Quarryhill Botanical Garden with New Sculpture

Uprising by Bruce Johnson

Uprising by Bruce Johnson

Quarryhill Botanical Garden is a Sonoma County treasure.  The garden is about 25 years old and has the mission of conservation, study and cultivation of the flora of Asia.  I have written about this place before but I got to go to a special event this weekend.  As a member of “the press”, I was invited to a luncheon to meet Bruce Johnson, sculptor, who has placed six of his current works throughout the garden.

Detail of Uprising by Bruce Johnson

Detail of Uprising by Bruce Johnson

These works are planned to be the first of a series of installations each lasting a year.  I could write about the works and how they are placed exquisitely in the landscape but pictures are so much easier!

The day was lovely.  There were two carts of press, Quarryhill Botanical Garden employees and Bruce Johnson.  The garden was beautiful with the natural wildness of a perfectly planned composition.  The sculptures are spotted within about a 7 acre area of the 25 acre property.  Bruce described the path he took to yield the works.  He calls his business Form and Energy and it is an appropriate description of these pieces.

 

Void by Bruce Johnson

Void by Bruce Johnson

So you are wondering how I am a member of the press?  I have written for the Gazette from its infancy and now it is well over 15 years.  It has been suggested in the past that I use my writing to get a visa to Cuba.  I thought that no one would accept me as a reporter and laughed it off.  I must say that this opportunity to lunch with the artist of these magnificent objects and take in the beauty of a renowned garden has made me feel differently.  I am a bit sorry that I didn’t get a badge that said “PRESS”!

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4th of July in the Vineyard

sunflowers20140704_193247Remember those garden parties that were featured in Bon Appetit (I think I may be aging myself with this memory!) with the relaxed hosts, lively guests and gorgeous tables of food, flowers and tableware.  All the food was prepared by the hostess (or host), the flowers were from the garden and the landscape was picture perfect.  I always aspired to recreate those photo shoots but somehow the backyard events in San Jose (or where ever I was at the time) fell a bit short of the ideal.

20140704_193222To be completely honest, times have changed and I no longer have these fantasies of being the perfect hostess with the most talent but the 4th of July celebration that I attended was as close to perfect as possible with the modern day twists.  “And what would those twists be?”, you may ask.  The first twist was that the flowers were not from our hosts garden but that of the gardener extraordinaire amongst us, Jackie Reuling.  The food was a collection of dishes from all the attendees.  The host and hostess, Richard Auger and Mary Radu, were wonderfully relaxed and the guests were lively (particularly when the sparklers came out!)

20140704_205909This delightful soiree was under the spreading tree among the pinot noir vines outside of Sebastopol.  I met some wonderful new friends, caught up with some old ones and felt like I was in a magazine story.

I hope that you had an equally delightful 4th of July celebration.

 

Artist Profile – Jann Aanestad

JannThere are some people who need an unusual name to be remembered but Jann (pronounced as Jan) Aanestad transcends the uniqueness of her moniker. She looks like the California girl and was born in San Rafael but she lived throughout the United States until she struck out on her own as a young coed at Stanford. Full of life and life experiences, Jann and her husband moved to Sebastopol 25 years ago from Clifton, Virginia where they had restored a condemned farmhouse and launched Jann into a career of interior decorating. The home was featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in 1988. The Aanestads enjoy the occasional recognition of their past home in a current advertisement or decorating book. The decoration is a testament to Jann’s inherent talent in color and composition that has carried over into her paintings.

This profile is about artists and I focus on the artist and their art. But Jann’s motivation of moving to Sebastopol because she had found relief from her symptoms of lupus from an acupuncturist who practices on Petaluma Avenue named David Walker is a compelling storyline. And one that I feel is worth discussing. Jann has been involved in many enterprises from a very early age. Her energy and vitality – along with exceptional intellect – catapulted her into startups ranging from high tech to antique dealer. But at one point she could hardly get out of bed and was eventually confined to a wheelchair due to the debilitating effects of lupus. Lupus is a disease that saps the energy from even those who seem to be tireless. Times of normalcy are unpredictably interrupted by flairups (the common lupus terminology) of fatigue and pain. This is a difficult condition that does not allow consistent activity or employment. The Aanestads relocated to Sonoma County because of the relatively mild weather that is advantageous and to be near treatment.

Vineyard by Jann Aanestad at Risk Press

Vineyard by Jann Aanestad at Risk Press

Jann remembers sketching portraits of students and staff during her early education as well as having paintings flung out the window because they were deemed worthless. She sketched tourists on the streets of New Orleans the summer after graduating from high school. She gave drawings to friends of her children that she produced while volunteering at Apple Blossom School. But when I asked when she became an artist, Jann answers “about 7 years ago.”cowboys

Seven years ago Jann began painting and that is what she does. In her tiny studio behind the family home on Blackney Road, Jann produces paintings of animals, buildings and still lifes. She is in preparation of her second showing at Risk Press Gallery in Sebastopol. The exhibit is CRITTERS and she is sharing the limelight with Nancy Winn, paper-mache artist. The exhibit started on June 29 and continues until July 28. Jann has benefited from the inputs of local painters and seasoned collectors and others have taken note. She has shown her work at Balletto Winery, Martin Ray Winery, Screamin’ Mimi’s, Corks at Russian River Vineyards, and currently at Stillwater Kitchen.

Nancy Winn's Chows on Display at Risk Press

Nancy Winn’s Chows on Display at Risk Press

2014 Redwood Empire Rose Society ROSE SHOW

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The perfect rose at the exact moment of judging is Queen of the Show.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES  This year we doubted that we would have roses – let alone a perfect rose.  But as in every year, we were shown that nature provides.    This year was very special as Honora Connelly won Queen with Brandy – her very first Queen!  Phyllis Saccani had to settle for Princess with Falling in Love.   Nice of Phyllis to share the glory this year.

No matter what the date or the weather, preparing for a Rose Show is a lot of work.  There is the selection of the theme, the naming of the arrangements (yes, they are named!), gathering of the judges and the myriad of other activities.  I have not had roses to enter since I left my fabulous rose garden in Forestville over 4 years ago but I do my contribution by preparing the judges luncheon.  This year I decided to serve tri-tip as I know that people really like it.  But I don’t know that I have ever cooked it myself.

20140520_162848I definitely do not barbeque so I was wondering how I was going to get this done.  And then there is that thing that I do not eat beef. Researching things is still a large part of my life so I began my research of either buying it prepared or cooking it in the oven.  The first stop was to the grill at Fiesta Market.  While they sell a great tri-tip (so I am told) each weekend, they do not prepare it in time for me to serve it at noon on Saturday. The second stop was the deli at Oliver’s Market.  Same answer as the Fiesta crew.    The deli worker sent me over to the meat market where the tri-tips are actually prepared.  Stop three – the butcher at the meat counter.   He said that the way to guarantee a tender tri-tip is to use a rub  and then marinate it for as long as possible in beer.  That sounded okay but a week was definitely too long to have meat in a frig.  Oh, and anyone who has been to my kitchen knows that there is not room for two tri-tips in my frig.  So the next stop was the 20140517_122804meat counter at Fiesta (I do live across the street from Fiesta).  The butcher basically explained that a rub for flavor and alcohol for breaking down the tissue to have a tender cut of meat.  He said that I could cook them in the oven.  I purchased close to 6 lbs of tri-tip and rubbed them with the steak seasoning that came with a seasoning set.  I put a lot of rub on, slipped each into a gallon baggie and drove over to Phyllis’  with the steaks and a bottle of wine.  Poured half a bottle of wine into each baggie and asked Phyllis to turn the meat each time she went into the frig.  The morning of the Show, I let the beef come to room temperature and cooked in the oven at 350  degrees after being heated to 425 degrees.  30 minutes on one side and 15 minutes on the other and it was cooked to perfection.  Along with the tri-tip was Caesar Salad and chicken pasta salad (for those non steak eaters – of which I was the only one!)   Dessert was apple cake and vanilla ice cream.   Lunch, as always, was a huge success.

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My favorite part of the rose shows are the arrangements and bouquets.  Nothing is more lovely to me than a big vase of beautiful roses.   Once again, Martin Kooi won the best arrangement award.  But I loved Gail Lee’s arrangement and Phyllis’ bouquet of “left over” roses.  It was a great day and a beautiful show.

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Artist Profile – Barbara Valles

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I met Barbara Valles at a dinner party – not totally unexpected to meet an artist in this county of exceptional talent.  But meeting Barbara with her husband and young daughter at the home of a friend did not prepare me for the intensity and depth of the art I was soon to experience.  Let me introduce you to Barbara as I met her.  Barbara’s parents were visiting from Spain to be near when their grandchild came into the world.  The parents rented the home where the dinner party was held and fast became friends with the homeowners.  Through that connection, my friends became friends with Barbara.   Barbara and her family are the epitome of wine country living.  The attractive wife of a successful winemaker and the mother of a delightful child, Barbara’s faint accent hints that she has a story to tell. Yes, she is an artist. Yes, she is an immigrant.  Yes, there is so much more to know about her and her art.

Barbara was born and raised in the outskirts of Madrid, Spain.  With an artist for a mother, Barbara knew early in her life that she was destined to be an artist.  Her older brother came to the United States as an exchange student and she followed in his footsteps at the age of sixteen.  She returned to Madrid but soon decided to spend her last year and a half of high school at St Joseph High School in Utah.  After graduation she embraced Europe and studied art in Italy and London for two years before enrolling at the Arizona State University, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.  With art degree in hand, she relocated to the East Bay and went into the workforce as a non-artist, video game producer. She met Greg, her husband, and they together moved to Sonoma County in February of 2010.

The art Barbara produces is big and bold from materials that are considered industrial.  While she has earlier works that are seemingly 2 dimensional, the substrate and texture are fluid in the breeze and layered in construction.  What appears to be a heavy paint or possibly cut paper attached is glue peeled from another surface and fashioned to provide movement to an otherwise stationary canvas – using techniques that she developed as a child while playing in her mother’s studio.  As an adult, she has progressed to inventing new methods that utilize the same childhood props.  Drop clothes – water resilient on the front and absorbent on the back – are saturated with glue and dried in provocative shapes, painted with pastels or shimmering gray.  She has named these Botanicals but they are like no plants I have every witnessed.  Another favorite material is Tarleton cloth, a stiff cheese cloth like fabric that is normally used to wipe etching plates of excess ink.  There is a series of hangings with “dabs” of paint that evoke leaves in the air.  Well, that is what it evokes for me.  The great thing about this art is that every observer will see what touches them personally with few preconceived ideas.  Recently she has painted bubble wrap as is shown in the picture here.  These common objects are transformed into delicate delights for the eyes.   She is experimenting with installation pieces that make the ordinary extraordinary.

It is not surprising that Barbara is influenced by the Dadaist Marcel Duchamp who challenged the thinking of art forms in the early 20th century.   Gabriel Orozco, a contemporary Mexican artist, is one of her favorites with his stark but elegant installations of abstraction.  Barbara is currently looking for a space to share her work to its best advantage.  In the meantime, you can go to her website and glimpse the beauty of her creativity.  She has shown her work at A Street Gallery in Santa Rosa.  She is looking to exhibiting at Marin Museum of Contemporary Art in Novato and other Marin venues.  Her stated goal is to make something exquisite from mundane objects.  I think she has achieved this wonderfully.

You can see Barbara’s work at www.BarbaraValles.com or email her at balles.hayes@gmail.com.

Spring is Here – Or What Season is When?

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In my new home there is a very small garden.  You have seen pictures of my past garden – a half acre of roses, rhododendrons, daffodils, euphorbia, hollyhocks – oh, the list goes on.  I do miss my garden.  I would be lying if I said that I didn’t.  But for the last 30 years I have worked at having a garden with something in bloom at all times.  In Palo Alto this was not particularly hard as the winters were so mild that the rose hedge was in bloom constantly.  Moving to Forestville I learned about winter being a tough time to have something in bloom.  (I must admit that in graduate school I gardened in Boulder, Colorado and the only winter gardening was in the basement with heat lamps!)  But then I learned about hellebores.  For those who are not totally into horticulture, the opening picture is a hellebore.   The Lenten Rose is the hellebore – the rose that blooms in the winter.

rhodieLast June I transplanted plants from my interim garden on Joy Road.  Not the best time of the year to move plants and I wasn’t sure that they would all make it.  In November I bought a few plants to fill in the bare spaces.  The months of December and January were freezing – set many records and made me wish that I had a real heater. The weather this year has been so odd that I didn’t know what to expect when I stepped into my garden Camilliaon a warm February day.  I was certain that my hydrangea was dead.  Only because I was very busy, the crispy brown, leafless plant survived my ritualistic winter clearing of the garden.   But it has leaves bursting all over.  My rhododendron is plumping up and ready to pop.  The camellia is already dropping blossoms.

I am excited to see the roses leaf out.  The pansies are nodding their smiling faces.  The clematis has little bits of green showing up along the brittle tendrils.  Coral bells are blooming.  Ornamental strawberries are in full regalia.   I don’t know by Spring or Summer what will be in the garden but I am suspecting that it will be magnificent.   Today I noticed that my rose-blossom-shaped succulent by my front door is beginning to bloom.  It is wonderful to live in this wonderful place.

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Artist Profile – Gerald Huth

ImageAnyone driving through Forestville during June or October will recognize the name Gerald Huth.  Since the onset of Art at the Source and ARTrails, Gerald has prominently proclaimed OPEN STUDIO at his Anderson Road studio and gallery.  While I had visited his gallery early in my Forestville residency, I had never met Gerald until this last week.  Tall, energetic, excited, intense, well-traveled – the adjectives keep coming as I reflect upon the man who sat across from me as we spoke of art in Sonoma County, the human condition in Cambodia and the impact of circumstance on the path one takes in life.

Gerald was born to immigrant parents in New York City.  He spoke German in the home and his parents taught the philosophy that each person was intended to make life better for others.  Gerald had the opportunity to study architecture at University of Pennsylvania.  Upon graduation, he left for Stuttgart to begin his apprenticeship in this challenging field.  But the rigors of architecture gave way to the art all around him and it was not long before he was studying art at Ecole des Beaux-Arts d’Avignon in France.  From Europe he traveled to Australia, taking every opportunity to paint and show his works.  He traveled through Asia and by the time he returned to New York, he was an artist –  no longer an architect.

Gerald understood that he wanted a career that allowed him to travel and one that gave him the freedom to express his beliefs and passion without constraint of his profession.  He delved into the New York art scene with his full effort.  He expanded his knowledge and exposure by attending Hunter College of the City of New York and The Art Student’s League of New York.  His first New York exhibits took place in 1979 and his career was launched in his hometown.

There were no plans to move to Sonoma County when Gerald and his wife visited his sister in Healdsburg in 1985.  But once being exposed to this beautiful place what artist can pass on living in Sonoma County?  Gerald’s wife led multi-language tours of National Parks so there was no impediment to relocating for her.  Soon the family settled on Anderson Road where Gerald renovated the dilapidated garage into a spacious studio.  In 1995 Gerald began a string of shows in Europe – Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France.  The ability to travel, show his art and come home to the beautiful environment of Sonoma County has fulfilled his dreams of early adulthood.

In 2003, Gerald and his wife turned their focus on Southeast Asia.  During Gerald’s early travels he visited Asia and fell in love with the culture of the area.  The couple visited Cambodia and taught art classes for children under the House of Peace program.  For the last five years, they have traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia to contribute to Anjali House.  This program takes children from the ages of 4 to 16 who would otherwise be living on the streets in this impoverished area and provides education, nourishment and health care.  About 100 children are in the program at a time.  Each January, the Huths participate in the production of a play project which is focused on a Cambodian folktale.  The children create and perform over a three week period during which they practice the English they are learning, paint sets and enrich their understanding of their heritage.  This is a successful and rewarding activity that follows the creed of improving someone’s life each day as Gerald was taught by his father.

If you have not visited Gerald’s studio, it is tucked down a country lane off of Anderson Road (just past El Molino High School).  He conducts workshops and classes in the newly insulated studio that he renovated so many years ago.  There is now another building that houses his permanent collection of work which is open during Art @ the Source and ARTrails as well as by appointment.  Gerald’s art is big, bold, colorful, 3-dimensional – words that could also describe Gerald.  His subject material varies but is centered on the human form with shades of blue, green, yellow and ecru.  After 9/11 he expressed the grief and anguish of the attacks through a series of works that merged eulogy and visual anguish.  Recently there is a noticeable influence of the Cambodian culture in his collages of Buddha, Middle Eastern scripts and original art in the eternal circle.  Evolution in life and in art go hand in hand.

You can see Gerald’s work at www.geraldhuthart.com or email him at studio@geraldhuthart.com.


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