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'Art is a part of living': At 96, St. Helena artist paints out of joy

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No patrons, no commissions, no deadlines — just the joy of painting.

In that sense, longtime Upvalley resident Noelle Peterson is living every painter’s dream of total artistic freedom.

“I believe art is a part of living, and my inspiration comes from looking around me,” said Peterson, 96, whose paintings are on display through July 29 at Rianda House.

Peterson’s home north of St. Helena — and her determination to shelter there during the pandemic due to health issues — gives her an ideal vantage point from which to observe birds and animals interacting with their surroundings.

Those bucolic scenes “create a magnificent palette,” Peterson said.

“Simplicity of line, complexity of color, and personal imagination and creativity take over from there,” she said.

Peterson has no formal artistic training, but retirement gave her time to delve into painting and sculpture — the latter inspired by artist Joe Query, who lived in the White Barn in the 1970s.

Without any commercial element to her work, Peterson relishes “not being accountable to anybody.”

“I have found that painting is really a meditation,” Peterson said. “When I’m working on a painting I can even forget I’m cold.”

Rianda House is a fitting venue for Peterson’s paintings, since she was a close friend of the late former St. Helena Mayor Greta Ericson, whose friendship with real estate agent Jean Rianda was instrumental in forming the Upvalley’s only senior center.

You can reach Jesse Duarte at (707) 967-6803 or


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St. Helena Editor

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006. He became editor in 2021.

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