While much of the world’s people are staying inside their homes to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Napa’s artists are creating art. This is the fifth in a series about what local artists are doing during this unprecedented time.
For 35 years Marissa Carlisle has been a Napa photographer who has captured the magic of weddings, the beauty of the valley’s landscapes, the soulful loyalty that resides in the eyes of horses and dogs, the joy of families and much more.
In addition to photography over the last 16 years, Carlisle has added welding, working with metal and sculpting to her artistic toolkit. She took welding from Glen Self and sculpting from Jay Golik at Napa Valley College and now enjoys expressing herself in a “three-dimensional world.”
She delights in the freedom this gives her. When she received photographs from friends living in Cambodia, who sent “samples of effigies to ward off COVID-19” that were placed in front of many countryside homes, Carlisle was inspired to create a similar assemblage piece.
“This ancient animistic manner of spreading symbolic protection appealed to me so I began gathering saved items from my ‘junk or will use someday pile,’ and came up with a totem guest at our front door,” she said. “I call her Shea, after the beautiful African tree.”
Carlisle sketches on a daily basis. She uses the art she sees in her home as a springboard for sketches that she makes of her friends. Recently, she has been doing a version of Rodo Boulanger’s “playful and joyous” themes. She then morphs Boulanger’s drawing style into portraits of friends she can no longer spend time with under the COVID-19 restrictions.
“The time spent sketching, depicting a bit of their characters with my limited sketch skills still makes me feel closer to who they are and why I cherish them,” Carlisle said.
Although Carlisle has many mediums for expressing herself artistically, her lifelong devotion to photography has never dimmed.
“My love and forte in the visual arts have been through the camera,” she said. “I have practiced seeing and gleaning for years since my first Brownie camera, through a large format Hasselblad on tripod, to 35 mm SLR of choice to iPhone CPO.”
Her “Cycle of Life” photo exhibit, currently at the Napa Senior Center, was installed in March, a week before everything was shut down.
This exhibit is well worth seeing but has gone largely unseen, so far. It’s dramatic photo silhouettes “on a high key lit background” depicts the human life cycle from birth to old age.
Carlisle got the idea for this exhibit after swimming in a public pool during a trip to the Rockies last summer where she watched people of all ages come to the pool.
“I felt it was such a beautiful project because it was addressing the reoccurring cycle of what we all know from birth to passing, and as a natural cycle,” she said. “I look at it a little differently now and yet I still believe in hopefulness.”
“The subjects range from newborn babies to folks in their wheelchairs representing a perfect medley along life’s spectrum,” Carlisle said. “The completed collection arose from a blending of original photographs with graphic renderings and photo collages guiding them to its fruition.”
Carlisle had another exhibit, scheduled for a Yountville tasting room at this time, but it was canceled due to the pandemic.
“In these sheltering at home times I think we have rediscovered how time can expand with engagement,” Carlisle said. “For me, this is what art does for everyone, whether they be the creator or consumer of what stops them in their tracks.”
“Poetry, writing, photography, painting, sculpting — they all ask us to stop and spend time and ponder,” she said. “That is what my art is for me, trying to touch the pulse of our humanness either while I am working or in spending time with another person’s piece of work.”
Like most people, Carlisle misses the life she had before coronavirus disrupted her plans and separated her from seeing loved ones, especially grandchildren, but she is finding the social isolation “relatively unchallenging.”
“At the age I am now and with a background in the sciences, I am taking the requested shelter in place seriously, for others’ protection and my own,” she said.
Carlisle has a background in veterinary medicine. Her husband, sculptor Lorenzo Mills, has a background in pediatric medicine.
To see Carlisle’s photography, go to PhotosbyMarissa.com
Marissa Carlisle and Lorenzo Mills
Marissa Carlisle and Lorenzo Mills, a married couple with a backgrounds in science, are being cautious about this virus. Their medical opinions “fairly well parallel those of Dr. Fauci and others in the research fields,” Mills said. “This is a new virus and we don’t know which way it’s going to go.”
The social isolation and staying home has given the couple more time to ponder the insights that come with solitude and to discover what they truly value.
Besides engaging in art, the duo is now spending this time communing with nature and the abundant wildlife found on their property.
They’ve developed a greater awareness of the wild creatures all around them from the “emergence of nesting birds singing, lizards that “curiously” follow them down a trail, coyotes howling, mountain lion tracks, birds of prey soaring high in the distance, even a rattlesnake lounging off their patio.
“All this creature proximity seems like a truce of sorts, they are trusting us, we are sharing the quietude with them,” said Carlisle.
“It is a reminder of renewal and abundance of life amidst the many current losses, concerns, fears and sadness,” she added.
Mills’ sculptures can be seen in the town of Yountville and elsewhere. Many locals are familiar some of his work such as “The Chef,” a bust on a gigantic fork and “Music Stirs the Heart,” done with Marissa Carlisle in Yountville.
“I can’t complain about sheltering in place when I’m confined with a beautiful woman,” Mills said.
In his more recent figurative pieces Mills said he has tried to work a false anatomy into the figures that “sometimes work.” These are recognizable, but something that is “tweaked in an interesting way.”
“The two pieces I’ve made during this time are abstract figurative and pretty much variations of a trend I’ve had for a while,” he said.
“Actually, the corona thing has been bereft of artistic inspiration for me,” Mills said. “I often do sculptural pieces off social or political metaphor.”
In the past Mills was inspired to make a hooded captive political prisoner after Guantanamo and a fused head of a suspect and a cop in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“New Yorker covers have caught several aspects of the current moment, but I haven’t yet found something I want to reify into solid material,” Mills said.
As soon as the current sequester ends, they are eager to see their children and grandchildren.
Together the couple are committed to their family and friends, their art and working to improve life for “hero human beings” by promoting changes that create more economic equity.
Mills said he also looks forward to “prepping for fire season.”
To see his sculptures, go to LorenzoMills.com.
Krista Flood’s glass art can be found in private collections as well as galleries and shops in Hawaii and California. She is now a full-time glass artist.
“It’s been a journey,” Flood said. “I started out as an archaeologist after paying my way through college.”
She moved to Hawaii as an archaeologist and then switched careers to work in sports medicine and the healing arts, which she did for many years.
Along the way, she “fell into glass and never looked back.”
She studied glass casting, coldworking and engraving at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York “with renowned Czech glass masters” and at Bullseye Glass in Portland, Oregon.
After 18 years of working with glass while employed in the health field, Flood was finally able to make the break and devote herself exclusively to glass two years ago. Since then, she has been doing two to four shows a month.
Last year she exhibited at the American Craft Council Show as an emerging artist in San Francisco, Open Studios in Napa, Gualala Art in the Redwoods, and the Mendocino summer and winter art fairs. In addition, she does business with Makers Markets and participates in their outdoor fairs.
She was living her dream until COVID-19 began to spread in the world, and everything changed.
“As they began to cancel one (show) after another, I had that feeling, the one where the bottom of the world drops out,” Flood said.
“It took me a moment to wrap my head around the gravity of the pandemic and its implications. This is an unfamiliar and uncertain time.”
“Because I’ve faced many challenges in my life, I’ve accumulated a box of tools to handle different types of disasters,” she said. “I’m very proactive when it comes to the unknown.”
Daily yoga, which she has practiced over 30 years, helps her adjust to the isolation and loss of venues to sell her work.
Several times a week she hikes with friends while maintaining social distance.
Each day, after walking Tashi, her rescue dog, Flood settles down to work on glass art in her home studio. She also spends time in an organic garden she planted. She even built a fence around this garden, bartering with a neighbor for a gate frame.
“Digging in the earth is very grounding,” she said. “Inspiration from nature is all around me—birds, butterflies, flowers, bees, lavender, poppies, mustard, olives, blue clear skies.”
Flood’s use of color in her glass pieces is stunning.
“Color is my language because it enhances state of mind and mood,” she said.
In her home studio Flood designs art that brings joy and appreciation of the natural environment. In addition to jewelry, she creates glass flowers and sculptures for walls, sea and sand vessels and “centerpieces that evoke California’s pathways to the sea.”
Right now, Flood is doing more sculpture and casting. It is her preferred expression, but it is also the most time consuming, she said.
“I’ve cast three starfish and three seahorses all found off the Pacific Coast of California,” she said. “I’m working on more sea life and pieces. I sculpt in clay, make a mold from the sculpture, then I cast the piece in glass.”
“The starfish in California have had an amazing comeback after a meltdown disease scare a couple years ago,” she said. “Seahorses are considered vulnerable.”
Flood is looking forward to joyful times when quarantine ends and spending time along the California Coast from Big Sur to Mendocino.
“I choose to play, laugh and live the joy of life with the most wonderful friends and supporters,” she said. “I’ve got some amazing friends.”
To see her Krista Flood’s glass art, go to www.islandstyleglass.com, the Krista Flood glass studio Facebook page or Krista Flood Glass Instagram.
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