Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ranches & Rolling Hills

Artists help save farm and ranch land
Annual art sale in Nicasio to benefit Marin Agricultural Land Trust
by Shari Faye Dell (West Marin Citizen May 19, 2011)
One of the Bay Area's truly unique art events, Ranches & Rolling Hills, an art show and sale to benefit Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), returns for its 14th annual appearance on Saturday and Sunday, May 21-22, 2011, at Druid's Hall in Nicasio, California. The show features more than 250 original paintings and prints of the natural and working landscapes of West Marin, including many of the family farms and ranches that have been permanently protected by MALT. The public is invited free of charge.
Forty-five artists from Marin County and from Santa Barbara's Oak Group are participating in the Ranches & Rolling Hills art show this year, including two Marin artists whose work will be featured for the first time: woodcut artist Tom Killion and painter Carol Peek. Other participating artists include Marin painters Thomas Wood, Susan Hall and Timothy Horn, along with Oak Group artists Arturo Tello, Richard Schloss and Chris Chapman.
Showcasing the work of participating artists, in 2008,
MALT Associate Director Elisabeth Ptak authored
Ranches and Rolling Hills: Art of West Marin–A land in Trust.
The book can be purchased at Bay Area bookstores or at
“While ranching and farming . . . represent a modification
of the landscape,” writes Ptak, “we value Marin County’s
remaining agricultural lands for local food production,
open space, and wildlife habitat.

There is no other art show in the Bay Area quite like Ranches & Rolling Hills. You start with a gorgeous drive through the hills of Marin, arriving at the exhibit in Nicasio. There you'll see dozens of new, original paintings and prints that capture the beauty of hills like the ones you've just seen. And if you buy an original art piece to take home, you'll help to protect those hills by supporting MALT. After the exhibit, take a short 15-minute drive to spend some time in Point Reyes, passing MALT-protected farms and ranches along the way.
Proceeds from art sales benefit MALT's farmland preservation program, which has permanently protected nearly half of the agricultural land in Marin over the past 30 years. Many of the prized dairy products, meats and organic crops enjoyed by local food enthusiasts at Bay Area farmers' markets and restaurants are produced on family farms and ranches protected by MALT, including milk and ice cream from Straus Family Creamery; cheeses from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company and Cowgirl Creamery; grass-fed meats from Fallon Hills Ranch and Stemple Creek Ranch; vegetables from County Line Harvest; and wines from Stubbs Vineyard.
Like other Ranches & Rolling Hills artists, Marin woodcut master Tom Killion feels good knowing his work is supporting MALT. "As a child growing up in Marin, I watched the dairy farms and ranchland disappear to suburban development all across the south and east of the county — and it left a big hole in my heart," Tom explains. "So when MALT was founded, I was overjoyed. But the work is not yet finished, and the pressures on family farms are greater than ever. That's why I'm so happy to help out by participating in the Ranches & Rolling Hills Art Show this year. Viva the open green hills covered with cattle and wildflowers! Viva MALT!"
Ranches & Rolling Hills was celebrated in a 2008 book of the same name that showcases the art and provides a historical record of protected farmland in Marin. The book can be purchased at
The Ranches & Rolling Hills Landscape Art Show & Sale is open to the public at no charge from 12 P.M. to 5 P.M. on Saturday, May 21, and from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. on Sunday, May 22.
For those who want the first opportunity to purchase art, the Ranches & Rolling Hills Exclusive Preview Sale & Champagne Brunch takes place on Saturday, May 21, from 10 A.M. to 12 P.M. Advance reservations are required, and admission is $125 per person.
For more information and preview tickets, visit or call 415-663-1158.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Father and son cook it up

“I couldn’t do anything else but music. That is all I ever wanted to do all my life,” says Lester Chambers. At the age of 14, “When I first came to California from Missippippi, you had to fill out a list of classes you would like to take,” Chambers explains one of the options was music. “I wrote music, music, music, music, music, music. They told me I couldn’t have all those classes in music. ‘Well it doesn’t say that, it just says name the classes you would like to take.’ So I wrote all six periods in music and wound up singing opera."

By Shari Faye Dell (West Marin Citizen May 19, 2011)

Lester and Dylan Chambers launched a pilot cooking show on YouTube last month, Lester Chambers Soul Foods Rhythm & Blues. Weaving a pinch of southern tradition with a cup of Marinability, Terry Haggerty joins the session bearing locally picked morrells, retrieved from a photo shoot for an article he had written.
Filmed in San Rafael, the inviting kitchen is situated in a home outfitted with a recording studio and a back yard garden.
Arriving guests, including Taj Mahal, are guided in to the studio for a listen to some new material on Lester’s upcoming CD.
Back in the kitchen, “Black pepper, garlic salt and a little more garlic, the three things that go into a meal of Southern Fried Chicken,” says Dylan Chambers. “Anymore seasoning is unnecessary,” he says.
“I go a little heavy with the garlic,” says Lester, “because it is good for ya and it tastes good. It’s good to ya and it’s good for ya.”
Emphasizing the importance of prep work, Dylan instructs viewers to sort the black eyed peas, removing all but the healthy, uniform beans. “Prep work,” he says, “is the key to Southern cooking.”

“Not out of the water, but I am able to ski on top of the water.”
A little over a year ago, Lester Chambers found relief at the end of hard times.
In June of last year, while just beginning to find his way back, Lester Chambers, former front man to the Chambers Brothers, made his first stage appearance in many moons at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station. Appearing with his son Dylan’s music project, the Midnight Transit Band, Lester performed a show at the Dance Palace that lasted nearly three-hours.
“It was phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal,” says Chambers, of his experience that night.
Struggling with health issues, Chambers was anxious and cautious about returning to the stage, “I was able to do the whole show,” Chambers describes his pleasure in testing his strength and come-back-ability in a safe place like Point Reyes, “I had to test it somewhere. I love it out there.”

The downturn
Several years back, following a job lead, Chambers and his son Dylan left behind the bustling cities in the Greater Los Angeles Area and moved to the foothills of the Sierras.
The quiet, quaint and historic town of Copperopolis offered less than promised when the job opportunity did not pan out. “With absolutely nothing to do,” Chambers describes time standing still while depleting all financial reserves.
A year and a half passed before father and son found themselves unable to stave off the encroaching threat of homelessness.
A friend in Novato offered them space in his working studio, a place to crash at nights, but the pair had to clear out each morning, allowing for business as usual. Father and son spent one or two nights a week at the Motel 6. “It was just tough, you know,” says Chambers.
Homeless and approaching the age of 70, Chambers desperately needed access to health care. In addition to his overall health diminishing, pressing dental issues, visual impairment, a neck injury, and a tumor over his eye had all gone untreated.

Sweet Relief
Dreams really can come true. For Lester Chambers, Sweet Relief was on the way.
An organization founded in 1994, the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, a non-profit charity, provides financial assistance to all types of career musicians who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability, or age-related problems.
Over the course of eighteen years, many prominent musicians, professionals and music fans have contributed to the cause with private donations, tribute LPs and other fundraising festivals, concerts or events.
“Lester’s story is certainly very typical of what many American artists will be facing in the next ten to twenty years,” says Rob Max, the Fund’s Executive Director. “We call it the post Beatles effect. Lester was playing music a decade before the Beatles became famous. A lot of musicians came on to the scene after the Beatles, baby-boomers or a little bit older. Music became the strongest driver in our culture. More people, as a result, chose music as a career,” says Max. “It [is an industry that] is not too kind when you reach your 50s, 60s and 70s.”
The music business became and industry in the 50s and experienced exponential growth through the 60s. At the time, there was little, if anything, in place to protect the rights of musicians. While performers and writers in film and television enjoyed some legal protection, the music industry was a child running wild. “A lot of deals were made and a lot of futures were mortgaged away,” says Max.

“Thanks to all the great people that came forward and blessed us with many things. Once I spoke up and let everyone know the condition I was in, Sweet Relief was the answer to the whole problem. They really care and provide long-term support,” says Chambers. “You would be surprised at how many people came forward saying I can’t believe it, but they helped.”
“You have to assume all the old guys are doing well because they were so successful musically,” Chambers explains, “but I had bad problems with my health, I had cancer, but I don’t anymore. I was sinking away and one day I got this Sweet Relief that turned things around. I am getting stronger every day.” Chambers was introduced to a doctor, “It is so hard to find and honest, truly concerned doctor. Dr. Gary Birnbaum told me, ‘If you pay attention I will get you out of this mess with your health.’ Now all my test results are coming back within the normal range.” Delighted, he adds, “He [Dr. Birnbaum] couldn’t believe it. I had been so obedient in following the routine.”
I am looking to live a longtime. I sure do just want to keep singing forever and ever. I have been blessed so tremendously.”

That was then; this is now
“Yoko Ono was very generous, so was (producer) Shep Gordon, and quite a few musicians donating to my cause.”
“But, I wasn’t crying the blues yet,” says Chambers. “A lot of new friends and new songs came out of the period of hardship.
“I am currently recording a new CD.
This year Lester has formed a new group, The Lester Chamber Blues Review, a six-piece band featuring local talent like keyboard player Kenny Ray. Chambers introduces several new originals to the repertoire of old favorites.
“My son works with the blues review, he does real good with me. It is quite a treat to be on stage with your kid.”
“This guy has been my best friend since he was four years old,” says Chambers.
“My brother Willie and I were playing a concert at Lincoln Center in New York. Dylan said ‘Dad I am going to sing with you today.’ I said, ‘you are?’ He said, ‘yeah.’ His mother made us all matching tye-dyed shirts; she was really good at that. We go to the concert, and he is sitting out in the audience. He comes back stage and asks, ‘When am I coming up dad?’ I told him after four or five songs.”
Well, don’t you know he counted the songs. At the end of the fourth song, he just comes strutting right up onto the stage and reaches for the microphone. I gave it to him. I says, ‘ What are you going to sing?’ ‘Sitting on the dock of the bay,’ he says.”
And he sang sitting on the dock of the bay. He’s had nothing else on his mind except music and his art, of course, since that day.”
He has stuck with me through thick and thin, he doesn’t want to go no where and I don’t want him to. He is my buddy. Best roommate I ever had. We have a great time together.”

An aging population
“The bottom line is so many people need financial assistance for basic needs– medical, rent, utilities and food,” says Sweet Relief Musician Fund Executive Director, Rob Max.
This scenario is happening to people from other areas of the work force, it is happening to laborers, construction workers and people who worked in other fields. It is a relative concern for any particular group.
Max explained that by getting more people involved, the fund has gone beyond just asking for donations from the music industry, famous artists and corporations. “We want to get a lot of people to commit a little bit.”
“We are really honored to have Lester as our unofficial spokesperson,” says Max. “For all the difficulty he went through, he kept a positive attitude, he was never a ‘why me’ kind of guy. He’d say, ‘You know what, tough times come and they go and we’ll do the best we can’. As soon as we got his medications balanced, we got him some eye surgery and got him into a steady home, he is a healthier happier individual and he will be able to work as a musician for years to come.

The Lester Chamber Blues Review performs Saturday, May 15, at the Dance Palace. Advance tickets suggested: <>. To learn more about the band’s upcoming performances at Monterey Bay Blues Festival and the Hayward Blues Festival, visit <>.
On March 27, 2011, Lester Chambers was inducted into the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame.
To contribute to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund visit

SF Dell's photos taken during the performance.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Three women paint

By Shari Faye Dell

Mary Siedman
“I painted outside for many years. The wind would start blowing and the canvas flying off the easel and I would be holding onto the cliff or a branch, I would reach for whatever color I could grab. It didn’t matter what color; I just needed paint.”
“I started out with a random approach,” says Mary Siedman, “even though I had studied art in school.”
“You are out there for three or four hours with your water and your Hershey bar and it’s pretty intense in Bolinas.” Siedman explains the day came when she just ‘got it’.
“I try to portray that intensity in my paintings.”
She says her pieces are not decorative, “I try to evoke all of the intense layers of our environment, including the difficult layers, not just a perfect picture view.”
After twenty-five years of photography and painting plein air, Siedman cleared out the little cabin that served as a darkroom, creating sanctuary to bring her painting home.
Her lines still reflect a closer look at a landscape that never stands still.
“I love painting bramble and berries. The first thing people do when they come to Bolinas is try to hack all that away. They don’t understand that this is like the lifeblood of our Mesa, the stickers and the brush with all the quail running through. I dare them to love this,” says Siedman. “It takes a lot of guts to look at weeds and see it as life– something thriving and moving.

Felicity Crush
“I didn’t particularly want to come to America. I thought it was all shopping malls and SUV’s,” says Stinson Beach artist Felicity Crush, originally from England. “There is plenty of that, but when I got here I couldn’t believe how amazing the natural world is. How stunningly beautiful it is. Nothing prepared me for that.”
“I am consistently astounded by the majesty of it. The Sierras and Utah and the great mountain ranges. I feel particularly lucky to be able to live where we are now [inWest Marin], to be able to experience this, as well as, live in it. Sitting out there and painting this kind of environment connects me with all the ages of humans that have had the urge to express themselves, and express their world and their experience of it.”
Last year, Crush joined her daughter, a student in Don Jolley’s middle school classroom at Bolinas Stinson School on many field trips. “Visiting Utah and the Sierras reawakened a passion in me,” says Crush. “He [Jolley] taught about the landscape, the land, the geology, the paleontology. He had the kids sit down and draw. I joined in on these drawing sessions with the kids and then would just work on my own.”
“Sketching outdoors–something I use to do a long time ago–I started doing a lot more of that. The work I am showing is a result of those field trips.
 “After working in all the other installation mediums, particularly barbed wire,” says Crush, “returning to simple techniques, pen and pencil on water color paper has been a real delight.”
Previously a sailor for Greenpeace, Crush recalls, “I would do a lot of sketching when I was on board. When I returned home I would turn those sketches into photo etchings so that I could keep the freshness of the line, retain the vitality of the sketch. This is a similar process.”

Molly Brown
Sourcing from photograph as well as museum collections, Bolinas artist Molly Brown has made many trips to the California Academy of Sciences to sketch and photograph pinned and trayed specimens in the museum’s extensive collection.
A member of the National Butterfly Association and the Science Illustration Guild, Brown’s current work focuses on endangered California butterfly species. “I wanted to illustrate them and educate people. They are beautiful and rare species.”
“Many varieties of California’s butterflies have become endangered as host plants and habitat are diminished by development. Like these,” Brown explains, directing attention to illustrations of the male and female El Segundo Blue. “A butterfly in the larval stage can’t survive without its host plant, a native Coastal Buckwheat. If those host plants are wiped out by a condo-development, this species just wont make it; they won’t be around.”
Browns interest in entomology, ichyology and botany grew from her childhood interest in plants, animals and the great outdoors.
In addition to her work on paper, Brown’s current exhibit includes a second body of work, a series of oil paintings presenting the female form.
Evidence: it is spring in the garden of “Earthly Delights,” Brown renders images of naked ladies and butterflies.

A reception for the three-woman show, “Earthly Delights,” is scheduled for Saturday, May 14 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Bolinas Gallery. Guests will be treated to a performance by Flamenco guitarist Carl Nagin.