For a year and a half I have been painting a series at Ceago Vinegarden on Clear Lake. Completed six years ago the vineyards, gardens and winery were designed, planted and built by Jim Fetzer with the help of his son Barney, as well as a contractor and four or five workers. The buildings are Jim's interpretation of Mission architecture. Substantial and beautiful they give the impression of having stood here for generations. The Mission flavor of the buildings and gardens is tempered by an imaginative but natural eclecticism that evokes memories of Provence and Italy. Walking from the main courtyard to the long dock on the the lake one passes through a large field of lavender which is bounded by a stands of hundred year old olive trees. The vertical accents of cypress trees are used to great effect throughout the property. Behind the vineyards the cypress are interspersed with the blue-green whorls of agave. This bio-dynamically farmed property sets a standard of beauty that makes me wish the whole shoreline of Clear Lake were subject to such mindful development. I've included a couple of excerpts from my diary to give you a sense of what it was like working here .
This morning I was painting a view through an opening that overlooks the entrance to Ceago when Jim called me over. He indicated the white head of a bald eagle glinting from the crown of a tall oak. Jim says they come in winter to fish the lake. He thinks they are nesting around here somewhere.
In the fields this afternoon I could hear the beat of 'banda' music on a pruner's radio. I couldn't see them through the vines. They're still half a field away. I'm set up in the same location I worked a year and a half ago when I painted the grape harvest. It's a different scene in winter. In place of the exuberant foliage and bunches of grapes there's a delicate tracery of reddish vines among rank on rank of poles and guy wires. The two paintings will make an interesting contrast at the exhibition.
The pruners have reached the rows where I'm painting. There's a strange twanging sound. It's the sound of them pulling cut vines free from the metal guy wires as they advance up the rows from the direction of the lake.
Ramon, the supervisor, has agreed to pose as a pruner so I can put a figure in the painting. The other workers joke with him. There is something surreal about his standing so still while they move quickly from vine to vine. After he's posed he brings over the orange water container and hangs it in my view.
'That's so everyone can see we give our workers water."
The full series of paintings will number about twenty-two. They will be exhibited at Ceago Vinegarden next September. Until then none of them are for sale.
For further information about Ceago Vinegarden log on to: http://www.ceago.com