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.
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 www.malt.org.
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.
Painting to preserve
Spring Beauty, 10” x 24”, oil on linen by Zenaida Mott - Ponzzi Ranch Easement
“We want to preserve the lands we love for future generations. That includes the open space and farmland of Marin County. We hope through exhibits and sales of paintings to focus attention on and raise awareness, as well as, funding for those lands and the organizations committed to their preservation,” says Marin artist Zee Zee Mott, founding member of the Bay Wood Artists and participating artist in Marin Agricultural Land Trust’s Annual Ranches and Rolling Hills Art Show and Sale.
The palette of West Marin
“There is a whole range of color in the landscape,” says Mott, “a very cool group of colors happen in the spring and summer. Then from summer on, the golds and the reds of fall take over. The atmosphere contributes to a tonalist quality with one dominant color or one dominant set of colors becoming more or less contiguous.”
“Much of painting West Marin has to do with the atmosphere,” Mott explains. “Near the coast an ocean mist will soften the colors–making them more harmonious. On other days, it is clear and crisp and things just stand out. The values contrast much more on a clear day. That impacts how you use color and how you set up your composition. Sometimes you want to have your dark and light–your values–say one thing, while on another day, you may want them to say something else.”
At an early age, Mott developed a life-long passion for the Northern California landscape, from rugged mountainous transition to roving, rolling hill. Growing up in Berkley, the daughter of avid nature enthusiasts, she and her family frequently hiked around West Marin and made regular vacations of backpacking the High Sierra. The love for nature carried her on many adventures and plein air expeditions in Europe, Mexico, Africa and Bhutan.
Having studied under many well-known painters, including Maria Sanchez and Elizabeth Holland, Mott employs a compendium of techniques and processes. Seldom working with as many as six colors, Mott says she usually works with “a warm and cool red, a blue, a warm and a cool yellow, and of course, white.” She goes on to explain, “Color Harmony is one of the things I was taught early on. Color harmony and how to mix a couple of colors to achieve any shade of brown or blue. Every color can be made from four of five basic colors.”
Finding it hard to have a favorite season for paint, Mott describes timing is everything, “I prefer to paint in the late afternoon when the shadows are soft and the light plays on the landscape, that gorgeous light. A scene at midday can appear kind of flat, because the shadows are not there and the colors get washed out. Mornings and late afternoons are more evocative of mood, that is what I like to paint.”
A number of Zenaida “Zee Zee” Mott’s paintings of wildlife and landscape appear in her online gallery at < http://www.zenaidamott.com
Lucy, 10” x 10”, oil on canvas by Christin Coy - Gale Ranch
Love the land
“That really is the best part of being a MALT painter,” says Marin artist Christin Coy, “getting to go out onto the ranches and seeing the real farming and ranching life. Compared to people in the business world, ranchers and farmers are so real–they have their hands on the soil, they have their hands on the animals–connected with life and death and watching things grow, the things that most people are disconnected from today.”
To create the animal portraits she is best known for, Coy works from photographs. “When I first started photographing cows, I thought they were all alike. But, they all have their own personalities. The markings are different, the faces are unique and the hair stands up in different places. Nuances.
“I work on small canvases from regular prints, I like to interpret the detail,” she says. “I like to keep it intimate.”
Describing an affinity with the natural world, “I love animals,” says Coy. “Everywhere I go I connect with them and talk with them. I have always been that way.
“I love to go to the Gale ranch. They [Mike and Sally Gale] let me get in with the sheep. Sally handles the sheep a lot instead of just sending them out to pasture and you can get close to them.”
“I feel at home out there, say Coy. Describing a relationship that has grown over the years.
Acting as sitter, Coy stays on the ranch and takes care of the animals when the Gale’s are out of town, “You don’t often get an opportunity to do that on a ranch unless you own it. It is a treat.
“The ranch is a lot of work. I admire the Gales for all the hard work they do to maintain a place like that. I respect them highly. The same is true of all the ranchers.”
Born and raised in Norway, “I don’t know if it is my Norwegian heritage,” says coy, elaborating on her evolving relationship with the colors of her developed palette, “I use to be more of a blue person. Norwegian painters are surrounded by blue, the mountains the sky, the northern lights. But in the last several years,” she say, “I find myself reaching for warmer colors, like pumpkin and orange. I am really drawn to orange in the landscape with the compliment of blue hills or mountains behind. I love to paint late in the summer when the hills have turned golden with purple shadows and the dark green oak trees, the contrast of color.”
Christin Coy’s work is on display at the Painter’s Place, Tomales Fine Arts, the annual Bolinas Museum miniature show and on her website at
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