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Sonoma artist puts out paintings for passers-by

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One thing people could still do after the coronavirus prompted a statewide shelter-in-place order was go for a walk. Artist Kathleen Truax soon noticed more folks on foot in her usually quiet neighborhood not far from Highway 12 in Sonoma.

“The number of people walking increased, so I thought it might be nice if they had something to look at,” said Truax, 76. She had just the solution. “I’ve been painting all my life,” she said.

Beginning in early April, Truax put a new painting out in front of her house every weekend. It all started when her partner, David Quaife, came back from the grocery store with a stockpile of food.

“I had so much. I thought the many walkers on the street might like to see it. So I painted a picture of a filled fruit bowl and put it on an easel out front,” she said. “I was trying to break my own sense of isolation. I know how hard this is. I feel it the same way everybody else does.”

Evidently she was right. The response was so warm and immediate it almost startled the artist.

“I’ve been absolutely delighted,” Truax said. “It’s been overwhelming. People have thanked me and taken photos. I’ve talked to people in my neighborhood I’d never met. More drivers are slowly going by. A little girl up the street starting posting paintings in front of her house.”

While Truax produces a wide variety of landscapes, portraits and abstract paintings, she recently decided to display outside her home two works inspired by the coronavirus. One showed a face full of fear and despair and the other depicted a man and woman in masks surrounded by giant versions of the virus.

“I expected a possibly negative reaction, but people said the work was beautiful,” Truax said.

As talk of reopening businesses intensifies, Truax plans to stage one last frontyard art show from 10 a.m. to dusk Saturday as a sort of grand finale. Visit her website at kathleentruaxart.com for details and directions.

“I will culminate these shows with a bigger event in front of my house called ‘6’ Apart Art.’ Paintings will be placed at that distance to help ensure public safety. I expect to show about 15 to 20 paintings, including the coronavirus-inspired artwork.” If she sells any of the artworks, she plans to donate 15% of the proceeds to the F.I.S.H. (Friends in Sonoma Helping) Food Pantry, she said.

This weekend is not quite the last hurrah for Truax and her drive-by art show. She’ll also participate in the National Arts Drive organized by Los Angeles-based artists’ collective RAW: natural born artists at 3 p.m. June 6. On that day, artists nationwide and in Mexico and Canada will display their work outside homes and businesses for people to view as they drive by. Information: NationalArtsDrive.com

“Artists have had a terrible time getting their art seen during this pandemic,” Truax said.

And she is leaving the gate open, to put it figuratively, for the return of her frontyard exhibits.

“It is possible I will do another in the fall if it seems like we need it,” she said.

Truax retired in 2012 after working as a family therapist for 29 years in Marin County. She’s remained active as an artist, participating in the annual Sonoma County Art Trails open studio tour from 2014 through 2018 and in the Santa Rosa Arts Center exhibit “Healing by Art,” which had a wildfire recovery theme, in 2018.

Whether her art is seen or not, she intends to stay creative.

“I’ve been painting mostly for my own enjoyment,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com.

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