Coming to Life Again
For all that it has to offer the wine enthusiast, the Napa Valley is no slouch in the art department either. Maybe it is because wine and art, both symbolic of la dolce vita, seemingly go hand in hand. Regardless, the California AVA is home to an imposing fine-arts scene.
Diving into the local art culture leads to discovering all manner of artwork: contemporary, avant-garde, paintings, sculpture, indoor and outdoor—all this and much more can be found in the dynamic galleries of the Napa Valley. Now that local businesses are starting to open across Northern California, it is time for everyone to grab masks and hit the art galleries.
One thing that stands out here is the individuality of these galleries. Each has something that makes it stand out from the rest, whether it is the style that is showcased or a bigger-than-life owner who makes the experience especially fun and memorable. With that thought in mind, the list begins with the oldest gallery in Napa Valley- Jessel Gallery on Atlas Peak Road- and its bigger-than-life owner, artist Jessel Miller.
When visiting the Jessel Gallery, the gallery’s central figure, Jessel Miller, almost steals the show. She has owned the gallery for over 35 years and has become an icon of the valley’s art world. She is beloved by visitors who can view the latest art from her local artists’ collection or take a painting class from Jessel herself.
A large portion of the gallery is dedicated to Jessel’s works, but never more so than in 2020 and 2021, a prolific period for Jessel as she painted over 300 new images. Known for years as an exceptional watercolor painter of abstract Napa Valley landscapes, Jessel made a considerable shift during the pandemic when she began using acrylics for the first time. This shift led her to paint a series of works with multi-cultural themes that depict world unity. Pieces from the collections Honored Souls and Soulful Voices have garnered a flurry of press, and you can view them on the walls of her art studio, which is open to the public and in the center of the gallery.
In addition to being a highly acclaimed artist, Jessel is an award-winning children’s book author. Her book “Angels in the Vineyards” is a beautiful representation of the Napa Valley and her lovely dream-like creativity. Ask her about the concept of “Jesselism” and where she plans to take her art in the future. (Hint: She is on a mission to use her talent and works for good.)
DI ROSA CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
Founders Rene and Veronica di Rosa spent over six decades amassing a vast collection of contemporary works by west coast artists, eventually housing the most extensive col- lection of works from Bay Area artists in the world. The di Rosa gallery includes over 1,700 pieces spread over its 125-year-old Carneros property featuring multiple galleries, a sculpture park, and a 35-acre lake.
Veronica died in 1991, but Rene continued collecting works from Bay Area artists until his death in 2010 when he gifted the art collection and the preserve’s 217 acres to the di Rosa Foundation which is protected in perpetuity by the Napa County Land Trust. Programming, educational programs, and civic engagement related to the exhibitions are important foundational pillars of the center. Vibrant and inspiring abstract works cover the gallery walls, and the vast, eclectic outdoor sculpture gardens are must-sees.
Two exhibitions are opening this spring: The Incorrect Museum: Vignettes From the di Rosa Collection is curated by the center’s new executive director, Kate Eilertsen, and Ceramic Interventions: Nicki Green, Sahar Khoury & Maria Paz.
THE HESS COLLECTION
Founder Donald Hess was named one of the top 200 collectors globally by ARTNews magazine, and the Hess Collection consistently draws critical acclaim. Hess himself began collecting art when he bought a painting as décor for his new home and later discovered that it was a Picasso. That gave Hess his first inclination that he might have an eye for art curation.
Hess gradually increased his collection to include contemporary paintings, sculp- tures, and installations, many of which are on display at the Hess Collection Winery on Mount Veeder. When Hess established The Hess Collection Winery, formerly the Christian Brothers – Mont La Salle Winery, he also purchased approximately 1,000 acres on Mount Veeder.
As the winery grew, he displayed pieces from his extensive collection throughout the building and eventually dedicated three upper levels to art. One standout piece is the flaming typewriter by Leopoldo Maler, who created it as a tribute to Maler’s uncle, who was assassinated for his political essays.
The Hess family art collection is extraordinary by anyone’s standards, and the family continues to share and grow the art collection today. Visitors to the Hess Collection Winery can experience the museum for free, making it a great place to enjoy a tasting of top-caliber wine while strolling the fantastic displays.
ÆRENA GALLERIES & GARDENS
ÆRENA Galleries & Gardens’ uniquely beautiful art and design venues feature contemporary art and sculpture and finely edited collections of furnishings and objects dating from the 18th century. The gallery drew its name from Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech to represent their belief in fearless artistic integrity.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910.
The ÆRENA Galleries & Gardens group showcases contemporary works from over 100 emerging, mid-career, and established artists. With galleries in Healdsburg in Sonoma County and St. Helena in Napa Valley, the group thoroughly covers California wine country.
There are a variety of ways to view ÆRENA paintings and sculptures. Many of their pieces are exhibited in beautiful spaces around northern California: Blackbird Vineyards in Napa; Harvest Inn in St. Helena; Stewart Cellars in Yountville, the Sculpture Garden at Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford, Solage in Calistoga, St. Regis in San Francisco, and MacArthur Place in Sonoma.
QUENT CORDAIR FINE ART
Any gallery with an “Art Goddess” on staff begs to be visited. At Quent Cordair Fine Art, the artist’s wife, Linda Cordair, holds the title. In 1996, Cordair established the gallery to highlight sculptures and paintings in the romantic realism genre.
Romantic Realism celebrates life, happiness, and love with art that depicts everyday scenes and people better than they are in reality. It is real life romanticized in dreamy, beautiful ways. This style and painting tech- nique began in the pre-twentieth century.
Commissions are available for portraiture, murals, garden, and architectural projects. The Quent Cordair Fine Art Gallery serves an international clientele of private and corporate collectors.
CA’ TOGA GALLERIA D’ARTE
Hailing from Italia after completing his classical art training in Venice, Carlo Marchiori opened Ca’ Toga Gallerie D’Arte and added something totally unique to the local art options. His stunning, whimsical painting style leans toward Renaissance, Baroque, and Neo-Classic, but with a modern twist. There is a prominent element of Italy’s past in his tongue-in-cheek paintings, including the irreverent “The Floating Doges.” Marchiori has a fascination with the Neopolitan character Pulcinella, using the character figure in several paintings like “Pulcinella & The Moon” and “Circo Macabre,” while reflecting the Commedia dell’Arte of the 17th century.
In addition to paintings and sculptures, Marchiori crafts porcelain, ceramics, furniture, watercolors, tiles, and books. One might call him a Renaissance Man.
YOUNTVILLE GALLERY AT THE COMMUNITY CENTER
Located in the heart of Napa Valley, Yountville’s GALLERY at the community center exhibits a wide range of notable Napa Valley, Bay Area, and global artists with showings that rotate monthly. Coming this Spring, the Gallery is proud to present internationally renowned artist and Bay Area resident Guy Buffet in a unique Yountville Arts curated exhibition. The Gallery hosts events year- round, including opening night receptions with the artists.
Article By: Layne Randolph