Spring Fling in Sebastopol

Tour leader Jeanne Ryan told me that the April 9 Art Guild tour to Sebastopol should be of particular interest to men. She was right. Eighty-six people, including 12 men, were fascinated by the artwork found around Sebastopol. For anyone who loves to tinker with machinery, these artist’s studios were irresistible.

Our first stop was the home and studio of Ned Kahn. As Ned puts it, “I strive to create artworks that enable viewers to observe and interact with natural processes. I am less interested in creating an alternative reality than I am in capturing the mysteriousness of the world around us.”

His studio is a veritable Exploratorium, where he can test turbulent phenomena involving wind and water, fire and fog, and scale these up to artworks the size of a parking garage wall. In fact, after graduating from college in Connecticut in 1982, Kahn spent ten years designing educational exhibits at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. He is currently involved in the design of wind turbines for San Francisco that will generate power and, at the same time, create an artistic effect for the viewer. Google “Ned Kahn” and take a look.

At the home of Michael Cooper we reencountered the intriguing Flying Machine recently on view in the OMCA Art Gallery and now outside his studio. A magician with machinery and a true craftsman with wood and metal, Cooper demonstrated the workings of a number of his creations, including his unusual red hotrod and some works being designed for a show next year at the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design. Up in Cooper’s house his creations fill a double duty, both artistic and practical, providing a sense of the perverse to an otherwise conventional living area.

We stopped a block away from the home/studio of Patrick Amiot in Sebastopol so we walk past his junk-art sculptures lining both side of Florence Street. There was Surfer Girl who rides an ironing board across a wave fashioned from a Volkswagen hood and Mermaid, whose fish tail was made up of old can lids. People bring in their junk and a request and Amiot makes something original out of it. “I never know where it will lead me. It all has to do with what kind of junk I find.” Sebastopol has gleefully adopted Amiot since he came there eleven years ago from Montreal.

Our tour concluded at the country retreat of lumber heiress/art patron Ann Hatch and carpenter/architect Paul Discoe, who designed the Japanese-style house and gardens themselves. After spending five years in China, Discoe considers Asian architecture to be the specialty of his company, Joinery Structures. He was also the architect for Larry Ellison’s Japanese imperial palace of a home in Woodside. Hatch explained that she wanted their home to be a sanctuary rather than an art park so the artwork is subsidiary to the surroundings.

All in all, a fitting way to end our trip.

Joe Fox - April 2008
Joe Fox