Archive for August, 2013


August 30th, 2013 1 comment

What would possess a five foot, shy sixteen year old girl who speaks no English to get on a boat and go to the USA in 1914?
She wasn’t a political refugee and was not fleeing a war zone. She was escaping a controlling mother! Her family lived comfortably in a small town, her father; a tailor, her mother; a well educated woman, wrote and read letters for people. This gave her some power, as she didn’t hesitate to take charge and actually author the words of the letters that she was writing for others; writing not necessarily what was asked, this according to her daughter in law’s family in Sicily.
Maddalena left home with a plan to help her sister in law with her baby, but that was very short lived, because shortly after coming to America, she was working in a factory and meeting my grandfather. Her older brother, as her guardian, disapproved of my grandfather, saying that he was “no good.” But just as it happens today, his disapproval helped to fan the fires of love, and Tom and Maddalena were married, twice actually, the first marriage was a civil ceremony, to make their unborn child legitimate, the second, in the church.
Maddalena had a really tough life, she lost three of her six children, the first was stillborn, her next child, a son, died under the wheels of an automobile driven by a nun when he was six years old.
Maddalena was famous for her cooking, we were never disappointed at her table. Sometimes, in between meals, she’d call me over to the kitchen and share some amazing delicacy with me.
Maddalena was my namesake. If you want to read THAT story, go here.

note: the reference for this painting was taken from a photo of her at her daughter’s wedding shower.

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A lost child

August 29th, 2013 1 comment

Lost children can be found in many families. Their parents love them, but are too messed up themselves to be good parents. There are lots of clues of the dark side, but there are good times too.
I was only 14 when I first held Tim in my arms. He was a lovable, beautiful baby. His parents were smitten by him. By the time I took the photograph that is the reference for this painting, I already had my doubts as to how well this child was going to do, but at that point, I, too, was a lost child.
His family moved to the other side of the country before I was 18, but not before they had a second son, even more amiable than the first.
Tim died young, and tragically; with a long record of brushes with the law. I often wonder what could have been done, and regret the potential that was lost.

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Ripped off, the story of “Jim” Fressola

August 27th, 2013 No comments

vincenzoMy only American grandparent was born in Manhattan, New York at the end of the 19th century. He was born in the USA to recent Italian immigrants. He was their last child, born when they were already advanced in age, and had more or less given up on having a son at all, having had 3 daughters before him; Maria, Filomena and Vincenza. They named their last daughter Vincenza to make up for not having a son, as they were expected to name a son after the father’s father.
He grew up in Manhattan, attending public school, but his parents felt the pull of their land (they had some property in Atena Lucana) and decided to go back to Italy. He didn’t want to go, he was an American, and Manhattan was all he knew, but being just a child, he had to go with them. He hated it there, he always spoke Italian with an accent and was called “the American.”
Soon after they returned to Italy, the first world war began. And he was just the right age to be drafted. He was very unhappy about being in the Italian army, he was an American! But serve he did, and at the end of the war, he was discharged honorably, still a private. He took the first boat he could find back to the USA in 1920. This was the one time where he was on the lucky side; a lot of his fellow veterans of that war could not go to America, because of very strict immigration quotas. He had no trouble at all, because he was an American citizen.
Back home, he discovered that now he was considered an Italian, not an American at all. Once again he was the odd man out, swimming up stream.

because of his Italian heritage, he found it very difficult to get a job, even with his very good command of English. Once when he was out job hunting, he saw a “help wanted” sign. He received an enthusiastic welcome and filled out the application. When he was done with the paperwork he handed it in, only to see the interviewer throw it into the trash upon seeing his very Italian name on the application.

Speaking of names, a common American nickname in those days for Vincenzo was Jimmy, so Vincenzo became Jimmy and Jimmy became James and my grandfather went by James or Jim for the rest of his life. His last name, Fressola meant frying pan in dialect. Of course, here in the USA, it was just another hard to spell foreign name.

When he was in his late 20’s he met the Melino family at church and found their younger daughter Lucia very interesting. She was only 16 years old, totally not interested in him, (he was so old!), but he continued to come to their house for dinner, and when he was 31 years old, they got married; my grandmother, Lucia Melino, was barely 18 the day of her wedding.

While his fellow Italian-Americans bought houses, got medical care, and went to college on the GI bill, my grandfather received absolutely nothing from the Italian government. Whatever he tried to do, he seemed to come up against stumbling blocks, he wanted to be a police officer, but was too short. Finally, long after his kids were raised, he found work at the Lionel model train factory, where he was twice awarded for good service. Our memories of him are of an angry and then finally defeated man.
Right after he died, the Italian government made him an honorary knight and offered my grandmother $15.00 a month in pension benefits. She declined.

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Covina Beach Girl

August 22nd, 2013 No comments

The reference for this painting was almost too small. I wanted to try it anyway because it’s so cute. Here is a 15 year old Evie standing on the beach in her swim suit with all her wild curly hair. Evie is my mother in law. I love this picture of her because it shows just how much she had going for her at such a young age.

How many people descended from her got that hair? At least two in my immediate family!

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Meet the parents

August 16th, 2013 No comments
alfredoa carmenf

Okay so the only place my mother and father can be seen together are on my birth certificate and on some faded old black and white photos. But using artist licence, I can put them side by side. But the fact is, each of them contributed 50% of my genes, and both of their features can be seen on me and even on my children. As part of the series that I am doing right now, called bloodlines, I am planning to paint a lot of relatives. Where I stop, nobody knows.

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