Museum of Sonoma County offers tour of landscape exhibit online

Photographer and installation artist Mercedes Dorame, a member of the Gabrielino Tongva Indians of California, stages her own symbolic interventions, conducting ritual ceremonies at sites of ancestral significance in the Los Angeles area and documenting them in photographs.

“She leaves her marks on the land where her performance has taken place, and she photographs where she has been,” Nathanson explained. For example, one photo shows spices and red string Dorame left on the rocks.

A classic example of an art installation remembered for its temporary impact on the landscape and the lasting impression it left in photos and documentation is Christo’s “Running Fence” project in Sonoma and Marin counties in the early ’70s, with nylon fabric stretching more than 20 miles across the terrain to Bodega Bay. It’s represented in this exhibit with a photograph by Wolfgang Volz of the completed fence from the Sonoma State University collection. And from the Museum of Sonoma County’s Christo collection, donated two decades ago by Tom Golden, there’s a collage of preliminary sketches by Christo for the project.

Of course, any comprehensive survey of landscape art would be incomplete without photographs by San Francisco legend Ansel Adams, and this show includes two of his silver gelatin prints: “The Teton Range and the Snake River,” from 1942 and “Winter Sunrise, from Lone Pine” from 1944.

Sonoma County artists are well represented in the show, including “Gravitas,” a new oil painting of a distant horizon dominated by Monterey cypress branch hanging in the foreground, created by Brooks Anderson of Santa Rosa for this exhibit. There’s also a section devoted to the works of the famed Sonoma County Four: William Paul Morehouse, Tony King, Bill Wheeler and Jack Stuppin.

“The four artists started in the early 1990s, painting together doing plein air on location, and they decided in 1992 to travel across the U.S. from California to New York, painting in locations all across the country,” Nathanson said.

The exhibit includes a more recent solo effort by each of the artists, as well as a quartet of paintings of Niagra Falls from their cross-country sojourn, one by each of them.

“They painted the same scene, but in looking at these paintings you just get a very striking sense of their stylistic differences,” Nathanson said.

Adam Wolpert, co-founder of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and a close associate of the Sonoma Four, also is represented in the show.

“Adam had a relationship with the members of the Sonoma Four,” Nathanson said. “Although he wasn’t an official member, he did exhibit with the members of that group.”

Painting and photography aren’t the only artistic media represented in the exhibit. One of the more unusual entries is from Naomie Kremer of Berkeley.

“These scenes of hers, which she refers to as hybrid, are a combination of paint and video projections,” Nathanson said. “It’s really worth just standing and looking at them for a moment. They’re illuminated, and they have this really interesting spiritual glow to them. The movement is quite extraordinary. It’s as if they’re alive.”

Far from being some outdated style from the distant past, landscape art continues to grow and change, reflecting the complex relationship between nature and the human race, Nathanson said.

The show, which opened in February and was scheduled to run until mid-July, is expected to resume after the stay-home order is lifted, so you if you’re intrigued by the video tour, you could get a chance to follow up in person.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at [email protected]

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