Each tummy has its own shape, favorite foods, and bad memories, but they also all house the same organs and serve the same purposes. Everyone’s belly-button is just ever so slightly different, reminding me how we all began the same way, but how we’re all unique. The more tummies I paint, the more I notice the similarities of each brush stroke and how beautiful each shape is— how similar we all are, despite all being so different.

This coming week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and a week to celebrate your body. For me, I get to celebrate recovery and how I’ve grown. There were so many times that I never believed recovery was possible, or even wanted it, but with people all around me, fighting their own fights, and encouraging others in their own pursuits of happiness, I’m blessed to be where I am today. I’m blessed to no longer envy an unhealthy body. I’m blessed to know that recovery is possible, and that relapses are not the end of the world, but a part of growth. I am blessed to be a part of other people’s stories, and to be able to encourage others as they learn about loving themselves. I hope that those who read this and those who don’t, feel blessed and appreciate their bodies an extra little bit this week. If anything, thank your tummy for digesting the nutrients you give it, thank your heart for beating, and your lungs for filling with air. Thank your legs for carrying you through the good times and the bad, and thank your arms for their ability to hug and bring nourishment to your body.

If you’re interested in sending me your stomach, you can message me on any social media we have in common, or through my blog’s contact page. I am currently only painting women’s stomachs, but if that changes, I’ll announce it. If you or anyone you know is struggling with body image or unhealthy methods of controlling their lives, take a look at the National Eating Disorders Association web page, http://nedawareness.org

A Weekend with Zoë

It’s been quite a while since I last posted anything. I’ve been side-lined from blogging due to my busy school schedule and getting sick for a whole week. I’ve had so much to blog about, but not the time, that now I’m forgetting where to start. I guess I’ll start with this post, and then hopefully catch up over the next few days.

A couple weekends ago, my wonderful friend, Zoë, came to visit. She took the bus from Southern France, where she is spending this semester. You can follow her blog for updates on her experience.

I went to meet Zoë at the bus station at 7am, so I was blessed to see the sun rise as I walked next to the Arno on my way to the station. After Zoë arrived and we dropped her stuff off, we ventured into Florence as tourists. Because Zoë’s time and budget here were limited, we opted to do only one major touristy thing. We climbed to the top of the Duomo’s bell tower and dome! Without the mountains and my regular hiking that I do back in Tennessee, I’ve been missing what it feels like to climb up hill, but climbing over 800 stairs in one afternoon certainly helped with that bit of homesickness. According to my FitBit, we walked over 23,000 steps that day bewtween our Duomo adventures and wandering the city. We ended that day by going to a Shabbat potluck dinner at the apartment of some of my friends’. Zoë got to know some of my peers from SACI, and we celebrated friendship with food, impromptu hair cuts, and dancing.

Zoë’s second day here, we met up with Olivia, another Fine and Performing Arts Scholar from ETSU studying at SACI. We got lunch at Gusta Pizza, a popular pizza restaurant in Florence, and did some more wandering. In the evening, we found ourselves in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, the 2017 location of Florence’s chocolate festival. The festival was small, but chocolate filled, so who’s complaining. As if life couldn’t get better than chocolate, we ended our Saturday with dancing and a drink or three with more friends.

Ultimately, our weekend was filled with walking the streets of Florence because there’s really no better way to get to know a city than to walk it, especially on a limited budget. More than the walking or the sight seeing, though, the best part of having Zoë here for a weekend was the simplicity of a familiar face and spending time with a close friend. As it was the weekend before Valentine’s day, I can safely say that it was one great Galentine’s day weekend, and I hope that we will be able to meet up again during our time abroad. So even though its a week late, Happy Galentine’s Day, and Happy Valentine’s day. As parts of our lives seem to be shifting in ways we may not like with 2017’s new politics, I hope you’ll seek out the love and company that make your life more joyous and positive.

And on that more positive note, off I go to write my art history midterm paper!

Stress Relief

I’m stressed about the new presidency, and some of the horrifying changes that have already occurred. Because of this, I have started and not finished writing at least two other blog posts. Hopefully these posts will be coming soon, but until then, here are some pictures of my cat, Clyde. Clyde makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, so I figured I’d share his cuteness. Plus, one pic with Skipper.

 

Art History Everywhere

This week I started classes, and wow. I love this place. From the studio to the lecture hall, I am engaged. At the end of the day, I am exhausted, but ready to work the next day. As I get more tired as the semester goes on, I hope I will continue to stay focused.

While at SACI, I am taking only one art history class. I made this decision because I often feel overwhelmed by history. I am always so filled with ideas of how history can influence my artwork, that I want to read as much as I can. I also get discouraged in history classes because there is always so much more knowledge than my brain can soak up. My art history professor here does not have this issue. I am continually astonished by the quantity of knowledge in that woman’s head. Like holy cow, wow.
The art history class I’m taking here is called Women and the Arts in Italy. There were several reasons I chose this class. One, was simply my interest in feminine influence and success in history. The other reason was that it covers so much time. There is so much to be covered in this class that I know that it will only be skimming the surface, but I’m so excited for all the different directions my mind will be taken. I didn’t want to have to choose between High Renaissance or Baroque art history, so instead I’m learning specifically about the presence of women in both historical times.

This week, our first lecture talked about the artwork on wedding chests (cassoni) and birth salvers (Deschi da Parto). In renaissance times, these were both very common parts of marriages and child birth. A wedding chest was what a woman put her belongings in when she was married. After her wedding, it would be ceremoniously transported to her new husband’s home. The outside of the box would be painted with a story, often a tragic romance from the Old Testament or mythology. On the inside of the chest, there was often an image of a nude woman or Mary with baby Jesus to encourage baby-making activities and hopes of prosperity. Birth salvers were ceremonious plates given when I child was born. One side would have a painting similar to the stories on the outside of wedding chests, but the back of the salver would be more specific to well-wishing for the new child. Often these paintings illustrated chubby babies to express hope for a healthy child.

 
Today during my art history class, we ventured to Palazzo Davanzati, the Museum of the Florentine House. Here, we got to see a little bit of what it would be like to be a wealthier woman in late medieval and renaissance times. Women spent the majority of their time at home because they could only go outside when escorted by a man. Often, Sunday church outings were the only time a wife got to venture out of the home. In the palazzo, we got to see a couple examples of wedding chests and birth salvers.

After today’s class, I was finished with classes for the day, so I went to the Galleria dell’Accademia and saw Michelangelo’s David. Let me tell you, David is one tall dude. I’ve heard over and over of how amazing the David sculpture is, and I always wondered what was so great about just another statue of another dude. Well, it turns out, it’s a pretty big statue. In the 21 century, large sculptures are normal, but for a piece done at the beginning of the 16th century, hot damn! The rest of the galleria was also enjoyable. I found that all the old artwork I would have found boring just a few years ago is quite comical now. From Mary’s expression looking at baby Jesus in her arms to odd accents of gold leaf in unexpected places on a painting. There was a special exhibit of work by Giovanni dal Ponte where every rendering of John the Baptist looked an awful lot like a werewolf. I have to wonder how seriously these artists took themselves and their commissioners. Obviously, they were very serious about their work, but surely they giggled at each others oddly rendered faces and feet sometimes, right?

Buon giorno, Firenze! 

Well! It’s been three days since I arrived in Florence, and it’s been quite the adventure thus far. I’ve walked between six and eight miles each day since arriving here.

Italy is having colder than usual weather this month, so I found myself cold and in need of a heavier jacket. Fortunately, I live close to most of the designer shops, both high end and low end, so I was able to hop into a Zara for the fuzziest coat I have ever owned. Two pairs of leggings a day, wool socks, a warm head band and scarf, and my trusty Dr. Martens are keeping the rest of me warm.


Thanks to the great amount of walking I’m doing, I’m not having to worry too much about what I eat. That being said, I’ve missed my veggies these last couple of days, so part of tomorrow’s mission will be going to the market in search of fresh vegetables.

The first day I was here, January 5th, I arrived in Florence around 9:30am. At the airport, I met up with a couple of girls from my program who I had met through the Facebook group. Four of us crammed ourselves and luggage into a medium sized taxi, and split the fare for the drive to SACI. Once at SACI’s main building, we got our apartment assignments and branched off in our own directions. I met my apartment mates, Annie, Livi, Lauren, and Clio. All fellow SACI students. Later in the evening, I met up again with my friends from the airport and got dinner from the restaurant under my apartment. I went to bed early that night, which turned out to be a wise decision since we had loud, drunk people outside our window for five hours in the middle of the night.

On day two, I had a rough start to the morning, including a migraine and getting sick to my stomach for the first time in years. So I’m going to skip to the afternoon. Actually, the afternoon wasn’t super exciting either. We split into groups and got a very cold tour of the location of all of SACI buildings and local important spots. However, yesterday was a holiday, so nothing was open. January 6th is the holiday, Epiphany. In Florence, the holiday is celebrated with a parade from the Palazzo Pitti to the Piazza Del Duomo with hundreds of people parading in renaissance costumes, starting with the three wise men.
We had to wait for a break in the parade in order to get home since it blocked every route home that we knew of. On the upside, we bought our first bottles of cheap Italian wine on our way home. Let me tell you, €3 bottles of wine in Italy are far better than $3 bottles of wine in Tennessee.


At the end of the day, Livi, Clio, and I went for a walk. We found the river for the first time and had our first Italian pizzas. I definitely plan on having a few more of those while I’m here.
Today was my third day in Florence. In the morning, I had a whirlwind tour of the artistically historical sites by one of SACI’s art history professors. I’ve never experienced someone try to fill so little time with so much mostly extranious information in 25°F weather. In the afternoon, we registered for permits of stay with the Italian police, and then napped for a longer than suggested period of time. And now it’s pasta time, so ciao!

Just Like That


After a busy semester, running around, getting paper work in to both ETSU and SACI, I returned home for winter break thinking that finally, I could begin thinking about my upcoming trip to Italy. After just a couple of days at home, it became clear that this holiday season was going to be far too busy to think about Italy. Three weeks later, I am all packed. My suitcase and duffle bag are sitting in the front hall waiting to accompany me to the airport tomorrow. I’m sitting here numb. I’m excited but equally anxious, evening out my emotions to be energetic but calm. 

It seems unreal that I’ll be on my plane to Europe in less than 24 hours. It seems like just last year, I was in middle school, hearing about my older cousin going abroad to Copenhagen. Now, one of my best friends is doing that same trip to Copenhagen, and I’m flying off on a trip I thought was ages away.

My phone plan has been suspended for the next few months, so once I leave the house, I won’t be able to communicate with my parents or friends until I have wifi in Italy. 

This isn’t my first time traveling alone. When I was sixteen, I went to France on my own. Since my last solo international excursion, I have grown a lot, but the intimidation of traveling alone remains. Five years older than I was last time, I still find myself feeling young and small as I think about the adventures ahead.

With friends living in Germany, and friends studying in the U.K., France, and Denmark, I am thrilled with the opportunities to come. I will not let intimidation hold me back, but I will embrace that intimidation as it brings with it growth and memories.