For the second weekend in a row, art lovers can seek out the hidden places where artists work as Napa Valley Open Studios celebrates its 25th anniversary. Guided by directory maps and the distinctive yellow Open Studios signs as well as a sense of adventure they can find their way to 43 open studio locations on Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The talent and diversity of this year’s 74 participating juried artists makes the annual end of September event a “must do” for both tourists and locals alike.
Visitors who continue to “bump into each other” at various studios begin talking as if they were old friends. Listening closely, one hears warm discussions about the “painterly qualities” of various pieces between people who were previously strangers.
It is also an exciting time tor the artists. “I find visitors who come are curious and appreciative of the work they see. Some are well informed of the technique I use, Raku firing,” said ceramic sculpture and assemblage artist Melissa Dooley.
“My style of working is solitary. I must have an environment where I can concentrate, allowing my ideas to flow uninterrupted. When I have the opportunity to invite guests to visit my studio I thoroughly enjoy the interaction. I enjoy talking to people about my work, it is valuable to hear what people think,” Dooley continued.
At Studio 13, Dooley shares the roomy, naturally lit LaFever Salon in
St. Helena with three other artists:
• Molly Corbett, who does painting and monotype printing;
• June Lee, who does mixed media collage combined with monotype printing;
• Cheryl Wilbracht, who works with drypoint etching combined with monotype.
“Open Studios gives us an annual deadline for sidelining orders to make some new work and for inspiring a cleanup of the garden and studio,” said ceramic-functional stoneware artist Sally Manfredi, who has participated in Open Studios since its inception.
Manfredi and her husband, Jeff, have owned Calistoga Pottery for 32 years. “We enjoy the event because we see more locals, people who live in the Napa Valley, than we do in the normal course of events.”
Manfredi said there was a time when they thought about not participating in Open Studios because they are actually an open studio every day, but then they realized they could fulfill a useful function for other artists by inviting visitors to look at the valley from a new perspective.
“People need some encouragement to leave the major roads and to feel invited to explore this aspect of life in Napa Valley,” Manfredi said. “We have become friends with the local Open Studios group, and take great pleasure in encouraging people to find them in their studios on top of mountains and up narrow lanes.”
Art explorers execute a well-thought out strategy of which studios to visit or randomly select destinations. Like the valley’s world-famous wine, every artist in this juried event is outstanding as well as fascinating.
For example, Dr. Robert Hampton, a dentist as well as an artist, has big dreams for the proceeds from his Open Studio art sales. With his bronze sculptures and oil paintings Hampton plans to raise money for a dental school at Daeyang Luke Hospital in Malawi.
The 71-year old, who divides his professional time between St. Helena and Yountville, has visited the small African country bordered by Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania several times to attend to dental needs there.
Hampton said the need for dental care there is great because there are only 20 Western-trained dentists and 200 periodontists in a country of 15 million people. Hampton envisions improvement in the dentist-to-population ratio through the dental school he is helping to develop.
A drive through the Coombsville countryside leads to Dr. Hampton’s studio 23, one of three open studios of the Hagen Road Artists. Beverly Wilson, who does oil paintings and pastel drawings and Western and wildlife sculptor Carl Ciliax share studio 22. Photographer Teri Sandison, who does archival digital photographic prints, shares studio 24 with Lesley Domino Bursten, who does oil painting and monotypes.
Off the beaten track, along scenic Soda Canyon Road is studio 18, Villa Spankadellik, the studio home of Edmund Ian Grant and Kristi Rene. He does acrylic, oil, digital and ceramic sculpture. She does acrylic, encaustic and ceramic sculpture.
Another studio with a sense of fun is studio 36 in Napa, belonging to Christine George. George’s oil paintings and photography focus on horses. “As you can see, I’ve never outgrown my girlish love of horses,” quipped George, wearing cowboy boots.