Di Rosa for Art & More...

Every time we venture to Santa Rosa, we pass a hillside adorned with artwork of several white sheep and one lone black one. And each time we drive by, we promise that one day we'll stop. Today was that day and boy were we glad we did.


di Rosa, a non-profit public trust, is the vision of two devoted patrons of the arts, Rene and Veronica di Rosa. Through their generosity, the vast collection of art, historic buildings, and surrounding open space were gifted to the public for the enjoyment of future generations.
I loved this article headline on SF Gate, "Artful codger / Rene di Rosa converts Napa home, grounds into gallery for the unpretentious" (2002).
We began our art explore in the Gatehouse Gallery which features changing contemporary exhibitions of work by Bay Area artists in three main focus areas: emerging artists, mid-career retrospectives, and highlights from the permanent collection. Overlooking Winery Lake, the gallery includes a welcome desk and gift store.
The current exhibit is Equilibrium: A Paul Kos Survey. This exhibition explores the work of Paul Kos and reflects on the San Francisco-based artist’s longstanding engagement with the Western landscape, from his native Wyoming to his second home in the California Sierras. His history is very much in this place as he was the first artist to display outdoor works here.

We then boarded a 'jitney' and headed to the main gallery where we began a thorough and interesting two hour tour. As the tram made its way past the lake, we played I spy as we discovered dozens of colorful sculptures dotting the landscape of the 53-acre preserve.

There are over 2,000 works of art on the property. The Main Gallery presents modern and contemporary works from the permanent collection, including paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculpture by celebrated Bay Area artists. A wide range of styles and subject matter provides an overview of the creative energy and freedom to experiment that characterize this region of California.

I found this an interesting coincidence since we had just been to a Burning Man presentation. “Mother Tina’s Car" was created by grand crankster David Best, the modern master of assemblage who has transformed more than 30 vehicles into mobile works of art (he is especially famous for his Burning Man creations). This was Rene's mom's car and is adorned with many of her possessions.


Okay, there was just something about RIGO 92's Missile. Created out of push pins, I found it pretty fascinating.

Even Rene di Rosa tried his hand at art with Lynched Volkswagen, 1996; a VW Sirocco suspended from a huge tree in his yard. Art is in the eye of the beholder.
Located on 217 scenic acres in the Carneros region of the Napa Valley, di Rosa offers visitors refuge to view the art of Northern California in a singularly unique setting. The property includes three separate galleries, a sculpture park, a 35-acre lake, and a wildlife preserve. Protected in perpetuity under the Napa County Land Trust, di Rosa is rich in flora and fauna, with open space that is home to a fascinating array of wildlife, native plant species, and di Rosa’s own peacocks.
Another work of di Rosa is titled Field Hands (the guy had a great sense of humor). We were told that the hands were actually models for a glove factory. Interestingly, Napa once had a cluster of industries devoted to the leather trades. Tanneries on the river produced leather for Conklin Glove, California Glove, Napa Glove and Ferro Glove. There is a separate tour for the outdoor sculpture that will have to be seen one day.
We ended our tour in the Residence Gallery... the di Rosas' actual home. This was a glimpse into a private collector’s world. A Napa County Landmark, this 125-year-old stone building was converted from a winery to the home of Rene and Veronica di Rosa from 1960–1996. Today it houses hundreds of works from the permanent collection, shown salon-style in each room of the house.
We were invited to explore every room where we found art everywhere: on bookshelves, affixed to the ceiling, and even on the stove in the kitchen.
One that made me chuckle was artist Charlie Milgrim's mound of bowling balls in the bathtub. "It's an artwork now, but it use to just be my shower," di Rosa had said.
So where did Mr. di Rosa get the finances for this incredible place? In 1982, Rene di Rosa sold 250 acres of his famed Winery Lake vineyards to the Seagram company. Using those profits he established the Rene and Veronica di Rosa Foundation, with the vision to build an “art park” for the greater public. As a manifestation of that vision, the di Rosa “Preserve” opened to the public in 1997 and became a separate nonprofit 501(c)3 organization in 2000.
Someone described the place as being imbued with a whimsical, humorous, irreverent character. "It has the feel of a countercultural Disneyland in which some mischievous fairy godmother waved her magic wand and replaced Main Street with Haight Street". Maybe that's what I really enjoyed about it, the Disneyesque quality. Or maybe it was just the fact that one day finally became today. What a true treasure this place is.

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2 comments:

Karen Booth said...

That looks like my kind of place. Funky fun!

Aquí Ahí Allá said...

While I was looking at this blog post I got to thinking, I wonder what else is out there on this planet when most don't even see what's right in our own backyard! Good work exploring!

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