Today is the day we celebrate all of the wonderful mothers in the world. To honor this beautiful day I would like to take a look at the life and career of Montreal artist, Joan Dumouchel.
Joan Dumouchel creates acrylic and graphite paintings of clowns, acrobats and other performers, all with a notably powerful gaze. While Joan has been professionally painting for nearly thirty years, she considers her children to be her greatest creations. She has a son Simon, 45, and daughter Elise, 41, and four grandchildren. The likeness of Elise is often found in Joan’s works of art.
Montreal is not only Joan’s hometown, but is also the headquarters and birthplace of Cirque du Soleil. The cultural environment is rich and supportive for creative arts, especially physical performance arts.
As a young woman, Joan’s daughter Elise was very active in this community. Elise and her friends wore funny clown noses, did acrobatics, juggled on unicycles and walked on stilts in the city center. It was a small wonder then, that Joan’s early works centered around this theme of theatrics and backstages, often populated by clownish performers. Nowadays, Elise is paid by the Canadian government as a professional clown at a children’s hospital, bringing smiles to those who need it most.
As Elise matured, so did Joan’s work. Not necessarily drawing from a particular model or individual, Joan’s portraits began to embrace a more general visage, exploring the realm of dreamscape and the nuanced power of the feminine gaze and emotional expression. Joan started to incorporate repeating textile patterns, text elements, and the inclusion of various metal leafs. She also branched out into symbolic paintings of horses and other animals. Once a year, she paints Formula One race cars when they take over the streets of Old Montreal.
Beginning in 2018, family had an even more profound effect on Joan and her art production. Joan’s beloved husband slipped away after a long battle with ALS: Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gone from her paintings were the familiar countenances; in their place only pure formal abstraction. Representative figurative work was not available to her, only depictions of the ineffable; color, metal leaf and energy.
In more recent years, Joan has struck a balance. The graceful forms and face of the feminine subject has returned to her canvases, with occasional forays into abstraction.
Parenting often involves acting like a clown. We dance, we sing, we play. Finding creative ways to entertain our little ones is part of the job. And we are rewarded with their giggles and smiles. While we work hard to keep our children happy, we are reminded that it is fun to be a kid. It is fun to entertain. While Joan’s work remains playful, she has since integrated collage-like backgrounds. Maintaining the importance of play, and not forgetting that the past is a mix of so many things.
Our capacity to love and nurture, to have compassion for others grows immensely when you become a mom. You look at the world differently. The brave femininity portrayed in the figures of Joan’s recent paintings is captivating. Yes, these have a whimsical dreamlike quality to them. And yes they are beautiful. But I think there is something more that draws us in. Perhaps we are looking at the power of a mother’s love.
Illustrator and contemporary artist Ana Carolina Pesce Imlay creates vibrant acrylic paintings on rice paper and reclaimed wooden boxes. In search of a way to make it easier to transfer her detailed drawings onto wood, Carol found inspiration in her husband’s love of surfing. Rice and mulberry paper are often used in transferring logos and drawings to surfboards. In borrowing this technique it also helped make the surface smoother and less absorbent for her application of acrylic using fine brushes.
The practice of painting on rice paper has a 2,000 year old history. Ink was applied to the paper for calligraphy. Carol blends both ancient and modern techniques with her own unique past. Growing up in Brazil, she was exposed to Brazilian artists Candido Portinari and Os Gesmeos who had a considerable impact on her artistic style, such as subject matter that incorporates the strength of simplicity. Although there is often one main subject, Carol incorporates realistic detail into her botanical and marine animal paintings, evoking the fun and whimsical side in all of us. Her rainbow palette brightly shines in the foreground of the wood panel that the rice paper is applied to.
In 2008 Carol moved from Brazil to California, where she frequented San Francisco sushi restaurants over the years. She became fascinated with the respect that sushi chefs had in utilizing the fish and the tradition of sushi itself. This led her to research the craft, which she represents in her use of uni boxes. Carol’s last name Pesce means fish in Italian.
Here at Stafford Gallery we will be hosting Land/Sea/Sky, a solo exhibition examining the parallels between Carol’s works on December 11, from 5-8pm.
There is a painting that hangs behind my desk in Stafford Gallery named Kyuka. This translates from Japanese to “time off,” and since the Covid-19 pandemic that is something many of us have been forced to do. Job losses, or an adjustment of priorities, reevaluating how we spend our time has permeated 2020 and 2021. Often it has found us cozying up in our homes more than we ever have, more time with family, more time to simply be.
Kyuka is a serene, Zen-inspired oceanscape painting created with Venetian plaster by artist Bernie Weston. Long before the pandemic Weston strived to convey peace and balance in his paintings. Having studied asian philosophy and sumi-e brushwork, his unique style summons its viewers to be present. Sathya Sai Baba said, “Every experience is a lesson. Every loss is a gain.”
In 2020, art museums were offering online therapeutic exhibits to help people cope and engage with fine art. Art collecting during Covid also brought visual comfort from an overwhelming amount of sudden stress, bringing people serenity and beautifying the space that they were spending their time most inside. Now, a year and a half later, Bernie finds that there is still a sense of hopefulness and dutifulness for working artists, similar to their reaction after the 9/11 attacks. There is a need for peace and healing that he and many artists he knows recognize, and they are stepping up to the challenge.
The underlying motivating factor for Bernie Weston’s paintings has always been empathy. Like the Isenheim Altarpiece, Bernie’s paintings have been displayed at local hospitals to help those suffering. He learned from artist Gong Yuebin to use the principles of Chinese painting, a composition that employs emotional techniques to paint powerful landscapes. Even the glow of the mica and wax suggest some element of positivity or intent to uplift. These paintings offer sanctuary within the homes they move to, bringing a joy that its viewers can surround themselves with permanently.
Not long ago, a local couple visited with me while in town to enjoy the galleries here in Healdsburg. Having lost their home and possessions in the fire, they look forward to the day when a new new home shall need new art and are already making a wish list.
In the course of our conversation, the woman mentioned a small sculpture of a mother holding a baby that they had bought decades ago, when their own children were first born. Nothing too terribly valuable, but a memento of many years together, and quite precious to them. Following the fires, the couple were permitted to visit the site of their destroyed home. The gentleman immediately went to area of his office, moving aside a collapsed wall and searching through the rubble for this little bronze figure. Miraculously, he pulled the mother and child sculpture from the destruction, intact but terribly ashen with glass melted onto the surface. Given the emphasis on bronze sculpture at the gallery, they wondered if I knew of anything that could be done to fix her.
Not long after, the woman brought the charming little figure by the gallery, grey and glassy though she was. As fate would have it, this was just before two sculptors, Steve Reinmuth and Danae Bennett Miller, were planning a delivery of art work. Steve's wife, ZoAnn, and Nye (as Danae is called) packed up a truck with incredible sculptures by both artists and drove to Healdsburg from Oregon.
Steve Reinmuth owns his own foundry and casts Nye's bronzes for her. Steve is deeply invested in the superior quality of each and every bronze created at his establishment. To what better place could I send this little Madonna sculpture? When ZoAnn and Nye left for Oregon, they had the figurine in their possession.
A few days later, ZoAnn sent a photo of the sculpture and already such transformation had occurred! The sandblasting was a complete success, removing all of the glass and char, revealing the shiny bronze surface below. Structurally, she appeared sound and even her long braid was in great shape.
In short order, the ferric patina was applied to the surface, with soft bronze highlights glowing through the darker dimensions. When the sculpture returned to the gallery, I was able to see the distinguishing marks applied by the artist and the foundry that produced her. Research revealed the sculpture's title to be "Mother's Day, May 14th, 1978" . The artist, Skerrit-Gittings Kelsey, of Connecticut, was commissioned by the American Sculpture Society to produce this work exclusively for their membership. Kelsey was a part of the "New Movement" group and best known for sculptures of dancers.
Far more importantly, this Sonoma County couple has been able to recover something cherished from the fire's destruction and restore it back to better than new. It is such a deep honor to participate in a remediation of this kind. We especially want to wholeheartedly thank Steve and Zoann Reinmuth and the team at Reinmuth Bronze for their great work.
When a pair of art and architecture aficionados from Vancouver decided to commission a re-creation of Richard Bock's and Frank Lloyd Wright's "Flower", faithful execution was a foremost concern. After receiving permission to reproduce the work from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the couple selected artist Steve Reinmuth and his foundry, Reinmuth Bronze, to cast this historically significant sculpture.
The original "Flower" was designed and created by Richard Bock in collaboration with Frank Lloyd Wright for the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois in 1902. This 12,000 square foot home is one of the best and most extensive examples of the early "Prairie Style" Frank Lloyd Wright was famed for. The entire property reflects the signature style of the master architect, from the interior and exterior structure to the oak furniture and the extensive stained glass, to the fountains and terra-cotta sculptures. The sculpture "Flower" is named for the poem etched on the back, "Flower in a Crannied Wall" by Alfred Tennyson.
Intended to be cast in bronze or carved in stone, the terra-cotta "Flower" sculpture was whitewashed in plaster and put on display after budgetary constraints prevented further progress. Over time, the clay dried out and the form started cracking under its own weight. Extremely fragile, this sculpture requires ongoing repair and maintenance. Bock also cast the clay form in plaster, which is on display outside at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. After 115 years of exposure to the elements, the details of this work are largely eroded away. Using the interior clay form at the Dana-Thomas House as a model, Steve Reinmuth created his interpretation of this treasured sculpture.
"Flower" as expressed by Steve Reinmuth is a an exceptional work of art. You can see a transition in that era's architectural visual idiom from Art Nouveau to Art Deco. The tall, thin skyscraper that the woman is contemplatively constructing presciently evokes architectural forms like the future Empire State Building, ca. 1930. Notably, the visual patterns of the spires remain faithful to Frank Lloyd Wright vision for the Dana-Thomas House itself. The chevron shapes, the sumac patterns and the small clusters of squares visible on the surface are reiterated in the extensive stained glass elements throughout the home.
The female figure embodies the the term "statuesque" with a graceful monumentality symbolic of creation itself. Read in conjunction with Tennyson's poem "Flower in a Crannied Wall", Frank Lloyd Wright's intention is to visually depict the significance of architecture as a spiritually elevating discipline that puts the very power of creation in humanity's hands.
Flower in the crannied wall
I pluck you out of the crannies
Hold you here root and all
In my Hand
But if I could understand
What you are
Root and all
And all in all
I should know
What God and Man is
We see this veritable goddess contemplating a small piece of the great mystery she is constructing seemingly out her own form. Like Tennyson's flower, she holds this building block of life, this object laden with potential in her hand. The spires she builds are allegorical for Wright's lofty aspirations for Architecture as an elevating endeavor and experience.
Wright was quoted as saying "I have never wanted to be finished. I have never wanted to feel that what I have done was the best I could do ... I have to be careful of that because that is poison to the creative spirit." This ideal is embodied in the forever incomplete nature of the construction the figure is building. Left undone, there is no limit to the possibility under creation.
Sourced from The Dana Thomas House website:
"The Dana-Thomas House (DTH) was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902 for Susan Lawrence Dana, a forward-thinking socialite living in Springfield, Illinois. The home, the 72nd building designed by Wright, contains the largest collection of site-specific, original Wright art glass and furniture. Wright’s first “blank check” commission, the home has 35 rooms in the 12,000 square feet of living space which includes 3 main levels and 16 varying levels in all.
Rightfully regarded as a local treasure, the DTH is a gorgeous house museum. Following its acquisition of the House, the Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency undertook a major restoration project. The results yielded a beautifully preserved example of Mr. Wright’s genius.
Beyond the essence of an architectural masterpiece of international significance, the house is a brilliant showcase of craftsmanship in glass doors, windows and light fixtures; terra cotta sculpture and an exquisite mural; it is the best preserved and most complete of Frank Lloyd Wright’s early “Prairie” houses."
To learn more please visit the website here here.
With the recent spate of natural disasters in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and California, the need for accurate insurance records has rarely been so heavily emphasized on a national level. Locally, 5,000 homes burned down in Sonoma County, leaving many of our local inhabitants homeless and scrambling to make accurate reports to insurance adjusters in the midst of immeasurable loss. I am certain the residents of communities all over the United States are feeling a similar sense devastating loss accompanied by the associated pressures of financial recovery.
While this isn't the most alluring topic, I feel compelled to share some anecdotal experience in the hopes of underscoring both the intrinsic, emotional value of collecting art, as well as the importance of making sure your collection is currently and accurately evaluated with your insurance provider.
As one of the top wildlife sculptors in America, Leo E. Osborne's painting and sculptural work has only appreciated over the past four decades of fine art creation. The National Wildlife Museum now has three of Leo's works in their permanent collection. Brookgreeen Gardens in Pawley's Island, South Carolina acquired a large bronze of Leo E. Osborne's recently, and just this past November, the City of Galveston acquired a 4 foot in diameter bronze sea turtle of Leo's for permanent display on their sea wall. High-profile, public collections such as these increase the current market value, as well as secondary market value, of fine art work. We recently sold a legacy sculpture of Leo's that has been out of edition for over 10 years, and that event now increases the value of the other pieces in the edition.
This year, abstract expressionist painter, William Crosby will be celebrating his 80th birthday with a 60 year retrospective show at Portland Art Gallery, in Portland, Maine. Over the course of his six decade career, Bill's work has predictably increased in value. The 36"x48" painting acquired in 1995 is worth more today. We owe it to ourselves as collectors and gallerists to make sure the value of the work is updated accurately, not only as a celebration of successful collection and representation, but also in the interest of protecting that heartfelt investment.
As I serve this community moving forward in the wake of devastating loss, what I see is this: no one laments the loss of their Apple TV. Not one person who has wept in the gallery with me was heartbroken over the sofa. The sentimental treasures-the inherited legacy items like Great-Grandmother's china, Mother's pearls, the Persian rug from a trip in 1964, the photos, the paintings, the sculpture-these losses are the source of grief, for they are irreplaceable. Art is part of the warp and weft of our human experience and provides a sense of self and of legacy. It is tangible evidence of our physical journey through space, time, perspective and evolution.
Notably, every survivor I have spoken with has side-stepped the morass of self-pity. The community has embraced a prevailing attitude of "fix and move forward". Such resilience is nothing short of remarkable to witness. As a gallerist, I, and others like me, have an incredible opportunity to mitigate some of the loss, and to seed a new legacy for the the future. The void of home will be reconstructed, in time. The void of things lost will be assuaged by the opportunity to refresh and reassess one's tastes and preferences. The ability to choose, to select, to make fresh decisions will re-establish a sense of empowerment.
As a collector of fine art, I encourage you to reach out to your galleries, trusted art advisors and appraisers. Have the current value of your older paintings, sculpture, rugs and art objects assessed and updated. There is no true restitution for the irreplaceable. There is only moving forward, and in such moments, accurate documentation becomes crucial to facilitating the healing process and repairing the void.
Besides working to create a top-tier gallery space where nationally and internationally established artists show side by side with America's emerging talent, we also seek to raise the profile of Healdsburg as a nationally recognized fine arts destination. We have such a bounty of remarkable food and wine in this region, but did you know there are 27,000 recognized, producing artists in Sonoma County? With such a deep well of talent, Healdsburg has a flourishing fine art scene.
The fine art galleries of Healdsburg are multi-faceted, eclectic and appeal to a broad range of tastes and sensibilities. The majority of gallery spaces are within three blocks of the Plaza. The sheer variety of the visual arts is reason enough to visit this lovely town, in addition to offering a welcome respite from the food and wine sensory experience.
Several weeks ago, a group of writers visited Healdsburg to promote the abundance of excellent art, food and wine located here. This February, Healdsburg is the subject for the "Art City Focus" feature in the nationally published American Art Collector Magazine.
What a wonderful way to welcome 2018. Enjoy the article and come visit us soon!
It's been a hectic and thrilling interim since we received the keys to our new space on the Plaza! While still a work in progress, we couldn't be happier and the art simply shines! Two rooms are wainscotted in marble slab and the ceiling are 12 feet high. The four distinct areas allow for multiple viewing experiences. The eight foot windows that surround the corner location wash the space with light throughout the day.
Of course, we once again find ourselves in an old bank building. This is the original location of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank Building, constructed just after the 1906 earthquake. For an interesting history of this corner and building in downtown Healdsburg:
On the Thursday before Columbus Day Weekend, Craig Nelson traveled to Charleston, South Carolina for a show at the Ella Walton Richardson Gallery. Craig arrived home at 11:30 pm on that fateful Sunday night. Two hours later, Craig and Anna, his wife and fellow artist, were fleeing from their home in Fountaingrove.
Monday night found me glued to the constant news coverage of the fires. I was dearly hoping that the two lifetimes’ worth of painting work amassed in the Nelson home might somehow be spared.
Unexpectedly, Craig appeared on the television. He had driven into his neighborhood on the fire roads and was beating flames out around his driveway with a towel. The camera crew present followed him around to the back of the house, where Craig used pool water to put out fires starting up on his fence. The firefighters made a valiant stand at the top of his street and were able to save Craig’s house, the home above it and the three below it.
The next few days were hectic, as we all waited to see which way the wind might blow next. At Craig's encouragement, we decided to proceed with the planned reception for his show at Stafford Gallery entitled “Visions d’Vine: Portraits of Harvest”.
Chris Mengler, of Mengler Wines, came by to support the effort and the reception was attended by friends, family and several of Craig’s students from years past. We all marveled as Craig planned and completed a demonstration painting in three hours, working from a photograph.
"Visions d'Vine: Portraits of Harvest", has consequently become a benefit for the communities, like Fountaingrove, impacted by the wildfires. Until the end of the year, 10% of all proceeds will be directly donated for recovery assistance.
The demonstration painting is now a silent auction item with 100% of proceeds going directly to the community for fire recovery efforts. Measuring 18x24 inches and valued at $3,850, the auction will run until December 31st. These funds will go a long way to further assist our friends and neighbors.
Craig is coordinating a group show with several highly acclaimed Bay Area painters at the in 2018, which will be a 100% fundraising benefit for ongoing fire recovery efforts. Details are being worked out currently.
As we are all starting to comprehend, this recovery is going to be a marathon effort. Some of the homes that stand continue to be uninhabitable until further notice, let alone those homes, and lives, that must be completely reconstructed.
Craig Nelson's personal and professional efforts are helping to directly support friends and neighbors much less fortunate. By collecting Craig Nelson’s paintings, people may simultaneously embrace what they love about Sonoma County, begin to restore a sense of normalcy and directly help wildfire victims rebuild their lives.
Thank you for your thoughtful generosity during this holiday season.
View the entire exhibition here
'Impression of Harvest" oil 18x24
Art is why I get up in the morning. The opportunity to be a matchmaker; to serve as liaison between the collector, the artist and the art.