August 6, 2017
Some endeavor to walk the Camino and others seek redemption in the spark of Burning Man. Never a simple journey, a pilgrimage is born of principles and rooted in the divine connection between man and earth. Whether by solitude and reflection, or radical inclusion and self-expression, humankind turns to the open sky when in search of that fifth sacred thing we call spirit.
This is a bold introduction to the simple fact that, the other day, I drove to a local landscape to look at art.
There, I encountered colorful, whimsical sculpture along with towering figures that had previously served to draw modern pilgrims to the Black Rock desert. The effect of standing beneath the giant figures was akin to entering a historic cathedral, where the structure and light are designed to draw your eyes immediately upward, toward heaven.
The value and intent of modern sculpture has often eluded me. I have wandered through sculpture displays hoping to find new warmth in the cold metal, and a playfulness in its form. I admit to developing a fondness for the sculptors I met only through their posted biographies, but most often I remained untouched by their work.
Perhaps it was my perspective that required time and weathering, but on this sunny hillside, beneath a sheltering sky, I happened on sculpture that intrigued me to the point of returning a second time.
The Shape of Answers
This wide range of sculpture can be viewed in temporary and permanent installations on the grounds of the Paradise Ridge Winery, in Santa Rosa, California, courtesy of the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation. Sculpture has always been at the heart of the resident Byck family, which lovingly developed the land with conscious stewardship.
Currently, a group of works titled “Geometric Reflections” is set in a peaceful oak grove, named for founder Marijke Byck.
Alone on the hillside, I had time to observe, photograph, and enjoy the art that stuck out from the landscape like brightly colored toys artfully strewn about a large yard.
According to the Voigt website, ten of the sculptures were created from a particular question that was posed to the artist. (If the questions were specific, they were not made apparent.) The questions were answered in form.
Spirit Finds Form
Wandering across Paradise, I encountered the giants that drew my eyes upward to the sky.
Karen Cusolito’s large-scale repurposed steel figures have towered over San Francisco city parks and served as main attractions at Burning Man. Cusolito utilizes the human form to express emotion, intention, and challenge. Her work also speaks to the delicate balance between humankind and the environment; she has created towering gardenscapes as a reminder of our small part in the larger ecosystem.
At a distance these figures are magnificent. Up close, one can see the detail and artistry that forms the whole. It is impossible to view these figures and not imagine them filled with life force.
Below, “Eileen” (2006) reaches 40 feet into the sky.
Paradise Ridge and Art
The Paradise story begins with Walter Byck proposing marriage to Marijke Hoenselaars after a walk through a favorite sculpture garden in her native Netherlands. Their move to Santa Rosa in the 1960s ultimately led to the purchase and development of the hillside ranch that is now Paradise Ridge. Marijke died tragically in an auto accident in 2006.
Walter continues to thrive on his passion for art and a generous sense of community, say the resident artists who speak of him with gratitude. As of my last visit, the sculpture offerings were multiplying faster than staff could install title plates. The exhibits are a work in progress. Soon, those who seek spirit in form may find it in this single destination.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to bow and kiss the earth.
— Jelaluddin Rumi
Cusolito’s “Achmed” (held in private collection) photo by Declan Mccullagh
Note: The Paradise Ridge Winery burned to the ground in the Tubbs Fire on October 8, 2018, but all of the art survived. Plans are in place to rebuild the winery.
All photographs by Cynthia Albers unless otherwise noted.
© Cynthia Albers, 2017, All Rights Reserved