It all began last spring in Paris. A dear Parisienne artist friend (Virginnie Houdot) and I stopped at a cafe to enjoy the scenery and to take advantage their happy hour specials.  Somehow we got talking about artists residencies and how great it could be if we could participate in one together. Before we made a determination to do a residency together in Florence. It was my intention to make it a 3 month residency where as Ginnie wanted to stay one month. We shared a toast to plan and headed home.

Months later the idea kept haunting me. I knew if we were going to do this I had better try and find a place for us to live and work. After hours of research I found Residenca del Palmerino Villa, a little Florentine paradise nestled at the foot of the Fiesole hills. It had both rooms and apartments and was largely used for writers or researchers while on sabbatical. It just so happened to have a art studio as well. Ginnie and I quickly booked our place and waited months for the time to arrive. Now, on February first I arrived at the villa to begin the adventure.

The Residenca del Palmerino Villa is actually three properties with that have historical preservation status. All three belong to one family, two remaining sisters and an uncle. They’ve done a great job of leaving history in tact and the atmosphere is beautiful and at the light at times is magical.

Located on the edge of Florence, I am surrounded by an abundance of nature, there is  a national hiking trail outside the gate that leads all the way to Bologna. I can’t believe how quiet it is here. I can hear my own thoughts for the first time in a long time. In order to take advantage of this circumstance, I’ve elected to limit my intake of any outside news and internet entertainment and replace it with long walks, art touring in the city center and yoga class with a George Clooney type instructor who only speaks Italian.

The gardens on the grounds are stunning in an unfussy natural way. Rows and rows of olive trees, grape vines that have been nurtured for years, vegetable gardens, incredible trees and bulbs popping up everywhere. Spring is just starting to peek out and soon I will witness all of life waking up from hybernation.

The studio I am working in now is quite the treat. In the past, this studio was used by the mother of the family and it is filled floor to ceiling with oil paintings and artwork from the generations. If you haven’t seen it yet you can take the video tour of the studio here:

Before I came here I spent some serious time thinking about what kind of work I would do and what direction the work would take. Earlier in the year I had a discussion with art professor Mark Eanes about how important it is for an artist to narrow their focus in order to dive deep into one direction. I took those words to heart and decided it was time to pick a direction of sorts and just stick with it. Right about the same time I had been playing around with integrating burlap, fabric and textures into my work. I decided to stick with this fascination and try to explore all the possibilities it could hold for me. I spent the last few months of 2019 playing around in a very open free form way to explore what worked and what didn’t work.

I also began the process of figuring out why I make art, how do I want it to feel, what do I want it to say for me. I realize the answers to these questions may change with time, but for now I want my work to reflect life, the human condition and all the dualities of life as I’ve come to understand them. In the end I want to present the feeling that there an abundance of hope available for every obstacle.

My goals for this experience is to challenge myself every day, to break out of my comfort zone and create fearlessly. I want to work hard to become the very best artist I can be and to really stretch my creative muscle. To dive deep into these new found materials and to address the overarching theme of life and duality.

Now that the rules are in place and I’m at the starting line…. ready set go!

Janet Jaffke  -  Jaffke Studio

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