Friday, January 17, 2014


It might seem like cyber-hibernation.  But it hasn't been.  Mea culpa.  It's been a bee's life, not a bear's.

And so, it was a delight to slow down today during a visit to an artist's studio in the mountains.  If the drive through redwoods wasn't meditative enough, the mountain perch of the barn-studio was enough to soothe our souls …  except that the artwork was charged with contemporary energy!  So we happily swapped serenity for stimulation.

Our warm and gracious host was the prolific Bay Area artist, Sal Pecoraro.  A student of Richard Diebenkorn's in the 1950s, he made his own name with innovative public and private commissions all over the Bay.   When he showed us photographs of his works, we were all surprised by how often we'd seen them around.

Here he is with one of his Sky paintings,  a series he painted in the 1970s.  In the spirit of the Contemporary, we took a few selfies in front of it too, pretending to be outdoors.

Sal's site specific sculptures are house-sized versions of this piece on his table top.  He combines the geometric with the organic effortlessly in this Archaeo-Tectonic series from the '90s.

We took a short walk to the barn, where Arabian horses from its pre-studio days had chewed off the stable walls in boredom.  (I never knew that tidbit about horses, but the phrase "chomping at the bit" now makes sense.)  Many of Sal's vertical sculptures line the path.

The white stone/marble sculptures below reach out to me in an anthropomorphic way.  I almost want to pat them on the head, if you can call those heads.  (And I love the crumbling machinery, possibly still quite functional, all over the barn!)

You can sense the scale of his indoor pieces here versus the outdoor ones.   That one right outside the barn is small compared to his other sculptures in public and corporate buildings.

So, you all thought Angelina Jolie had the most famous lips?  For art students in Italy, David's (the one by Michelangelo) are more familiar!  That cast, apparently, is sold everywhere.  "Lips" is Sal's humorous take on it, down to painting it over in Van Gogh brush strokes.  I suppose David's ear would have been even funnier.

The stacks of art on the the barn floor reminded me of my friend's house.  Virginia, my dear friend (whom I now wonder might have been in the same Berkeley/Oakland art circles as Sal), still has her gallery full of art in every space conceivable, including floor stacks like this.  The thrill of the treasure hunt resurfaces every time we carefully riffle through the layers.  In Sal's stacks, you can see the diversity of inspirations that result in a piece of art - from holy icons to mundane keys.

But my favorite treasure-hunting thrill whenever I visit an artist's studio is the one of discovering forgotten corners.

Like stumbling on this Lilliputian collection of vintage vehicles, nearly swept under the rugs.

Or noticing the wall of pigments from years of wiping off the paintbrush.

And what about the views sprung by chance (or were they carefully orchestrated?).

And finally, there are the human touches of domesticity, like Sal's love of succulents and cacti, that frame our understanding of the artist beyond his works.

But clearly, this artist is most in his element when surrounded by his works and people who appreciate them.  We were enthralled by all his stories and life's wisdom, and many young artists in our group left inspired.

Our heartfelt thanks to Sal and his lovely wife for opening their home, studio and art to us!

This post is in memory of a friend in Art, who lost a brief but fierce battle with cancer today.  She had arranged this gathering at Sal's studio, fully expecting to be with us.  Alas, she could not, but her spirit and warmth were strongly present.  None of us expected it would be her last day.  When I heard, all I could think of was "out, out, brief candle."  I was blessed to have felt her warmth and light for the few years I came close to her flame.


  1. What a fitting and beautiful tribute to your friend, and how deeply sad not to have her with you for this gathering.
    The intensity of Sal's life-lived-through-art shines clearly through your photos. What extraordinary pieces he has created; even the images practically vibrate (especially the wall of pigments - I love that capturing of the off-stage moments of creativity). This is inspiration at its most compelling.

  2. Yes! One of my favorite bloggers is back! I was so happy to see a new post from you, and it was well worth the wait. That was a gorgeous tribute to your friend, and it brought tears to my eyes and shivers of sadness. I'm so sorry to hear you lost your friend.

    This was a beautiful way to honor her memory. I wish I could possess each and every one of your posts as a book to rifle through whenever I need a breath of fresh air. I loved your comment on my blog, and I'll reply to it there when I post tomorrow. (Trying to post on Fridays now, but it's been a challenge, because we're in the midst of a move to the country, not too far from New York!) Growing up in Virginia, I had a friend whose father is a sculptor and lived on acres of forestland covered in sculptures and artwork like this. It's a dreamy, beautiful way to live and you perfectly conveyed the richness of your experience with your expert, unique blend of pictures and prose.


  3. Thank you, Rosalind and Izzy, for your kind and touching words.

    Strangely enough, I seem to have suffered another kind of loss almost as soon as I posted this. My hard drive, and 2 external back up drives crashed and failed. I am facing the equivalent of the destruction of the Library at Alexandria! Years of photographs and documents all gone ... Izzy, the only records I have left to rifle through are what's on my blog and on social media and e-mails! So I might be on a forced cyber-hibernation state until I can get my computer sorted out. I am only able to be here now with a complete overhaul of my hard drive, so the Mac is functioning, but from an empty slate. -- xx

    1. Oh no! That's terrible. I'm so sorry. I know how devastating that is. It's happened to me over and over with Dells. I thought Macs were immune... Goodness that stinks! And should be a reminder to learn how to back my new computer up (but of course I won't.) Good luck sorting it all out! When something similar happened to me, I was happy that I'd kept some records online. I still can't figure out how the iCloud works though (embarrassingly enough). At any rate, it was lovely to page through these paintings again. They certainly bear a second perusal.
      Much love,

  4. I hope 2014 proves to be a good year for you and yours!

  5. I just headed over in response to your comment on my '300th' post and read your update above. I'm almost hyperventilating just thinking about the impact for you of all the lost documents and photos. I so, so hope that there's some wand waving technical genius/angel who might be able to recover some of your files.

  6. Thanks for sharing this post. great artworks shown here.
    Hope youre having a good day

  7. I can't believe I missed this post. I was wondering what you were up and just clicked on your blog link.... Anyway it is the most spectacular place, and I am sure that every single thing however artlessly placed, had been considered. Beautiful colour harmonies.

    I hope you are well and doing fun things.


Dear Fellow Aesthetes, I love hearing your thoughts. I think the other readers find them valuable too! Much love xxx

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