Sonoma County artists open their studios for free Art Trails tours
Musicians can see the audience and actors can hear applause, but visual artists often remain a step or two removed from those who appreciate their work. A gallery owner or a museum curator might get closer to an artist’s audience than the artist ever does.
That’s one reason the annual Art Trails open studio tour — canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic — is so important to so many local artists.
“This is kind of a solitary career path, so it’s fun to engage with people,” Sebastopol painter James Reynolds said.
Reynolds is one of 121 artists signed up to participate in the Art Trails event, sponsored by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts for the next two weekends.
The free, self-guided tours are an opportunity for art lovers to meet artists and see them at work. It’s also a chance to buy artwork directly from the people who created it, but to Reynolds, that’s a secondary consideration.
“I focus on meeting the next person,” he said. “I don’t ever try to sell. I just talk to people.”
Each artist has a story to tell.
“I got started as a 12-year-old kid in Jamaica,” said sculptor and woodcarver Vincent S. Malcolm, who moved to the United States 18 years ago and now lives in Santa Rosa. “I learned from elders. I grew up doing it.”
His favorite wood for carving is black walnut, and one of his favorite themes is the Lion of Judah, a prominent symbol in the Rastafari movement.
“I am a Rasta believer, and I carve lots of lions,” he said. “I like people to come and see my art. I love to meet people and talk about art. Art Trails is one of the things I look forward to.”
The Santa Rosa studio of Jane Garibaldi, who has been creating jewelry from gold, silver and gemstones for 30 years, has a homey feel, thanks partly to the frequent presence of a black and white cat named Mac.
“He belongs to my neighbor, and the cat loves me, so he hangs out in my studio,” Garibaldi said.
Like many artists, Garibaldi has traditionally sold her work at craft fairs around the country, an activity severely subdued by the pandemic. So the return of Art Trails after a hiatus is significant.
“For the open studio tour, I’m putting a lot of my older work on sale,” she said.
For scenic photographer Bill Theis of Cotati, a career as an artist has meant spending much of his life on the road.
“Vacations were never really vacations,” he said. “They always had a purpose. They were photo trips. I’ve been going to southern Utah and Arizona mostly, but I’ve been all over the U.S. Wherever I am, I take pictures.”
Those Southwest locales might suggest mental images of barren tableaus, but one look at the photos presents an eerie beauty instead.
Travel also has been a significant part of Forestville ceramic artist Joel Bennett’s career. One of his favorite works is a globe he created, mounted on a marble pyramid created by other artists, near Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2010.
“I used clay from 16 countries. I had started collecting clay from all over the world — China, Japan, Argentina,” which he used to create the continents on the globe.
At his studio, Bennett makes vessels and other objects from wood-fired ceramics, which are burnished rather than glazed. During the process, the artist adds seaweed, banana peels and other ingredients to the fire to produce vibrant colors.
“During COVID, I’ve been able to spend more time in my studio,” he said. He welcomes visitors to meet him during Art Trails.
“For me, it always has been about inviting the public to visit the studio and see what I’m doing, and sharing that part of my life,” Bennett said.
Art Trails is one of two open studio tours presented each year by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. The other, Art at the Source, returned in June after going online last year. Now Art Trails is expected to accelerate the trend of reopening.
“Selected artists from Sonoma County Art Trails opening their studios again is a joyful sign of getting back to normal in our county,” said Catherine Devriese, creative director at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. “We are looking forward to seeing the many enthusiastic visitors.”
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.
Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat
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