Located in Saratoga, nestled amongst Redwoods, hills and gardens, the Montalvo Arts Center is a journey back into history mixed with contemporary art. Last Saturday, I was part of an informational tour for the Center’s 5 Hour Sculpture Project. It was a bittersweet return. My last visit was for the Susan O’Malley’s memorial service. Time to reinvent memories into new ones while remembering Susan’s spirit. Grief and loss can and must be transformed into positive creative action.
Prepped with hiking boots and an umbrella, it was overcast with rain looming. It didn’t dampen the spirits of the artists who were eager to explore and learn. From the Center’s website: “Montalvo Arts Center is also known as Villa Montalvo, a historic landmark built in 1912 by James Duval Phelan (1861-1930). Phelan, a passionate Californian who had been a three-term progressive mayor of San Francisco, went on to become California’s first popularly-elected U.S. Senator. Villa Montalvo was Senator Phelan’s favorite home and a center of artistic, political and social life in Northern California.”
First stop was a trail in the trees that hugged the perimeter of the Center. Then we made a grand entrance onto the Great Lawn. Its scale was impressive, extravagant, and strange. In a drought stricken California, the green felt luxurious and decadent. Then a walk into the Italianate Garden added to its charm.
Back at the main Villa, conversations of the past lingered in its architectural details. Then a peak into the Spanish Courtyard highlighted a fountain with icons and mythological symbols. It’s meaning abstract from a time and era far removed. A landmark built during a time of no Internet and before women could vote. Today, Montalvo is a contemporary leader showcasing diverse artworks across its grounds.
Montalvo’s Project Space Gallery featured the exhibit James Gouldthorpe’s Particles: A Painting in Ten Chapters. The work explores time and is an investigation of the artist’s life from birth to death. Over two thousand pieces are on display documenting Gouldthorpes’ personal narrative while questioning the viewer’s awareness.
Each point of interest provided inspiration. The tour revisited spirits that once traversed Montalvo’s grounds. Susan O’Malley’s A Healing Walk guides visitors in its woods: “YOU ARE HERE AWAKE AND ALIVE.”
Yes, and let’s make the most of it…