Updated: Aug 17
In August 2021, Fulton Crossing Gallery won the Press Democrat Reader’s Choice Award for “Best of Sonoma County” in the art galleries category. This marks a big milestone in the building’s journey, from its origins as a fruit and vegetable packing plant in the late 1800’s, to its complete reimagining in 2014, to its current ordinance. Today, the Fulton Crossing complex houses 23 artisan studios, a fine art gallery, and Janakos & Company mid-century modern furniture. If Fulton Crossing were a gemstone, it would certainly be a geode. Easy to miss from the outside…but a true gem on the inside!
My first visit to Fulton Crossing Gallery occurred in the Spring of 2016. I was in search of a new working studio and display space and the description “Artisan Studios & Gallery” sounded promising. Arriving at 1200 River Road, I was greeted by a nondescript warehouse with a large corrugated metal-clad roof spanning the entrance to the gallery. Unsure of what to expect, I stepped inside, entering through FX/Feature Gallery. Despite its high ceilings and 15 ft x 30 ft dimensions, this space has an intimate feel. The building’s interior greatly exceeded my expectations from the outside view—a blend of exciting, local art in an industrial chic setting.
Continuing into the main gallery space, the industrial chic style of the building became even more apparent, and I was drawn to the eclectic mix of paintings and industrial-art furniture in the main gallery. Around the perimeter of the building, individual artist’s studios were sheathed in distressed corrugated metal siding. Rather than traditional gallery walls, much of the artwork was displayed on vertical wooden frames that soared 15 feet towards the high ceiling of the expansive hall. It was unlike any gallery or studio space that I had experienced before…and I knew that I had found the right place for my new studio home.
One year later in June 2017, I would hold my first solo show in the Fulton Crossing Gallery: My Secret Garden. This show featured my nature inspired botanical and floral paintings in both “Blossoming” and “Weathered” stages. The “Weathered” portion of the show was inspired by the tradition of “Vanitas” paintings, and the fact that I was turning 50 that year. It isn’t that I was reflecting on my own mortality, but rather becoming more aware of our culture’s focus on youth and perfection. In this era of “photoshopped” idealism…and perfect lives portrayed on social media, I became interested in capturing the beauty of imperfection, much as the vanitas painters had done hundreds of years ago.
Excerpt from the exhibition statement:
I have always admired botanical illustrations. They are such a fascinating juxtaposition of art and science. The unique and characteristic features of each plant must be rendered with great care and accuracy to capture different stages of its life cycle. This simultaneously requires great passion and incredible restraint. For the "Weathered" portion of this exhibition, I strove to capture the beauty of imperfection, rather than portraying an idealized and often unattainable image of perfection. I was captivated by the way mature lotus leaves wither and fold, in stark contrast with the smooth and supple younger leaves, which all look pretty much the same. It is not until the leaves mature that they start to take on their own distinct character. I realized that the same was true of people; we need time to mature before we can reach the full potential of our own unique selves!"
In October of 2017, Fulton Crossing Gallery survived the closest brush with destruction in the building’s long history. According to some maps, the gallery was less than 1000 feet from the Tubbs Fire boundary.
Thankfully, the gallery…and my artwork was spared, but over 5,500 structures were destroyed and close to 37,000 acres burned throughout Sonoma and Napa counties. This event strongly influenced my work as community signs thanking first responders were followed by Nature’s signs of recovery with the sprouting of deep-rooted grasses and fire-adapted wildflowers. I learned about Northern California’s fire-adapted landscape and fire-ecology through community education programs sponsored by Audubon Canyon Ranch and Pepperwood Preserve. This led me to create my Resilience series of artworks. These paintings feature fire poppies, milkmaids, star lilies, and whispering bells among several other “fire follower” plant species.
In October 2018, one year after the devastation of the Tubbs Fire, I held my second solo exhibition: Resilience - From Wildfires to Wildflowers at Fulton Crossing Gallery.
Some of the most striking images to emerge within days of the firestorm that swept through Sonoma County last October were brightly colored signs thanking first responders. These were soon followed by signs with encouraging messages such as “Sonoma Strong”. In subsequent months, Nature too began posting her own signs of resilience and recovery. Deep-rooted grasses started appearing on charred hillsides. Fire-adapted wildflowers, such as milkmaids and shooting stars began sprouting from underground tubers and bulbs. Fire-dependent wildflowers, such as the fire poppy, are literally wakened from their slumber by the heat of the flames. In this instance, the resilience of Nature and the residents of Sonoma County are united in the message of another inspirational sign, “From the Ashes, We Will Rise”.
I am thankful to be part of the vibrant Fulton Crossing community of artists, and to Rami and Sandy Batarseh for pursuing their vision of creating a workplace and gallery for artists and craftsmen. I am also grateful to the Sonoma County residents who have also embraced Fulton Crossing and its collection of local art in a unique, industrial chic setting, nominating the gallery for 2021’s “Best of Sonoma County” reader’s choice awards. I look forward to greeting you personally during our gallery hours: Friday – Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. I’m sure you’ll find this place as enchanting as I have.