Sonoma’s Underground Public Art Movement

david_sensoredThough Sonoma boasts a statue here, a mural there, the Valley’s relative dearth of public art may account for an increasingly apparent faction of rogue artists who have come to fill the void.

Aesthetic renegades, Sonoma is their canvas, though the DNA of their work is a complex, if often controversial, double helix of graffiti and artistry. “Street art” is an oft-used term, though the work seldom appears on the streets as much as it does sprayed, stenciled or wheat-pasted onto walls. That said, “wall art” suggests the generic prints hawked by Ikea for college dorms. If Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen had a franc for every “Chat Noir” print sold in the past decade, he could have hired a publicist so as to not forever be mistaken for Toulouse Lautrec. The artists I’ve noticed effervescing around the fringe of the local scene won’t have this problem. They don’t sign their work, seeing as much of it has been installed illegally.

venus_sensoredConsider the stenciled pseudo-mural applied to the rear wall of a building on the west side of the 500 block of Broadway. It’s a fairly faithful rendering of both Michelangelo’s David and the Venus De Milo, applied in bold strokes of black spray paint in striking 2-D. In lieu of the fig leaves that sometimes accompany more modest depictions of these sculptures, bold censorial banners obscure certain parts of David and Venus’ otherwise nude anatomy. Written on the banners is the word “Sensored,” which I believe is a misspelling of the word “Censored.” While in the throes of creativity, the artist apparently neglected the difference between a sensor and one who censors (one senses the other is nonsense). Further confounding interpretation of the tableaux is the illustration of a surveillance camera focused upon the figures. I suspect the artist was groping toward an Orwellian-hued commentary a la Big Brother or at least Big Step-Brother: “I’m watching you – except for your naughty bits.” Perhaps the artist intentionally misspelled “censored” to suggest what techies call a “sensor deviation” which can result in a “sensitivity error” when measuring for various data. Unless Michelangelo’s inspiration was not like the other boys, he probably endured a sensitivity error at some time or other, so perhaps here the artist made his point – or not, as the case may be.

With both a nod to post-Beatle era John Lennon and Fluxus, the intermedia art movement, an interesting specimen of conceptual art recently appeared on the bulletin board at Starbucks.

imagine_flier_artNestled within the clutter of visual white-noise advertising all manner of live music, yoga classes and personal services, is a simple epigram in plain black and white: “Imagine – Imagine wonderful things, imagine a better tomorrow.” The artist completed the instruction with a vamp on ye olde guerilla marketing technique of fringing a flier with pull-tab takeaways. Instead of the usual phone number, however, there is a reiteration of the “Imagine” message.

Cynics like your dismal columnist might find the enterprise trite, admonishing or even vague. However, when I envision the artist – and I’m not being glib with the term here – strolling into the hurly-burly of a busy coffee franchise and sticking the product of their inspiration to the wall with little more agenda than to inspire a healthy moment of reflective Zen, I cannot help but forgo my snark and applaud the effort. In this regard, the piece is a success. How do I know? I sensored myself.

Hanna Winery and Vineyards

Your faithful lifestyle scribe penned the “Upfront” piece in the January-February edition of Tasting Panel Magazine. The profile of Hanna Winery and Vineyards president Chris Hanna is part of an issue-wide “Women in Wine” theme also featuring photos by Flash Lely. It was a delight to chat with Hanna who has enjoyed great success with her sauvignon blanc (29,000 cases annually, every Four Seasons hotel in the country has featured it in their by-the-glass program). Though she produces other varietals, she has yet to release a barbera, which I personally think could to lead to some interesting synergies in the world of animation. Get it? Hanna-Barbera. Click for rimshot. Read the piece here. DH

Direct to the Free Wine at the Direct to Consumer Symposium

Conferences and conventions are a superb way to pretend one is working when one is actually not. I’m not sure what actually occurs at conferences apart from the formation of ad hoc drinking clubs and complaints about crappy wi-fi. Certainly some business is getting done, that is if business is charting an up-tick in one’s otherwise dismal roster of Twitter followers. Such is the brave new world of social media marketing.

Held this past Tuesday at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa, the Direct to Consumer Symposium 2010 was all the above and less. Ostensibly a series of social media marketing confabs aligned along the premise of selling wine and tourism to the digital masses, the symposium proved an occasionally exciting bazaar of speakers, seekers, soothsayers and saboteurs, underscored by the nagging suspicion that no one really knows what’s next in the nexus of marketing, media and merlot. Members of the legit press (whatever that means these days) were scarce. I spotted only one other as he was straightening his collar in a men’s room mirror. If others were present, they avoided me. I’d avoid me too if it weren’t for the fact I’ve got to be me, at least in public. But online, I’m free as the iconic Twitter bird. At least that’s what “Boosting Brand Advocacy: How to Integrate Social Media into Your Marketing Program” led me to believe. Before I sneaked out the door. Continue reading “Direct to the Free Wine at the Direct to Consumer Symposium”

Mustache Machine

When Japanese school girl fetishism surpassed that of the Catholic school girl (“and her tiny little mustache,” as Frank Zappa sang in his lurid paean to the plaid-clad adolescents), it brought with it a new chapter in vending machine lore.

Since the 90s, it’s been alleged that one might acquire schoolgirl underwear from vending machines in Japan (I’ve not bothered to ask expat pal Trane Devore if this is true — nor do I care to know). What’s germane is that America, as with most notions high tech, no matter how low brow, continues to trail Japan.

Until now…

Finally some crackpot channeled their leather daddy mustache fetish into a machine at Lepe’s Mexican restaurant on Summerfiled Rd. in Santa Rosa, CA. For 50 cents, you can crank the knob and get your very own handlebar mustache not seen in general circulation since the Village People. If you have a mustache fetish, this is your machine. Note the vamp of the VP’s construction worker, biker and cowboy on the point of sale art in the picture. Also, note the warning: “Choking hazard.” Yeah, take that, Japan.