The composite image to the left shows magazines that have used my suiseki for their covers. The oldest, on the lower right, was published in 1984.
My Suiseki Aesthetics and Evaluation page has another very important article entitled Suiseki — The Invisible Art, which has been published in Bonsai Clubs International and an Italian bonsai magazine.
A Visit to Florence, and Liguria Italy
By Felix G. Rivera
Once again I had the pleasure of visiting Italy on suiseki-related activities. This trip, which started on Wednesday September 27th, 2006 - for two and a half weeks, was divided into three activities: giving a lecture to the Pisa suiseki club, judging the Associazione Italiana Amatori Suiseki exhibition (the Italian Association of Suiseki Lover’s) all-Italy annual exhibition in Florence, and collecting stones. I have to thank my dear friend Luciana Queirolo for her consideration, inviting me to judge their exhibition once again, and planning the logistics of our itinerary for stone collecting after the exhibition. The best part of my visit is always seeing my old friends and making new ones. The camaraderie and generosity displayed by all was heart warming; they went out of their way to make my stay a memorable one.
My first stop was in Pisa, where I had landed, because the Pisa suiseki club, with Luciana’s coordination, had made arrangements for me to make a Power Point presentation to their club. It was a delightful experience. I made new friends there, some of whom I saw again in Florence.
The visit to Florence, as always, is an exquisite pleasure, but this visit was exceptional - not only because of the city’s historic art, but also because I got to experience it in a unique way, in the way I most treasured. The suiseki, over 60 of them, were magnificent; all the classifications were evident, with some truly elegant, breathtaking stones. The judging was difficult for me, as it has been in the past. How does one separate one fantastic suiseki from others? The decisions were hard to make, but, as I explained my choices during the banquet that evening, and the following day, I would like to believe all the artists left with a better appreciation of the quality of all their suiseki. Of course not all were happy by my choices, for that is always the problems with any judged exhibition. It is only one person’s preferences. The winner of the mountain stone category, and best in show, was a dream of a mountain range that may suggest a scene from an airplane. Claudio Villa, its owner, has had numerous first place awards in other venues, including the Crespi Cup in Milan. Claudio told us that it took him two years cleaning the stone until he was satisfied with its look! That’s dedication to our art.
All judging was done without my knowing the owners. It came as no surprise that the majority of the members winning awards were well known names in the art, both as excellent artists and as contributors to the art and the organization. Giving awards to new friends was also a unique experience, as I admired suiseki by artists I had never met before. At the end of the exhibition I was given a ride to Liguria by Jesus Quintas, an old friend from Madrid, Spain. I also met four other Spaniards who had gone to Italy to see the exhibition and collect in Liguria.
The drive was full of conversation and my thoughts about my Florence experience. I especially enjoyed the visit by my daughter, Olivia, who flew from Madrid, where she is studying for a year. It was her first visit to Italy, and her introduction to such a beautiful country was perfect with the door opening for her in Florence. One friend in particular, has to be mentioned. It was Paola Gramigni whom I met for the first time. She and her husband own an elegant restored old house on the outskirts of Florence. Paola had offered a spare bedroom for Olivia and me, with Luciana who was also staying there. Luciana’s an old friend of Paola’s. The Gramigni’s hospitality was magnificent, especially their great cooking.
We finally arrived in the Ligurian region at night. Luciana was our hostess, as she has been all the years I have visited her beautiful region. She took us from collection area to collecting area; as usual, the terrain was magnificent with grand vistas and geological wonders. We collected in open, rolling hills, in deep gorges, and in dark forests whose tree branches overlapped forming dark canopies, reminding me of the cathedrals I had visited in Florence and Pisa. What wasn't a wonder was the weather that pestered us for the days we collected with the Spaniards, and three days after they had left. The cold, heavy fog, and wind-driven rain was a constant reminder of the protective clothing I should've brought with me. I had foolishly brought light clothing and sandals. Of course I caught a bad cold. Luciana and other friends, Angelo Attina and Cesare Fumagalli, went about their collecting as if nothing was wrong!
It was quite a sight seeing the Spaniards and me sliding down wet grassy slopes on our posteriors as we tried to wrestle with large stones. Then I was cursing, but now I smile as I think back to those crazy days with friends as crazy as me. It was not for naught, as all of us collected very nice material. I must thank Luciana for loaning me wool shirts and a parka. I would have loved to hear her describing my foolish exploits to her friends.
After Jesus and his friends left, Luciana took me collecting in some new areas. What made one site particularly memorable was the fact that the area had a slope of about a 40°-45° incline. Couple this with the wet ground and we have a very delicate situation. Luckily none of us went tumbling down, which has occurred to me in years past. Luciana found nice material here. The prize, however, must be given to Cesare for digging out a palombino (the blue-grey color of pigeons, similar to the Ligurian limestone’s color) that must have weighed about 70-75 pounds (about 34 kilos). I helped him haul it from the slope but he insisted on carrying it out to the car, about 2-3 miles, alone. Cesare’s only about 5'6" tall, maybe shorter.
We visited my other old, dear friends, Andrea Schenone and his lovely wife Mirella. Everyone had been talking about the surprise that awaited me in their hone that was constructed the year before; a project designed by their daughter, an architect, and Andrea and Mirella. As usual, they greeted Luciana and me with hugs and kisses, and their warm generosity. I enjoyed basking in their friendship and the warmth of their magnificent suiseki. Finally it was time to see the remodeling project in their basement. I was not to be disappointed. The photos with this article will underline my amazement at seeing a vault, with a steel bars door and wired windows, thick walls with shelves inserted into the walls. The far end of the vault had the crowning touch: a magnificent tokonoma. What a beautiful place. It was unbelievable. What a treasury for Andrea and Mirella’s suiseki. Their passion and dedication to the art is symbolized by the respect and care they give their stones. I guess it’s an honor to be locked up in their vault! We went collecting with Andrea , Luciana, Angelo and Cesare. They too took me to areas I had never visited. The weather had turned for the better and the panoramic views were a dream. One of the locations was a magnificent chestnut tree forest. One could easily lose oneself here while wandering about enjoying the views and listening to the cacophony of the falling chestnuts. As usual, Andrea and Luciana found excellent material.
At last it was time to say goodbye. I was full of memories, new friendships and renewal of old ones. The field collecting had worked its wonders on us; the excitement of the search, the banter, the scrapes, and, yes, the rain. I'll be back soon.
The photo on the left shows me along a cut on a road with the Palombino material in evidence. Collecting techniques require our digging out these inclusions to see if they are of suiseki quality.
The photo above shows my dear friend Luciana Queirolo with a friend, Cesare, along a river with a potential picture stone.
The group photo shows from left to right, Andrea Schenone, Luciana, Cesare, Mirella Schenone, and me.
The Schenone's's daughter is kneeling in front of us.
The photo above shows Marco Favero in the distance, on the left,
as we collect in the fog in a new area of the Alpenine Alps.
This very, very, rare green Ligurian Palombino, was collected by Andrea,
and has already won him top awards.
Another magnificent Ligurian suiseki collected by Andrea.
The bucolic view from the Mirella's porch and frames the suiseki very nicely.
This article discusses suiseki aesthetics within the context of changing and integrative values between Japan and the West.