October 3, 2020

Vineyard on Oakdale Road, behind Linne Calodo Winery, early 2000 (oil on birch panel)

This week’s post is of a vineyard on Oakdale Road in Paso Robles. I lived in Paso in the late 90s and early 2000s. While there I fell hopelessly in love with all things about the vineyards in the north county of the Central Coast. It wasn’t the wineries that I responded to, but the vineyards. Maybe there doesn’t seem to be a difference between the two, but I’ve always been more enamored of the places where the wonderful wine grapes grow (vineyard), not necessarily the buildings where the grapes are crushed, then processed into wine (winery). Don’t get me wrong, I have visited many wineries and enjoyed drinking the wine there. But all my grape related landscapes have almost always been of the actual plants, emphasizing the symmetry of the plantings as they wrap around the various hills and dales here in CA. (To date, I have painted only one winery, Linne Calodo. The painting I did of their first building, left over farming structures and the only road leading into the property were the subject of that long ago landscape. Today, all the farm related structures are gone, the road is on the other side of the property and they have tripled the footprint of the winery/tasting room.) 

I grew up in northern CA in what’s now called Silicon Valley, and we often visited family friends in Napa. I vividly remember seeing what was then known as the wine country in the Napa/Yountville/Rutherford area. Later, when I turned 21 and was an undergrad at UCB, my parents took me wine tasting there. We traveled along Highway 29 through Yountville and Rutherford, stopping to taste wine at the old and established wineries as well as the up and coming wineries along the way. (Beaulieu Wines were just becoming famous.) For that particular birthday, I remember that it was a hot day and the wine was not very memorable. But the grand scale of the vineyards we drove past made much more of an impression. There was just something about the lovely rows of grapes planted throughout those rolling hills dotted with oak trees. And to see those same vineyards in spring with bright yellow mustard growing between the rows was also something truly lovely to behold.

I should mention that the vineyard you see here is the left side of a diptych with the right side a continuing vineyard vision that includes various farm outbuildings (see June 13, 2020 for that companion piece). I have also separately posted both parts of another oil on birch panel diptych of Paso Robles (January 19, 2017 and August 12, 2017). That pair is not of vineyards dotted with oak trees, but rather a golden wheat field dotted with my beloved oaks. With regards to both birch panel diptychs I liked the idea that each individual piece could be a “stand alone” piece (literally stand alone), but also that each image seemed somehow more dramatic and complete when each landscape was elongated horizontally. As long as I am confessing to creating such configurations, I have also separately posted another pair here at One CA Girl, but those are not oil on birch panel. The pair I am referring to was another kind of homage to vineyards and wineries, but done with oil pastels on pastel board (see December 3, 2017—Cypress along a drive up to a Napa tasting room on Highway 29 and December 23, 2017–Lucchesi Vineyards in Grass Valley). As far as the oil pastels go, they were definitely meant to be stand alone (but they need to be in a frame), and somehow magical as they combine a vineyard in Grass Valley with the front entrance of a Napa tasting room on Highway 29. This was more a fantasy piece where I wanted to see if I could mesh and blend the scenes together, even with their region specific blue CA skies.

Looking back at these diptychs, I am kind of wondering why I did them that way. Although I still love these quintessential CA landscapes, they do seem a little contrived and actually kind of “dippy”—“dippy diptychs.” Historically speaking, diptychs and even triptychs (“trippy triptychs”), have been around since medieval times. Even though I don’t know why I did them that way, those early artists must have had a reason. So, I went looking on the internet for that seemingly inexplicable idea, and this is what I found out. First of all, such paintings never depicted secular scenes of vineyards or wheat fields, but rather stylized people from the Bible—often the baby Jesus (looking like a tiny adult) and the Virgin Mary were featured. Those painted wooden panels were also often connected with some kind of hinge that bound them together. It seems this was so the two or three images could be made to stand up when placed on a flat surface, like an altar in a church or cathedral. It was also suggested that when hinged together in the way, they could be closed up and protected if and when they were moved from one place to the next. (Not really sure why anyone would be moving them around, but no matter.)

I also learned that those medieval painters often created diptychs and triptychs to help tell a Bible story, with each panel representing a tableau full of meaning. There was even a suggested comparison to the tradition of specifically lining up panels of stained glass windows in a church or cathedral to tell a story, as pages in a book might do. No stories, past or present, come to mind with any of my panels. Thinking back, I’m not sure it was really worth the effort. Hanging them together so they are aligned and straight can be a bitch. And how far apart should they be? Whenever I hung these in a place to try to sell them, I had a hard time making them look like they belonged together. It was always best if the venue where I was exhibiting my art had picture railing—then at least I could hang them at the same level. Someone bought this Paso diptych. I hope they were able to figure out how to hang them so they looked nice. Or maybe they were placed upright on a mantel as though they were hinged together, much like medieval artists did long ago.

Venice diptych, summer 2010 (oil on canvas)

OK, I guess I’m not done with this idea! Several years ago I went to Italy with my son and aunt. This diptych is of Venice, and it features a canal near our hotel. I kind of liked the idea of forming a corner to make it seem as though the canal was flowing back into the painting. On the left is the canal, of course, but on the right is Campo San Barnaba (city square in Dorsoduro), a former Venetian Church which is now a museum. This particular city square was made famous in the Indiana Jones movie “The Last Crusade.” I owned a VHS tape of that movie and my son really loved watching it. So our staying near there was particularly memorable for him. He also enjoyed finding and buying YuGiOh cards in a shop right at that city square. Quite a story for this pair of paintings, I guess. Maybe those “story telling” medieval diptych and triptych painters were on to something after all.

One last word regarding CA vineyards and wineries

With all the recent fires in CA, both the Paso and Napa Vineyards/Wineries have been assaulted with smoke and flames. I read that the Paso Robles vintners are going to hold their collective breath while their wines ferment. Some seem hopeful that the smoke will not taint the flavor of their product. As for Napa, it seems all their grapes were picked before the Glass Fire took hold. I think they are going to struggle actually making their wines as some wineries appear to have been devastated by not only the smoke, but the heat produced by the actual flames. It looked as though vats and machinery used to make wine literally melted on the spot. All of us who enjoy CA wines, we will hold out hope for some kind of phoenix to rise from all that ash. 

RIP Aunt Bunnie, 8/21/2020

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