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New Spaces Show Napa's Got Art

Amid the restaurants and the tasting rooms, the art scene in Napa begins to flower

Downtown Napa is quickly becoming a cultural mecca for the visual arts.  I discovered this emerging “scene” while gallery hopping last weekend.  As more new restaurants unfold and tasting rooms proliferate, the visual arts are no longer a backdrop but bona fide player, front and center.  “It’s like a real city,” my husband remarked.

We caught the opening of Kristina McDonald’s superb exhibit, “Creekside Roots:  Perspective into Youth,” and Preservation Napa Valley’s stellar exhibit of 16 “Old Timers” in photos, film and documented memories.  The contrast in presentation, style and mediums could not have been more different – each had personal stories to tell through subjects vastly different in age.

McDonald, a 21-years young  grad, is already an up-and-coming artist to watch, supporting herself through a variety of artistic endeavors while attending classes at .

Thirteen large charcoal renderings, drawn freehand from photographs, depict McDonald’s inner circle of childhood friends, most of whom she has known half her life.  Charcoal-smudged lines, shadows and textures in black, grey and white dominate the portraits bringing the viewer a sense of realism and immediacy to moments frozen in time -- a gaze, a reaction, a smile, a human connection.  

“This series of drawings seeks to reconnect with the feeling of comfort in a familiar face, with each image evoking meaning and symbolism particular to each viewer,” she said.  “I want my art to uplift … to project my absolute love of people … to be able to capture the souls and energy of a group of friends…”   

See for yourself through July 20, 1146 Main St., Napa. 

Hats off to Preservation Napa Valley for “Memory Bank:  A Discovery of Old Hands, Old Faces and the Way It Was:  One Filmmaker, Six Photographers and Sixteen Old Timers,” on exhibit only through June 30, at 1400 First St., Napa.   

The currently raw corner space near the Avia Hotel (soon to be a Greek restaurant) transforms into an ideal gallery setting for “Memory Bank,” an exhibit of  mounted, framed black and white photos plus the inclusion of two video screens for watching films that complement the stories and history of these “Old Timers.”

This is a fascinating and highly professional collection of images and documented recollections from a generation of farmers, teachers, dairy men, homemakers and haymakers, among others, who have watched the Napa Valley change from a “diverse agricultural bread basket to a viticultural powerhouse,” and as their comments convey, not all participants are pleased by the results. 

If you miss the exhibit, a limited edition commemorative book with DVD has been produced and is available from Preservation Napa Valley, 1180 Green Valley Road, Napa; phone (707) 258-9286.

Evy Warshawski is an Arts Consultant and Writer based in Napa.

Tom Emmons June 22, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Very cool. Hair design and art: the new pairing? Or is it an old one I'd missed?
Christy Bors June 22, 2011 at 06:19 PM
Love to see it all changing as well, Evy. Each year I live here it does begin to feel more and more like a real city!

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