Niki de Saint Phalle

WPC: Fakeless faces

Some posted already, some new, some human, some animal, some artistic.

Photo: a © signature mmm production

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: Face

Happy birthday, tiček Lako!

Today celebrates my uncle Rajko. May the First be with you, like every year! And let’s exchange the views soon again, your Maribor (above) for our Tuscany (below). Cin cin and buon appetito!

Photo: a © signature mmm production

Thursday Doors, April 7

Many visits to Il giardino dei tarocchi (Tarot Garden by Niki de Saint Phalle) had to pass before I realised that there too were doors. Some are just more hidden than others.

Some are just like an aperture on the female body.

Some are hidden more than others, such as the shaft below, and still stylish.

Sometimes there are merely holes.

Some mark off the territory that is not allowed to roam.

Some mean the end of the road.

And some hide in Niki’s living room.

Photo: a © signature mmm production

For Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors challenge.

WPC: Sexing the Cherry, no half light about it

What follows are three out of twelve dancing princesses telling their stories about what happened after they married three of 12 princes, from the book “Sexing the Cherry” by Jeanette Winterson. They are one of the reasons why this book is my favourite.


We all slept in the same room, my sisters and I, and that room was narrower than a new river and longer than the beard of the prophet.

So you see exactly the kind of quarters we had.

We slept in white beds with white sheets and the moon shone through the window and made white shadows on the floor.

From this room, every night, we flew to a silver city where no one ate or drank. The occupation of the people was to dance. We wore out our dresses and slippers dancing, but because we were always sound asleep when our father came to wake us in the morning it was impossible to fathom where we had been or how.

You know that eventually a clever prince caught us flying through the window. We had given him a sleeping draught but he only pretended to drink it. He had eleven brothers and we were all given in marriage, one to each brother, and as it says lived happily ever after. We did, but not with our husbands.

I have always enjoyed swimming, and it was in deep waters one day that I came to a coral cave and saw a mermaid combing her hair. I fell in love with her at once, and after a few months of illicit meetings, my husband complaining all the time that I stank of fish, I ran away and began housekeeping with her in perfect salty bliss.

For some years I did not hear from my sisters, and then, by a strange eventuality, I discovered that we had all, in one way or another, parted from the glorious princes and were living scattered, according to our tastes.

We bought this house and we share it. You will find my sisters as you walk about. As you can see, I live in the well.

“We bought this house and we share it. You will find my sisters as you walk about.” Roma.


You may have heard of Rapunzel.

Against the wishes of her family, who can best be described by their passion for collecting miniature dolls, she went to live in a tower with an older woman.

Her family were so incensed by her refusal to marry the prince next door that they vilified the couple, calling one a witch and the other a little girl. Not content with names, they ceaselessly tried to break into the tower, so much so that the happy pair had to seal up any entrance that was not on a level with the sky. The lover got in by climbing up Rapunzel’s hair, and Rapunzel got in by nailing a wig to the floor and shinning up the tresses flung out of the window. Both of them could have used a ladder, but they were in love.

One day the prince, who had always liked to borrow his mother’s frocks, dressed up as Rapunzel’s lover and dragged himself into the tower. Once inside he tied her up and waited for the wicked witch to arrive. The moment she leaped through the window, bringing their dinner for the evening, the prince hit her over the head and threw her out again. Then he carried Rapunzel down the rope he had brought with him and forced her to watch while he blinded her broken lover in a field of thorns.

After that they lived happily every after, of course.

As for me, my body healed, though my eyes never did, and eventually I was found by my sisters, who had come in their various ways to live on this estate.

My own husband?

Oh well, the first time I kissed him he turned into a frog.

There he is, just by your foot. His name’s Anton.

“Oh well, the first time I kissed him he turned into a frog.” Il giardino dei tarocchi, Niki de Saint Phalle.


When my husband had an affair with someone else I watched his eyes glaze over when we ate dinner together and I heard him singing to himself without me, and when he tended the garden it was not for me.

He was courteous and polite; he enjoyed being at home, but in the fantasy of his home I was not the one who sat opposite him and laughed at his jokes. He didn’t want to change anything; he liked his life. The only thing he wanted to change was me.

It would have been better if he had hated me, or if he had abused me, or if he had packed his new suitcases and left.

As it was he continued to put his arm round me and talk about building a new wall to replace the rotten fence that divided our garden from his vegetable patch. I knew he would never leave our house. He had worked for it.

Day by day I felt myself disappearing. For my husband I was no longer a reality, I was one of the things around him. I was the fence which needed to be replaced. I watched myself in the mirror and saw that I was no longer vivid and exciting. I was worn and grey like an old sweater you can’t throw out but won’t put on.

He admitted he was in love with her, but he said he loved me.

Translated, that means, I want everything. Translated, that means, I don’t want to hurt you yet. Translated, that means, I don’t know what to do, give me time.

Why, why should I give you time? What time are you giving me? I am in a cell waiting to be called for execution.

I loved him and I was in love with him. I didn’t use language to make a war-zone of my heart.

‘You’re so simple and good,’ he said, brushing the hair from my face.

He meant, Your emotions are not complex like mine. My dilemma is poetic.

But there was no dilemma. He no longer wanted me, but he wanted our life

Eventually, when he had been away with her for a few days and returned restless and conciliatory, I decided not to wait in my cell any longer. I went to where he was sleeping in another room and I asked him to leave. Very patiently he asked me to remember that the house was his home, that he couldn’t be expected to make himself homeless because he was in love.

‘Medea did,’ I said, ‘and Romeo and Juliet and Cressida, and Ruth in the Bible.’

He asked me to shut up. He wasn’t a hero.

‘Then why should I be a heroine?’

He didn’t answer, he plucked at the blanket.

I considered my choices.

I could stay and be unhappy and humiliated.

I could leave and be unhappy and dignified.

I could beg him to touch me again.

I could live in hope and die of bitterness.

I took some things and left. It wasn’t easy, it was my home too.

I hear he’s replaced the back fence.

“I was the fence which needed to be replaced.”


Photo: a © signature mmm production

Related: My open letter to Jeanette Winterson

I have never thought to add my photographs to a literary work. I’m glad I did it now for Jeanette and:

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: Half-Light

SL-WEEK 36: Women of Niki’s Tarot Garden

Today I bring you the unmistakable femininity of Niki de Saint Phalle’s statues from her Tarot Garden, Il giardino dei tarocchi, which I by some strange strike of luck have in my immediate vicinity. Since Sylvain said Women. Do I hear like attracts like?

The Garden is free every first Saturday in the months from November to March and I do my best to visit each time. Sometimes with an extra Devil. Whereas Ninja still has to be made into a tarot card. What can I say… it’s refreshing. I especially recommend the visit to any female who has ever struck her hip bones wishing they would just disappear, or wiggle her sedere in frustration because it ain’t going anywhere. This is our place of worship. Thank you, Niki!

More information on the statues in the captions. Here is an interesting paper on Niki and the Garden that I have just found.

Photo: a © signature mmm production

For Sylvain Landry’s SL-WEEK 36: Women

Hey you, dragging the halo-
how about a holiday in the islands of grief?

Tongue is the word I wish to have with you.
Your eyes are so blue they leak.

Your legs are longer than a prisoner’s
last night on death row.
I’m filthier than the coal miner’s bathtub
and nastier than the breath of Charles Bukowski.

You’re a dirty little windshield.

I’m standing behind you on the subway,
hard as calculus. My breath
be sticking to your neck like graffiti.

I’m sitting opposite you in the bar,
waiting for you to uncross your boundaries.

I want to rip off your logic
and make passionate sense to you.

I want to ride in the swing of your hips.

My fingers will dig in you like quotation marks,
blazing your limbs into parts of speech.

But with me for a lover, you won’t need
catastrophes. What attracted me in the first place
will ultimately make me resent you.

I’ll start telling you lies,
and my lies will sparkle,
become the bad stars you chart your life by.

I’ll stare at other women so blatantly
you’ll hear my eyes peeling,

because sex with you is like Great Britain:
cold, groggy, and a little uptight.

Your bed is a big, soft calculator
where my problems multiply.

Your brain is a garage
I park my bullshit in, for free.

You’re not really my new girlfriend,
just another flop sequel of the first one,
who was based on the true story of my mother.

You’re so ugly I forgot how to spell.

I’ll cheat on you like a ninth grade math test,
break your heart just for the sound it makes.

You’re the ‘this’ we need to put an end to.
The more you apologize, the less I forgive you.

So how about it?

Jeffrey McDaniel, The Jerk

La morte, Il giardino dei tarocchi, Niki de Saint Phalle.
Photo: a © signature mmm production

MM 2-44: Monochrome Madness Moon

La luna is one of the statues in the Tarot Garden, Il giardino dei tarocchi in the south of Tuscany, the home and artwork by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

Above is my contribution to this week’s Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness 2-44, and below is first the same image in colour and then some other images of La luna taken during my many visits to the Garden. If you wish to go there with me, just follow the Il giardino dei tarocchi tag (well, for now).

Photo: MM

Good luck knocking

I buy my gifts as if the whole world was available; I just have to look where my hand is about to reach.

Then I know for whom it is too.

So when it is a heart-shaped mirror, it must be sis.

But she is spending her Christmas and months around it in Peru.

After a consultation with my father I leave it gift-wrapped on top of her mail pile that is waiting for her at our parents’ house.

A few days before she is bound to return to this hemisphere for now, mom writes: “What is this heart-shaped mirror that I found on the shelf?”

“Wrap it back, mom. Not for you! Don’t you and dad ever talk?” Dad feigns ignorance and low recollection powers, he must have been on computer.

When sis returns, she must have opened it because she writes, with a heart:

“Oh, just to inform you that as I was packing to return, my old little mirror broke.”

“Sorry about that, had to do it,” I reply.

While in reality it was good luck knocking. I had merely known it would.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

And these are some other, Niki’s hearts from my yesterday’s visit to Il giardino dei tarocchi. Next time we go together.

Photo: MM

WPC: Circling around

Photo: MM

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: Circle

WPC: To Nate or not to Nate

Sometimes a word comes up with which I as a non-native speaker have a little problem. What could it mean? And why don’t I know it yet?

I do know ornament, so it can’t be too far off. And even if it’s not a sort of synonym of decorate, I was glad to see it as this week’s WP challenge because I knew I’d be going to the Garden again. Together with quite many people this time around.

Its name is Il giardino dei tarocchi, or the Tarot Garden, and it was home and child to Niki de Saint Phalle. The way she decorated it is not something that can be reproduced, never mind the fact that Tuscany requires no decoration. I try to visit it every first Saturday in the months of November through April seeing that it’s free then.

I first encountered her in Paris in 1991 when I – never a sketching kind – found myself copying her fountains in front of the Pompidou into my notebook. When I moved to southern Tuscany two and a half years ago, amore was talking about a Tarot Garden, which I found funny seeing that my card game is tarok and it has the same origin as tarot cards. I saw it as a sign. Of what? Of life going on, probably.

But nothing could prepare me for this. Neither my mother, my father, my sister and all my friends who have visited it. (Only my uncle is on strike.) Even bestia seems happy.

What it is, mostly, it’s full of love. And olives.

I just know I’ll never stop going there. Ornate or not.

Photo: MM

I have published quite a few photos from there already. If you wish to see more, follow the tag Il giardino dei tarocchi.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Ornate.”

WPC: Broken – to be improved

Broken, but only in order to be made better


Fontana di Trevi in November

Conglomerate in Tarquinia

Table in front of a Capalbio hotel

Three from Il giardino dei tarocchi, Niki de Saint Phalle understood this kind of broken (top photo also from here).

Photo: MM & MB (last two)

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Broken.”

Only in Italy

Trains in Italy are notoriously in delay. Every last one of them. They just have to be at least a few minutes late, but most usually it’s ten.

Even Niki de Saint Phalle felt it necessary to write on one of the walls in her Giardino dei tarocchi: “Basta con questi treni sempre in retardo.” Enough with these trains already, always late. This was in 1995, and nothing has changed.

You know because you are commuting to work by train. And I know because I meet you at the station every day.

There is a little bell, and then the speaker says “The train from Roma is arriving to platform 2 with the delay of…” and I strain to hear how many minutes.

I think the record is 330, but there were floods.

First I used to go the station optimistically only to discover there, looking at the orario on the screen, how much I had to wait.

But then I found out the online train tracking service in real time. This is very practical, indispensable really. There I can see, for example, that the train has already started in ritardo, and am able to track how many extra minutes it gains with each new town. Sometimes, very rarely, it says in orario, and then it is right on track.

This reminds me of the year 1990 which was the last time I went to our annual August seaside holiday with my parents. Even though I was 20, I would continue doing so but there was war. Our annual ritual was to board the train in Ljubljana with a bunch of friends on August 9th at 7 pm, have dinner when the train reached the first station (which is where originates the historical exclamation by a son of our friends upon passing our compartment, seeing us munching on Vienna-style steaks and boiled eggs, and returning to his parents: “Do you know what a good time M. family is having?”), travel all through the night and wake up in our triple bunk beds by the beautiful green Neretva river after the train left Sarajevo behind. Announcing tunnels was a favourite sport.

The end station was Ploče (later renamed Kardeljevo) by the sea, where we arrived some time before noon. There a ferry was waiting to take us to Trpanj on the Pelješac peninsula, and then barba Luka with his fishing boat brought us to Duba, our home away from home, and the eternal August could begin and last for some three weeks, after which we had to return to bleak midwinter which late August in Slovenia seemed to us after all that sun. And one year all three means of transport broke down one way or another.

But in 1990 we had another kind of problem with that train. I was awoken in mild panic: “Wake up, wake up, we have arrived!” The thing was that Croatia got a new president that year. And he made it his task to make trains run on schedule. We never knew that all those years our train should be reaching its destination at 8 or so in the morning!

Back to the present. One time you tell me you are on the train returning home, and it is the last train of the day – you were lucky to catch it. I open the page to track it and the initial delay is just a few minutes. Good. As the train is getting closer, I check again. In anticipo, it says. My eyebrows shoot up. No. Must be a mistake. I know anticipation, and this is not what Italian trains usually feel. But after passing another town it is still there: anticipo of two minutes.

I wonder for a minute what it means for the train to be early. People might miss it, for example.

I tell you the unbelievable news.

“I know,” you write back.

“How can you know?” I’m taken aback. “Did you ask them to hurry because you are hungry? Or do Italian railways have a new director?”

“I have just heard the conduttore call his colleague on another train to ask him if he can gift him a couple of minutes.”

“In order to do what?”

“Well. There is a woman here. And she missed her station. And now she has to return. And this is the last train of the night.”

So the world starts revolving around this woman now. One train is waiting for her on the next station. And her train, which means yours too, is speeding up so that she can catch it. All will be good. She will be able to reach her family on time.

“Is she young? Middle-aged?”

“I don’t know. I only heard her voice, she is in the next compartment.”

Right. And I should believe that you didn’t peek.

But I know. This is not about the looks. Italian men help because they can. They give the impression that there is no hurdle big enough. It is easier to live this way.

I like what I can hear in your voice when you tell me about it later. It is pride. “Imagine how a tedesco would respond,” you say and I grin at the thought of German punctuality.

Whereas meanwhile, and only in Italy, women rule over trains.

28-12-14 010 (957 x 1280)
This is a shirt you got for your 50th: the front says: “I don’t understand”, and the back says “I am German”, all in Italian, of course, and it is a joke, of course. Tu sei un italiano vero. Photo: MM

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈