Jennifer Bell: Altamura

Since summer 2004, I have lived in southern Italy, in the region of Puglia, the province of Bari, in a town called Altamura. A two-week restoration project of the Jesce Masseria brought me here. My plan after that was to set up an atelier in Paris and spend my days painting the pretty and elongated noses of the Parisians.Two weeks was all I planned to be in Altamura – that was a year ago.

I am drawn like love to this countryside where I live now. Olive trees are woven in the ochre-colored hills that extend from Altamura.The vista is a tapestry of silver and saffron threads,a palette of the subtle hues of a faded fresco.The air is perfumed by tomatoes drying in the sun and the fermenting juices pressed from the fleshy grapes. Underneath a lapis blue sky, the prehistoric looking “ferula”plant unfolds on the plains like a congregation of nomads crossing a desert. I sense this countryside has fought to survive.The land is raw,brutally honest,and as passionate as the works of Van Gogh.

The people of Altamura are tireless workers and the gatekeepers of traditions. I am drawn to their vitality and passionate spirit. I am intrigued by their dark ebony eyes, antique profiles, beautifully weathered skin and stone chiseled hands. A subtle, caramel color saturates my canvases as I paint the very old and the very young – Il Viaggio dela Vita!

My mother’s family emigrated from northern Italy in the early nineteen hundreds. When they arrived in Canada, it took only three generations for my family’s stories to fade and language to be lost. Here, I am discovering the soil that seeded my family. My Nonna (grandmother) would be so pleased to know that I am happy here experiencing Italy and learning her native tongue.

Summer 2005