Hundreds of art lovers will be traveling the highways and byways of the Mountain Areas of Madera and Mariposa Counties this weekend in search of a diverse group of artists and the variety of treasurers they create during the 13th Anual Sierra Art Trails.
More than 100 artists will be showing their artwork from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2, through Sunday, Oct. 4.
Three artists sharing a show site for this weekend’s popular event are printmaker Monique Wales, woodworker and sculptor Steve Carney and photographer Dominique Roche. The threesome will be at Wales’ Oakhurst home studio on John West road.
Monique Wales is a printmaker, but works in mixed media and does other painting, as well. Currently, she is working on a series of 12 hand-carved linocut relief prints centered around iconic Yosemite themes. “Taft Point Fissures-Yosemite” is completed and can be seen at etsy.com/shop/RedTailStudios. She is now working on the second in the series, “Half Dome-Yosemite.”
Her junior high art teacher, Mr. Ramirez, “opened my eyes to the possibilities of art, and that it could even be a profession.” Wales said. “It became my refuge during a difficult time in my early life. I am a big believer in art in education and the amazing creativity and insight it fosters in general, not just as a career path.”
Wales finds inspiration not only in Yosemite but in all sorts of things in nature.
“Trees, birds, flowers, and natural vistas all seem to make their way into my work,” she said. “I enjoy city scenes, too, but I don’t think they truly inspire me or nurture my soul. Natural history, learning about and experiencing the patterns and details in the environment through hiking, observation, sketching and photography are all part of my inspiration collecting process.”
Wales has been accepted into the California Naturalist Program through the University of California Extension Program and she believes this will “add a further dimension to my work. Understanding is key to conveying your message and views.”
“Bushtit’s Nest,” pictured in the Sierra Art Trails catalog “was inspired by watching, start to finish, the building of that engineering miracle of a nest and a family of tiny bushtits on my own property,” she said.
“Fine art relief or intaglio prints are original works of art, each unique, within its limited edition printing,” she explained. “Each design and image is my own creation, which are created using archival and museum quality materials. My relief prints are made using wood blocks of various species (to make woodcut prints) or linoleum plates (to make linocuts).”
She uses both Western and Japanese carving tools and prints onto special printmaking paper using water-based pigments or oil-based inks.
“I sometimes print by hand using a traditional baren (a Japanese hand tool) or wooden spoon, but more often I use my beloved, husband-made, 30-inch etching press,” she said. “My intaglio prints are generally on copper using a variety of etching methods and are always transferred using my etching press.”
Three years ago, Wales was a “trail-goer” and then participated as an artist on the trail last year for the first time. She encourages others to experience Sierra Art Trails.
“Sierra Art Trails is a truly exceptional experience from both perspectives,” she said. “Spending three days talking art, looking at different viewpoints, peeking into the inner worlds of each artist in their home studios ... heaven for two is only $18. And from this artist’s perspective, sharing the art of printmaking, has been a joy and my favorite part of the trail experience. So many people have that potato-carving, card-making story from childhood and didn’t know printmaking went beyond that. It’s fun to watch the interest in people’s faces as you explain the process.”
“I picked up a piece of wood when I was five and carved a tiki using my father’s pocket knife,” said Steve Carney. “In a way, that may have been the moment I would become a carver. However, once my father found out, he took his knife back and told me I was too young.”
It wasn’t until he was a 17-year-old senior in high school that Carney went back to carving in earnest after meeting professional woodcarver Rodney Cole.
“(Cole) did amazing faces of Indians. I asked him how to get started and he basically said you will need to make tools and figure out what type of wood you want to carve,” Carney explained. “So I made my first set of tools, found a piece of walnut and started my 43 years of figuring out how to carve. I am self-taught but spend hours looking at pictures of other carvers’ work. Along the way, I have discovered I enjoy two types of carving - realistic human busts and sculpture using very ancient woods.”
“I love the grain of butternut, a white walnut. It holds detail very well,” Carney said. “As far as ancient woods, I love carving with 2,000-year-old juniper and mesquite. I also love the experience of seeing what comes of the ancient woods as I rarely know what I am going to carve when I start. I just let the tools guide me.”
Although Carney uses mostly hand tools, he has recently discovered it is easier to use power tools on old, cracked wood and he is developing a new style.
“History inspires my art,” Carney said. “I love carving Native Indians from different time periods as well as mountain men. I have a deep appreciation of American history, good and bad.”
“I have received a lot of positive responses to the eyes in my work,” Carney said. “Many people have stated that they are very realistic and also share a feeling of sadness. When you look at some of the Native Indians I carve, they often are sad or angry. I once carved an Indian after reading the book, ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.’ It is the angriest carving I have done to this date. I did not start off to carve an angry Indian but I think my disgust of that part of our history led to the carving.”
“I have often been told I should learn to carve happy people ... unfortunately, history isn’t always happy,” Carney said. “I try to carve from (a) perspective of realism. Can you imagine a happy mountain man? They often lived a lonely life, in cold desolate areas.”
Carney is not the only artist in the family. His wife, Jeri, and their daughter, Liz, who has a Bachelors of Fine Arts from California State University, Long Beach, and a Masters of Fine Arts from Claremont, own a quilting business.
Dominique Roche is a photographer from Tulare who has traveled extensively capturing images of nature from the American Rockies, Sequoia National Park, the Sierra Nevada foothills, the American west, Europe and even Zululand in South Africa.
Some of his images may be viewed at imagesoundofnature.com.
Details: The purchase of an $18 catalog admits two adults to the Sierra Art Trails for all three days. Catalogs are available at the Stellar Gallery at 40982 Highway 41, in Oakhurst, (559) 658-8844, where there is also a preview of work by artists exhibiting on the Art Trails. Additional locations in Oakhurst for catalogs are Oakhurst Frameworks (49185 Road 426), (559) 683-7941; Western Sierra Nursery (49266 Golden Oak Drive), (559) 683-8476; and Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau (40637 Highway 41), (559) 683-4636.