Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mission Open Studios

Gallery Space at WorkSpace
Visited many open studios this weekend. Quite a treat as I am usually sitting in my Mission District studio waiting for people to come around. On Friday night we went to receptions at 1890 Bryant and Blue Studio. I was surprised at how much 1890 had expanded. Large studios were crammed with artists working in all media - painting, sculpture, jewelry, printmaking...There were also a number of large, yummy spaces for solo artists there. Among the notables, Chris Lieb (, Cynthia Tom ( and Annie Arrasmith ( Blue Studio is located in a gritty part of the Mission but here too, lots of artists. I saw several installations that were interesting. On Saturday we hit all three ArtExplosion locations and CellSpace. I met a number of artists whose work I admire - Rebecca Bennett (, Georgianne Fastaia ( and Kevin Pincus ( Today, I visited WorkSpace and ActiveSpace. WorkSpace had a lovely gallery on the ground floor and many artists' studios on the second. ActiveSpace is brand-new and houses artists and microbusinesses. It's great to see so many artists in my neighborhood!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Adventures in Napaland

Barrel-tasting at Del Dotto Winery

Hundertwasser Architecture at the Quixote Winery

Making cake at the Buttercream Bakery

Just returned from a 2.5 day vacation in wine country, courtesy of several gift certificates. On Sunday we met up with friends for lunch at Bistro Don Giovanni just off Hwy 29. With a sizeable gift certificate to be used, we ordered a variety of menu items including a delicious fried olive appetizer, calamari fritti, pizza Margherita and several main courses. An all-male Japanese tour group was seated close by and we watched as several trays of hamburgers and pizzas were delivered to their table. Then we drove to the Del Dotto winery for a tour of the wine cave and barrel tasting of many varieties of cabernets and ports. The caves are dug into the hillside and remain cool even on the hottest days. Our guide taught us how to properly "open" the flavors of red wine - ie, sip first, then slowly rotate the glass 360 degrees. He was completely against the vigorous swirling that seems to be the trend these days. According to him, you swirl away the best flavors that way. We also visited the Elizabeth Spencer winery in Rutherford for more wine tasting: chardonnays, pinots and cabs. Our dinner was at Bouchon in Yountville, a Thomas Keller restaurant. The appetizers were quite delicious but there was an unacceptable delay between the starters and the main course. And the main course, coquille st Jacque, was exceedingly mediocre. Disappointing experience.
We stayed at Meadowoods for 2 nights. Our cabin was very comfortable, with a nice big tub, large bed and a fireplace in the living room area. We were surrounded by oak trees all around and woke to birdsong in the morning. Had breakfast at their grill on Monday. The food was good, though not exceptional. After a forgettable walk around St. Helena (see previous blog), we visited the Quixote winery, famous as much for their wines as the architecture by Hundertwasser. It is the only Hundertwasser building in N. America and took 7 years to build. The wines were quite lovely here as well. We especially loved the 2004 Petite Syrah. That evening we had an exceptional dining experience at the Meadowoods restaurant. We were treated to a medley of tiny, delicious dishes that included toro, parsnip souffle, squab, mackerel, cheeses and fresh ice cream. This was the best meal we had during our short trip.
On our drive home, we stopped at the Buttercream Bakery for a delicious breakfast. They bake everything there so the biscuits were fluffy, straight out of the oven and full of buttermilk flavor. Our last stop was at the DiRosa Preserve in Carneros, which houses the private art collection of Rene DiRosa. The collection is massive and the pieces are very much to DiRosa's personal taste. There were a lot of works by Robert Arneson, Roy DeForest, Viola Frey and Enrique Chagoya but there were also countless works by many other Bay Area artists. It was also mating season for the peacocks on the ground. There was quite a bit of loud screeching and tailfeather displays going on.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Strong Bladder Control Needed in St Helena

Spending a few vacation days in Napa county. We decided to explore the town of St Helena this morning, do some window shopping, enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee, look for a bookstore...We were impressed with Main Street lined with interesting shops and cafes. We decided to start with a cup of coffee and pastry and incidentally, M had to use the bathroom. We stopped in at Hotel St Helena, which advertized a coffee bar. Went in, asked the front desk lady where the coffee bar was. "We aren't doing business with them at the moment," she said. When we asked where the nearest cafe with a toilet was, she suggested the Model Bakery a few doors down. When we said they appeared not to have a toilet, she said, "Oh, there's bound to be one 3-4 blocks away from Main Street, let me draw you a map." I cut her short and asked if M could use the toilet directly in front of us. No, not allowed, as we weren't staying with them. We trudged back to the Model Bakery where M was told that not only were they not offering toilets, but no shop on Main St had toilets for visitors! This is apparently a point of pride in St Helena. No explanation was given - just no toilets even if you dine here.M finally found relief at the Chevron gas station several blocks away. When I asked what's up with the lack of toilets in town, the friendly Chevron guy said it's just their uppity ways. He then pointed us down Adams St to River House Books and Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company right next it. We purchased some books and read them at the cafe over Jamaican blue mountain coffee and wine cake. This pleasant experience balanced out the weird one on Main Street, but our recommendation is, "Don't visit St Helena without emptying your bladder somewhere else first."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Hessy's sister Dian passed away on April 4 in Jakarta after a courageous battle with cancer. I traveled in Turkey with Hessy and Dian in 2002. Dian exemplified the modern Indonesian woman - a competent careerwoman working for the United Nations and a strong-willed person comfortable in her Muslim faith. This is a photo of her looking pensive in Mevlana, home of Rumi and the whirling devishes. Dian and Hessy made a pilgrimage to Mecca a few years ago. I hope this scarf, which Dian bought during our journey in Turkey, kept her cool during the day and warm at night. I will miss her bright laughter and flirtatious smile.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Gallery 415

Visited this contemporary Latin American gallery at 49 Geary yesterday. Featured was Cuban artist Ramses Larzabal. He creates his pieces with industrial materials tied together with shoe laces and thread.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Desmond Tutu

I went to hear Desmond Tutu speak at the Fairmont today. Jane Wales, President of the World Affairs Council, asked him a series of questions about Zimbabwe, Tibet, Myanmar, Kenya, all hot spots that he had visited and tried to moderate dialogue. He spoke first about Mugabe, who had been highly regarded by African and other World Leaders as the liberator of Zimbabweans. He was the shining star until Nelson Mandela came along. Tutu said how difficult it must have been for Mugabe to have become, almost overnight, a nonentity. Most people would have difficulty dealing with such a fall from popularity and respect, he reminded us. The second half of Mugabe's tenure has been roiled by conflict and the tearing apart of the social order (Tutu reminded us of how advanced Zimbabwe had been as a country not so long ago). He felt there was still time for Mugabe to redeem himself, if he could find the moral courage to leave the political scene as peacefully as possible. Jane Wales reminded Tutu that Mugabe had unkind words to say about him. Tutu laughed and said, "Many people have unkind words to say about me." This view set the tone for the rest of his conversation. I was deeply impressed with Tutu's ability to not demonize even despots. He used his sense of humor to tell stories, teach lessons. About boycotting the Beijing Olympics, he said, "Don't force the athletes to boycott the games, but the world leaders should not be in attendance."