Getting the Picture

By David Perloff

More than a dozen blocks in Little Italy will close to vehicular traffic April 25 and 26, making way for foot-traffic to the nth degree, as the 31st annual Mission Federal ArtWalk fills the streets with hundreds of artists and thousands of art lovers and buyers.

In advance of the event, ArtWalk's 10 featured artists - selected from a roster of nearly 500 - spoke with PacificSD about their work and creative approaches. One of these artists, Christina Leta, created an original work for the cover of this magazine, offering a tangible glimpse into one of the city's cultural rites of spring.

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CHRISTINA LETA

Birthplace: Monterey, California
Place of residence: Pasadena, California

How old were you when you began creating art?
My mother is an artist, so I was raised with art. I remember the day I realized I was actually pretty good at it; that was when I was 13 or 14 years old. I also chose visual art as my major in college but I didn't consider myself an artist or pursue art professionally until I was 25.

What inspired you to do so?
Something in my gut told me I'm supposed to make art. Like gravity, I've always been drawn to it. My life inadvertently tends to revolve around it. After I received my BA in 2010, my goal was to either find a creative career or make one for myself. I knew I wanted to be an artist, so I looked to the working artists of today to find what sort of style and subject matter inspires me most; I found that in portraits and watercolor. I took a chance and put paintbrush to paper in October 2012, and the results seemed worth pursuing. I've been painting ever since, trying to make that dream a reality.

How do you describe your art and/or genre?
I would describe my portraits as an expression of emotion that mixes abstraction, realism and minimalism to examine these emotions from a new, and sort-of unexpected angle. I think my work falls somewhere between fine art and urban art, since I'm very inspired by street art, but my art is made for a gallery setting. I think it's part of the current movement to find what new ways artists can create outside the lines, but I'm not sure what to call it. For now, the term I use to refer to my style is simply: dripping watercolor portrait.

What do you want viewers of your art to think, feel and/or do?
I just want them to feel. My sole focus when I'm creating a painting is to capture a certain emotion, and I'm hoping to connect with the viewer on a very personal level. Though these feelings are conveyed through female form, it's not about physical beauty or surface aesthetic. It's about who we are as people, underneath our skin; who we are in our hearts and minds. I strive for my art to be open and candid, to be unapologetically honest and freeing.

What does being a featured artist in the Mission Federal ArtWalk mean to you?
This will be my third year participating in the ArtWalk, and to be chosen as a featured artist has been a great source of validation for me. I've put my heart and soul into my art, and countless hours of hard work and dedication. Being featured has given me reassurance, confidence and the humble honor to be supported in making art. I am very grateful and excited to be a part of the art world that I love so much.

Where can people see your work?

DefectiveBarbie.com is my website where you can view all of my work, as well as my online store, and a current list of places where my art will be exhibited.

What are your future artistic goals?
I've been looking locally to display my art and show in galleries, focusing on getting my work out there. As time passes, I push myself to expand my footprint, so my future goal is to spread out throughout the U.S. and internationally, if the opportunity arises.

Who's your favorite local artist?
Cate Rangel and Samir Arghandiwall of Los Angeles, and Richard Salcido of San Diego, to name a few. I couldn't possibly pick only one. My favorite place to discover artists is on Instagram; it's a unique social platform that I find very inspiring and engaging. It's also where I found these particular amazing artists and countless more. I love to follow and watch artists of different styles and mediums in their element to get a peek behind the scenes and into the minds of these talented and creative people.

If you could meet and learn from any artist, living or dead, whom would you choose?
I would love to pick Banksy's brain. He's a very secretive guy, but I greatly admire his work and I bet he's just as interesting as his art. I find his technique and approach very unique and inspiring. Being exposed to the work he creates caused me to think outside of the box and encouraged my analytical mind. Whether or not he's recognized for it in the future, I think his art is a pivotal catalyst to the current art movement that's evolving in today's culture.

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CHRISTINE SCHWIMMER

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
Place of residence: La Mesa , California

How old were you when you began creating art?
I believe I was about 10 years of age when I began creating art. Before that, I would doodle a lot.

What inspired you to do so?
My inspiration came from a fifth-grade art teacher who praised my work and encouraged me to continue creating art.

How do you describe your art and/or genre?
My art is abstract in genre. I paint figures that are not completely realistic.

What do you want viewers of your art to think, feel and/or do?
I would like the viewer of my art to be able to feel an emotion, to be able to conjure up a memory or to simply enjoy the image. I also would like viewers of my art to give me their opinion.

What does being a featured artist in the Mission Federal ArtWalk mean to you?
It is an honor for me to be selected as a featured artist, to be recognized and acknowledged by those in my community.

Where can people see your work?
ChrisSchwimmer.com

What are your future artistic goals?
To passionately paint and enjoy the process and hopefully create art that moves people.

Who's your favorite local artist?
Reed Cardwell, who was a North County artist, teacher and mentor, was a great inspiration to me. When I first came upon Reed's art, I was immediately drawn to his intuitive style of painting together with his use of color and line. His abstract figurative paintings convey raw emotion into human form, which is very appealing to me. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple of years ago, but he is still my favorite local artist.

If you could meet and learn from any artist, living or dead, whom would you choose?
I would love to meet Nathan Oliviera, who was known as being a part of the Bay Area Figurative Movement in the 1950 to 1960s. I am moved by his figurative paintings. To me, they portray the human condition or feeling simply and successfully, and that is what I strive to achieve in my paintings.

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DOROTHEE NAUMBERG

Birthplace: Frankfurt, Germany
Place of Residence: Dana Point, California

How old were you when you began creating art?
I was probably four or five years old. My mother was a painter and my father an engineer, and we were given little tools as children to play with, which would eventually inspire me to create.

What inspired you to do so?
I think I was born with the need to create.

How do you describe your art and/or genre?
Fine art that is contemporary yet wearable.

What do you want viewers of your art to think, feel and/or do?
I hope they fall in love with these pieces and connect with them, and appreciate the workmanship and beauty of each piece.

What does being a featured artist in the Mission Federal ArtWalk mean to you?
It's an honor to be a featured artist and I hope to represent ArtWalk in a great light.

Where can people see your work?
DorotheeNaumburg.com

What are your future artistic goals?
To always get better at what I am doing. What I love about goldsmithing is there is always more to learn. Learning new things is what keeps me excited.

Who's your favorite local artist?
Nancy Eckles.

If you could meet and learn from any artist, living or dead, whom would you choose?
Nancy Eckels and Liz Cummings. They have the best attitude and tenacity as a working artists. They love what they do and don't give up easily. Both do shows alone, from the West Coast to the East Coast, driving by themselves for days on end to get to a show, in wind and weather... and sometimes not do well. But they keep at it with a good attitude. They always seem to see the glass half full, not half empty. That inspires me.

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ELLEN DIETER

Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio
Place of residence: Bay Park, San Diego

How old were you when you began creating art?
I started early. My path has not been a straight one - more like a series of spaces and dashes, with lots of curves.

What inspired you to do so?
I always loved to draw; I started by copying the newspaper cartoons. More importantly, my grandmother used to take me to the Cleveland Museum of Art to see the shows, and then have lunch in their gardens to talk about what we saw. We started this when I was five.

How do you describe your art and/or genre?
I work in many different styles, but, in the end, it is always an abstracted version of reality, my view of what I see or feel. In the work, I am looking for balance and interest. I add to and take away; I go on a journey, [so to] speak. I work with lots of color and I like contrast. I would consider my work contemporary expressionism.

What do you want viewers of your art to think, feel and/or do?
I really want the viewers to bring their own story to the art, to connect in some way, be it through color, subject matter or something they can't quite put a finger on. I think that, because I love color, my work almost always feels happy, at least to me. And I hope that comes across.

What does being a featured artist in the Mission Federal ArtWalk mean to you?
I was blown away when I found out. There are so many entries. For Mission Federal ArtWalk to single out me and nine other outstanding artists among the hundreds, well, all I can say is wow! It means the world to me.

Where can people see your work?
I am represented in San Diego by Adelman Fine Art Gallery and in Honolulu by Cedar Street Galleries. I also have a visual blog at EllenDieterArtist.blogspot.com

What are your future artistic goals?
I do set little goals for myself, and one of those was to show in a major museum. I get to tick that off my goal list, as I am in a juried group show, "San Diego Dreaming," at the Oceanside Museum of Art, which opened March 6. I am thrilled about that. The next goal would be to have a solo at a major museum of art.

Who's your favorite local artist?
There are too many for me to list. I am inspired by the artists of San Diego.

If you could meet and learn from any artist, living or dead, whom would you choose?
In this moment, that would be Joan Mitchell. I am so drawn to her energy, her commitment to her vision. And from what I have read about her, we have a same favorite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke.

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HONG RUBINSTEIN

Birthplace: Jilin, China
Place of residence: Palm Springs, California

How old were you when you began creating art?
I started creating artwork over 25 years ago.

What inspired you to do so?
My husband is also an artist, and when I first came to the U.S., I thought it would be a change to make artwork full time.

How do you describe your art and/or genre?
High-fired, one-of-a-kind sculptural art ceramics.

What do you want viewers of your art to think, feel and/or do?
I would like to viewers to marvel at the art work when they see it, be amazed... and feel good; take some of it home; make their everyday life more beautiful, colorful and happy.

What does being a featured artist in the Mission Federal ArtWalk mean to you?
Not really sure what it all quite means yet, but it's an affirmation of the hard work it takes to make the work unique and beautiful and attractive. It's an award or an accolade. of course - it's like someone taking notice. It feels great and is inspiring me to work even harder, get better and better.

Where can people see your work?
I show primarily at art festivals in Southern California: Beverly Hills artSHOW, La Jolla Festival of the Arts, Calabasas Fine Art Festival, et cetera. I am also represented in a few galleries: Clay Hands in Tubac, Arizona, a gallery in Montana, and a few others. I have a web site, OneDreamDesign.com.

What are your future artistic goals?
Just really to keep on being able to create things that I like, have things turn out fantastic, playful and inspirational.

Who's your favorite local artist?
I like my husband, of course, very local. I also like Robert Williams the painter's work, out of Southern California.

If you could meet and learn from any artist, living or dead, whom would you choose?
Salvador Dalí seemed like a fun guy; his work is mind-altering and cool to look at.

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KAREN O'BRIEN

Birthplace: College Area, San Diego
Place of residence: I am a second-generation native San Diegan, lived and worked there most of my life. My husband and I moved to Oregon when we retired, to enjoy a more rural lifestyle. I now have a large studio that overlooks a view of a beautiful valley and mountains.

How old were you when you began creating art?
I have been creative as long as I can remember - drawing, painting and sewing. I made collectable dolls and teddy bears for many years. My art has evolved, as I have tried on different media.

What inspired you to do so?
I love the mystery of taking different materials and changing them into something completely new. I never tire of the infinite possibilities.

How do you describe your art and/or genre?
It is a blend of primitive folk art, fantasy and fairy tales.

What do you want viewers of your art to think, feel and/or do?
I want viewers to experience a sense of empathy and curiosity about the origins of my Urban Folk. I use a sort of intuitive alchemy as I play with color, pattern and shape and encourage taking a closer look at the many layers that make up the paintings.

What does being a featured artist in the Mission Federal ArtWalk mean to you?
It was a wonderful surprise and such an honor to be featured with some really amazing artists. The publicity has also had the unexpected outcome of sparking reconnections with friends I have not seen for years.

Where can people see your work?
My work can be viewed on my website, KEObrien.com. I teach at various art events and at my studio in Grants Pass throughout the year and post my latest schedule on my blog, karenobrien.blogspot.com. I have just finished writing a book, which will include many of my mixed media techniques for creating imaginative characters. It is scheduled to be released in December 2015 by Northlight Publishing.

What are your future artistic goals?
I am on a lifelong journey to continue my exploration of intuitive art and share what I learn. I would love to have the opportunity to exhibit my art in new venues across the country and am in the process of developing online classes.

Who's your favorite local artist?
I own wonderful paintings by Dan Adams and Kate Ashton.

If you could meet and learn from any artist, living or dead, whom would you choose?
Joe Sorren, because he creates his own dreamlike reality and characters that have a fantastical story.

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MARK ALLEN

Birthplace: Houston, Texas
Place of residence: Los Angeles, California

How old were you when you began creating art?
Five.

What inspired you to do so?
Harrison Allen, my dad, is an artist... a very good artist. So I have been around art all of my life. I remember asking him, as a young child, to draw a picture for me. Instead of drawing me something, he gave me some color markers and had me draw the picture instead. This went on for years. He would always encourage me to draw and he would cherish my little masterpieces and even framed one of them. He has kept that piece next to his desk all these years. It has meant so much to me to have my dad guide and encourage me throughout my art career. I remember, one Christmas, he gave me a book titled American Masters. It included artists Andy Warhol, Robert Raushenberg and Roy Lichtenstein. I thought that it was interesting that he didn't say to study the local artists, many who were his personal friends. Instead, he said to study the American masters', work because they are making a difference in the world. I studied their work and eventually met all three artists.

How do you describe your art and/or genre?
Urban Pop Expressionism created by using mixed media, silk screen, spray paint, acrylic paint, pencil and markers.

What do you want viewers of your art to think, feel and/or do?
I want viewers to have that 'I get it' moment. A lot of my new work is conceptual and has clues that the viewers can put together to complete the narrative. As an artist, I attempt to create art that reflects the times that we live. My work is about peeling back the veneer of the commonplace to reveal a different point of view. Each piece is juxtaposing very different ideas to create a provocative narrative on the consumer culture that we live in today.

What does being a featured artist in the Mission Federal ArtWalk mean to you?
With so many talented artists, it is an honor to be chosen as a featured artist. This is a great opportunity for me to share my vision with [members of] the San Diego community who [have] not had the opportunity to see my work.

Where can people see your work?
I am represented by galleries throughout the world, including New York; Los Angeles; London; Rome; Hamburg; Frankfurt; Lisbon; Boston; Dallas; Atlanta; Greenwich; Charleston; Palm Springs; Santa Barbara; Aspen; Vail; Fort Lauderdale; Baja, Mexico; and Chelsea, Canada. View my work at MarkAndrewAllen.com.

What are your future artistic goals?
My plans are to continue to create works that are relevant to people today. Job Number One for me as an artist is to reflect the times that we live today... to be an artist of today, not someone that is recreating the past.

Who's your favorite local artist?
Since I am from Los Angeles, I am not familiar with the artists of San Diego, but look forward to seeing the local talent.

If you could meet and learn from any artist, living or dead, whom would you choose?
No question, Picasso - the greatest artist to ever live. He kept reinventing himself, which is the duty of a great artist.

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SCOTT PALMER

Birthplace: La Mesa, California
Place of residence: Mesa, Arizona

How old were you when you began creating art?
I started drawing at an early age, and later ceramics and woodworking, but didn't begin with fine art until high school.

What inspired you to do so?
A desire to recreate what I see in a unique and colorful way.

How do you describe your art and/or genre?
I describe my work as sculpted copper designs with warm patinas and/or paint.

What do you want viewers of your art to think, feel and/or do?
I want viewers to see a soothing, warm design that relaxes and comforts the individual.

What does being a featured artist in the Mission Federal ArtWalk mean to you?
Being a featured artist at ArtWalk is a real honor for me. I have done the show for years, and to be chosen from so many participants is very humbling and gratifying.

Where can people see your work?
My work can be seen at CopperPhoenixStudio.com and in galleries in Scottsdale and Sedona, Arizona.

Who's your favorite local artist?
Toni Williams, Norm Daniels and Wade Koniakowsky.

If you could meet and learn from any artist, living or dead, whom would you choose?
Has to be Ken Auster. His loose brush strokes and amazing compositions and use of light continue to keep me in awe. Even though I work in metal, I still paint as well and love his work.

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SUE BRITT

Birthplace: Manitowoc, Wisconsin
Place of residence: Carmel Valley, San Diego

How old were you when you began creating art?
My mom was always making. She did not call herself an artist until later in her life, when she became a weaver and copper enamel artist, but she provided me with materials and opportunities to learn. And I had a basement to get messy in. I was painting in oils in my early teens and taking a bus across town to take watercolor lessons at the Milwaukee Art Institute. I took a lot of art classes in middle school and high school and was encouraged by my many teachers.

I spent the summer before going off to Architecture School at the University of Minnesota drawing and painting six to eight hours a day when I was not selling Fuller Brush door to door. I spent a lot of time at the local creek sketching trees, capturing light on water and then painting and working with pen and ink to create finished work. At the end of the summer, I sold paintings and cards to help with college costs.

It was in my architecture design and studio art classes in college, where I feel I started to create art - work with greater expression and meaning. Architecture school taught me a lot about visual thinking, problem solving and how light, shape, form and space can express ideas. I traveled to China to study traditional architecture and garden design for a semester, and the understanding of the power of pathways and framed views still can be seen in my work. Studio arts taught me how to use the page.

Architecture, Peace Corps in Honduras, community development work, mom and teaching - in that order - have all augmented my view of creativity, but left little time for the practice of art. My work today is far different from my architecture years. I started working in paper eight years ago, when I invented a technique I call Paper Tapestry while playing with a creative challenge I was doing with a group of artist friends. The challenge was to choose something that makes me feel wonderful and something that makes me feel terrible and put them together somehow in a piece of art. I had been working with paper in book binding, so I created two small two-dimensional collage pieces of my garden and a refugee camp in Darfur. To put them together, I decided to weave them, but instead of cutting warp and weft in straight lines, I cut them in contours. I loved the discovery of shape at the intersections and the flow of the lines. I do not try to put images together with weaving now, but I do think of the world as interconnected, and the weaving in my pieces serves as a reminder of that.

What inspired you to do so?
I am inspired by nature. I grew up camping and hiking with my family and canoeing with  Girl Scouts. I continue to make hiking a part of my life, whether it is urban hiking in our  canyons or hiking in our great National Parks. Yosemite is one my family's favorites. I  never tire of nature. I never tire of seeing it, watching it or being in the middle of it. I like  reflecting what I see. Sometimes it is a form of a tree that hits me, or the light reflecting  off a rock or the high contrast in color. I like sharing the pure joy of being in a  landscape.

I also like science and learning about nature. Often, I will learn about the plants or  landscape I am looking at to have a better understanding of them. I have read about  erosion, the fire cycle, the geology of the Grand Canyon, droughts and floods. The  science may change how I see or how I want to express nature. For example, instead  of a describing a moment in time, I may try to show rejuvenation after a wildfire within  the longer fire cycle of Southern California. I like having the dialog between experience and research.

How do you describe your art and/or genre?
I describe my work as contemporary landscape but I have an unusual medium: paper. It is both 2-D, in that it hangs on a wall, and 3-D, in that it has a lot of texture. The weaving and dimensionality I achieve with my technique allows light to play a factor in my pieces. Shadows create lines on the page, and the pieces change with the light source.

What do you want viewers of your art to think, feel and/or do?
Someone once asked me what my favorite feeling is. It was easy to name it: awe.

That is what I experience in nature. Awe. And that is the feeling I want to remind people of when they see my work. I want to capture in my pieces the feeling and the forms that caused it in me. Hiking is like a fresh breath; it can clear my mind and refresh me. Art that you love can also do that. Art that inspires awe can do that while reminding us that nature is out there waiting for us to take notice, whether it is a tree outside the window or the Grand Canyon.

I also like my viewers to see my work from far away, and then come close. They are always surprised by the detail and texture of the work that they cannot see from a distance. From far away, they appreciate the forms, the color. Up close, they appreciate the technique and the texture.

What does being a featured artist in the Mission Federal ArtWalk mean to you?
I enjoy meeting people and talking about my art and the places that inspire the art. I hope that being a featured artist will mean more people come and talk, share their stories of these places and perhaps point me towards new adventures in nature. ArtWalk has such great artists, it is wonderful to be recognized in the midst of other wonderful artists.

Where can people see your work?
I show my work in studio 34A in Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park . My work can also be viewed on my website, PaperTapestry.net. As a part of my art residency on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I will have a piece in the National Park this summer. I will be participating in a group show called "Art Telling" at Mission Trails Visitor's Center, July 15 to August 12.

What are your future artistic goals?
Last summer, I had an art residency at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. A major theme of my study there was the power of water. Many of my pieces at ArtWalk this year are inspired by my Grand Canyon experience. I continue to work on art that reflects the power of water on the landscape and the power of water in our lives. I also have worked with Ocean Discovery Institute on an art project to communicate their mission in the watersheds. I hope to continue on this cycle of art residencies to focus on a theme of nature, and then bring it back to the community in the form of public art or a group art experience. I hope to continue to explore art as a way for individuals and communities to connect to nature.

Who's your favorite local artist?
Too many to choose from.

If you could meet and learn from any artist, living or dead, whom would you choose?
There are two, one living and one dead. Robert Henri is one. I have read his book Art Spirit, which is a series of lecture notes and letters he wrote to his students. That book has affected how I think about my subject, how I set up my color pallet, and asked me to think about why I create art. He strikes me as a marvelous teacher with great insight into his students. Though he's mainly a portrait artist, I know I would learn so much about color, light and how to keep spirit in my work.

My living artist is David Hockney. Not only for his amazing use of color and form in his landscapes, but as an artist who is continually experimenting and growing. I discovered his "Bigger than the Grand Canyon" series after my art residency there. I would love to sit and share experiences from the Grand Canyon. He may just get me sketching on my iPad.

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TIM PATTINSON

Birthplace: Pomona, California
Place of Residence: Bellingham, Washington

How old were you when you began creating art?
I remember first believing that I had a gift that others did not have in the second grade. I'm not sure that anyone else believed that about me at the time, but I was wholly convinced. I started to pursue painting as a vocation 20 years later, in 1987.

What inspired you to do so?
My inspiration at six years old was much the same as it is now - the idea that drawing or painting people can at once record what is seen and not seen about a person is intoxicating. The signs I use to represent the person have changed, but the wonder at representing has not.

How do you describe your art and/or genre?
I paint stylized figures that explore universal themes. I begin with a sketch and continually simplify the shapes, aligning them within a strictly ordered grid. These shapes are filled with pattern, texture and color attending to overall surface design rather than narrative content. The resulting paintings are about family, work, poverty or prayer rather than pictures of these things.

What do you want viewers of your art to think, feel or do?
First of all, I want the viewer to truly look at the painting and linger. We are accustomed, in this visual age, to reading images for quick comprehension and moving on. Paintings cannot be read this way. They take time. Then I want the viewer to consider how an image changes or reinforces their understanding of a theme. My images are fairly open-ended and do not put forth any certain supposition. My hope is that the viewer identifies with a larger theme and sees the value in living with the image over time for inspiration or in an ongoing dialogue.

What does being a featured artist in the Mission Federal ArtWalk mean to you?
There are so many fantastic artists in a show like this, and it's an honor to be chosen as a featured artist. Because I am based in Washington, being featured allows more people in the San Diego area to become familiar with my work.

Where can people see your work?
Because I'm not local, the best opportunity is my website. I'd be delighted if people would stop by and follow me at TornilloFineArt.com.

What are your future artistic goals?
I am excited about an ongoing project of educating what I call 'small a' artists, and 'small c' collectors, to the vital role they play in building a vibrant life in community. Art literacy has plummeted in our society, and, consequently so many people miss out on the rich and sustaining gifts that the visual arts offer. Of course, I will continue to paint as well and travel to show my work whenever I can.

If you could meet and learn from any artist, living or dead, whom would you choose?
Pablo Picasso, without a doubt. He had the ability to see in ways that no one else had, and then to create amazing images to help us to see as well. No painter is able to go anywhere now without going through Picasso. Yes, he was a horrible misogynist. Yes, he painted a lot of embarrassingly bad pictures. But no one even comes close in terms of his genius and his influence on painters today. I would choose to meet Mr. Picasso in Fontainebleau, summer of 1921. We'd have lunch and talk about his early days in Paris, the peace he finds in the south of France and about the large canvases he has been painting of gargantuan and classicized women. Cigars, perhaps.

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