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.
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.