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New murals by New York artist Maria de Los Angeles come to Glen Ellen

Come celebrate

Community Celebration, marking the public presentation of two new murals by Maria de Los Angeles

Where: 13647 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m Saturday, July 10

Information: svma.org, 707-939-7862

Schedule (subject to change):

11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. art activities.

Noon to 1 p.m.: Speakers including Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, mural sponsor Stephen Sorkin and Linda Keaton, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art executive director

1:30 p.m.: Ballet Folklorico Quetzalen

2:30 p.m.: Ben Prentice & Joel Kruzic Jazz Duo

Food and beverages will be available from the Garden Court Cafe and Cielito throughout the event. Guests are encouraged to carpool to the event. Parking is limited.

Art aims to reflect, realistically or symbolically, the world around it. But public art also becomes part of the community itself. That is artist Maria de Los Angeles’ hope for her latest work.

Next week, the face of Glen Ellen will change with the installation of two large murals by de Los Angeles, 33, who grew up in Sonoma County and now works in New York City and lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Dappled with the brilliant colors that the artist is known for, the murals will be permanently mounted on two walls of a rebuilt and expanded mixed-use project that includes retail space, the Garden Court Cafe restaurant and an affordable housing project at 13647 Arnold Drive.

The works go on public display Saturday, July 10, with a daylong celebration scheduled in honor of the occasion.

“One of the reasons I said yes to this project is because the building itself includes affordable housing,” de Los Angeles said. “That is a nice note.”

Based on suggestions and ideas drawn from the community, her paintings celebrate the culture and history of Glen Ellen, with scenes of harvest time and the local landscape.

“The references are not always fully representational,” de Los Angeles explained. “I am more of a symbolist. There is a reference to the Virgin of Guadalupe, but it is my own version.”

There also are images of famous people linked to the area, including author Jack London and 19th-century American entrepreneur and abolitionist Mary Ellen Pleasant.

“Maria dug up some history of Glen Ellen that I don’t think anyone is aware of very much,” said Linda Keaton, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, curator the for the project.

The artist worked with Miki Hsu Leavey, the museum’s community engagement coordinator, holding meetings with various local groups to get input on the project, Keaton said.

“I grew up in Santa Rosa, but I didn’t know much about Glen Ellen,” de Los Angeles said. “I had to find out the local history.“

The larger of the two murals, titled “Valley of Dreams,” measures 12 feet by 12 feet and will face south on the corner of Arnold Drive and Carquinez Avenue. The slightly smaller one, “Galaxy of Hope,” is 12 feet by 7 feet and is on the north wall of the Garden Court Cafe facing a parking lot.

“I’m thinking in terms of a kaleidoscope of color. That is the effect I am going for,” de Los Angeles said. “I want it to be luscious.”

The sheer size of the of the paintings offered the artist new freedom and a challenge.

“Working on this scale is very different for me. This is very big for me,” she said. “The scale allows me to have more fun, with larger full-arm activity when I’m painting. It’s more physical. It’s not just in the wrist.”

Community outreach

The idea began in August 2019, when developers Stephen and Holly Sorkin approached the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, long active in local public art projects, about commissioning murals for their mixed-use building.

“We are grateful to Sonoma Valley Musuem of Art for curating this visually engaging and culturally relevant public art,” Sorkin said. “These murals provide an opportunity for the community to celebrate those who have built Glen Ellen and explore the complex history of Sonoma Valley.”

Several artists were considered for the project, but de los Angeles was the obvious first choice, said Keaton, who is grateful for the artist’s enthusiastic approach.

“One of the things I am most proud of is Maria’s outreach to the community,” she said.

De Los Angeles has been working on the paintings at her studio at Mana Contemporary cultural center in Jersey City, using a technique known as the mural cloth process. This method allowed the artist to create the murals in her art studio rather than painting them directly onto a building or wall facade.

Next week, she will oversee the transfer of the mural cloth paintings by local installer Sarah Zbinden to their permanent place on the two walls in Glen Ellen. Then the artist will add finishing touches.

Although de Los Angeles moved in 2011 to the New York City area, where she lives with her husband, Philippines-born artist Ryan Bonilla, she still honors deep local roots.

Born in Mexico, de Los Angeles came to California with her family as child in 1999. The family settled in the Roseland neighborhood of Santa Rosa, which was then still an unincorporated part of Sonoma County.

She attended Lawrence Cook Middle School and Elsie Allen High School before graduating from Santa Rosa High and going on to Santa Rosa Junior College.

Then she earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting from Pratt Institute in New York City in 2013 and a master of fine arts degree in painting and printmaking from Yale School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2015.

In 2019, the Museum of Sonoma County in downtown Santa Rosa presented a one-woman show of both new and previous work by de Los Angeles.

She also has a commission to create a permanent mural in the main-floor elevator lobby of a building, still under construction, that is part of the expansion of Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital. The artist also will create smaller, complementary pieces for placement in the second- and third-floor elevator lobbies.

To see more of de los Angeles’ work, visit her Instagram at @delosangelesart.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

Come celebrate

Community Celebration, marking the public presentation of two new murals by Maria de Los Angeles

Where: 13647 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m Saturday, July 10

Information: svma.org, 707-939-7862

Schedule (subject to change):

11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. art activities.

Noon to 1 p.m.: Speakers including Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, mural sponsor Stephen Sorkin and Linda Keaton, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art executive director

1:30 p.m.: Ballet Folklorico Quetzalen

2:30 p.m.: Ben Prentice & Joel Kruzic Jazz Duo

Food and beverages will be available from the Garden Court Cafe and Cielito throughout the event. Guests are encouraged to carpool to the event. Parking is limited.

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