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A free reception for St. Helena artists Phoebe and Geoff Ellsworth is from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday, June 10 in the Spotlight Gallery at the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville.

Currently, the Ellsworths have a show running at the Museum called, “Like Mother, Like Son,” which opened May 12. During Saturday’s reception, select works will be for sale to benefit the Museum’s education programs.

Both artists recently emailed their thoughts about art, their influence on each other and their subject matters.

Phoebe first: “A simple answer to the question what makes good art might be how does it catch your eye. Each artist has some kind of reason behind what they do. So good art can be beautiful or ugly. What is the story and is it told with conviction, skill and good use of materials?”

Geoff said, “The art I most respond to comes from a balance of concept, focus, technique and execution. That being said I think all art has great value as a vehicle of self-expression and exploration of human possibility.”

Phoebe said she doesn’t know how she influenced her son, but added, “something must have rubbed off as he grew up in a house filled with art. We also frequented museums and Geoff attended children’s art classes, just as I had when growing up.” She said the two really never have done art together, although last year, she did help her son on a mural project painting tiles.”

Geoff said his mother has certainly had an influence on his painting. “When I was a young boy if I were sick or not feeling well, Phoebe encouraged me to draw or paint and I believe this helped me connect to the emotional and healing benefits of working with color and expression,” he said.

Geoff adds that his mother’s abstract art from the 1960s and 1970s “helped shape for me an expansive and open minded approach to the possibilities of what art and life could be.”

St. Helena’s Sharon Dellamonica, curator of the exhibit, said she believes that Phoebe has influenced her son in the past and continues to do so. “I see that Phoebe still influences Geoff, especially in the areas of composition and color. He has taken those influences and added whimsy. These are works that have brought joy to many a St. Helena home. People here treasure their Ellsworth paintings and pass them on to their children.”

When Phoebe first came to the Napa Valley, more than 50 years ago, she said her paintings were “abstract with no apparent subject matter,” which was the style of many artists at the time. But, those paintings didn’t appeal to many people in the Napa Valley and Phoebe said, “I had to think of something that would be appealing and purchased, as my husband said it was OK if I painted but I had to pay my own way.”

She adds, “I wanted to paint beautiful pictures. Flowers were the inspiration and the possibilities are infinite.”

For her son, the “subjects of my paintings are whatever interests me at that moment to study. As well as the floral pieces in the Napa Valley Museum show I am currently working on paintings about the French Foreign Legion and the history of nordic skiing.

“Over the years I also continue to return to themes I’m familiar with such as ballerinas and tractors as that helps me understand my own process, while the subject may return, the technique evolves.”

Laura Rafaty, executive director of the Napa Valley Museum, said, “We are so delighted by the response to Geoff and Phoebe’s work, and by Sharon Dellamonica’s thoughtful curating of their exhibit. A steady stream of their fans has rushed to the Museum to see the exhibit and to shop for Phoebe’s delightful books in our gift store.”

The Ellsworths are donating 50 percent of the sales of their art to support the museum, which Rafaty called “extraordinary, but typical of their generosity.”

“We look forward to the community turning out for the reception and art sale, to celebrate the Ellsworths and support the Museum, including our ‘Museum in the Classroom’ and free ‘Family Fun Day’ programs,” she said.

The Napa Valley Museum is located at 55 Presidents Circle in Yountville, and is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. The second Saturday of each month is a “Family Fun Day” when you may pay what you wish. For more information, call 707-944-0500, email info@napavalleymuseum.org, or visit the website at napavalleymuseum.org.

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