There’s art around every corner, if you know where to look. Come along on an Insider’s art tour of Point Reyes.
“My life, as luck would have it, has become centered around looking at art and acquiring outdoor sculpture for the grounds at Olema Cottages.”
Trips away for just that purpose have become the focus of what little vacation time my husband and I can afford ourselves from our innkeeping duties. Seeking art and meeting artists has been a wonderful way to turn our vacations into adventures.
In our travels we’ve discovered that local guides and maps are both invaluable and sadly, rare. When an interested person or organization puts together something about the local outdoor art scene our whole experience is greatly enhanced. That is why I have taken to the streets of my own community in an attempt to present, not every piece of public art in Point Reyes, but a tour of the ones I think are worth a look.
All pieces are within a 10 minute drive from my home in Olema, all are one-of-a-kind original murals, sculptures and structures and, of course, no trespassing is allowed so I have noted here where pieces are inside a business or on private property. Asking permission to enter and photograph is a great way to meet your fellow art lovers!
Let’s start with downtown Point Reyes Station, on the south end of our Main Street and head up one side and down the other (with a couple of detours).
Have you ever visited the art studio of mixed-media artist Ernesto Sanchez? He has an outdoor sculpture garden of several mystically-influenced pieces made of wood, ceramic, glass and found objects. Excellent viewing with a cold draft of beer from the cafe next door.
There is an elegantly rustic steel sculpture, about ten feet tall, to be appreciated when coming and going from the fabulous Gallery Route One. It is the work of Inverness sculptor/painter/architect Igor Sazevich.
Pop into the Point Reyes Surf Shop and look up to see the large pop art style mural painted by one of our favorite local musicians, Darren Nelson. His music is as fun and super high energy as his mural!
A New mural in town, created by Chico, CA painter Wyatt Hersey for the 2018 Geography of Hope Confernece. Our old Grandi building needed some fresh love, so thank you to the artist and to Isis Hockenos for organizing this and other new works around town.
How about these guys, peeking out at us!? Also part of the 2018 Geography of Hope Conference, this 15 foot long window installation by Bay Area painter Jon Levy-Warren is painted on the inside of a large window, to be viewed on the street.
If you take a little detour down 3rd Street for just a block you’ll see Jeff Wessner has his original wood carvings on display in front of his Golden Turtle Art Gallery.
Heading now for the northern end of town, behind the Tomales Bay Foods Building, we can brag that we have a piece from the world renown sculptor David Best. “Our Lady of the Harbor” was created for the 2011 Geography of Hope Conference when the theme was “Reflections on Water”. David Best is well known for building immense temples for Burning Man festivals as well as his found-object sculptures and elaborately decorated art cars.
Now it’s time to go over to B Street just a half block up and you’ll see the Abalone Shell Totem Poles by crafter and fisherman “Lefty” Arndt. You can get a great view of these 400+ shells on poles from the street (private property).
Back towards town on 4th Street, go inside Side Street Kitchen and see the restaurant walls adorned with very bright, beautiful personal images of local life in West Marin by San Francisco painter Isis Hockenos who grew up here. Come for the mural and stay for the food!
Returning now to Main Street, the other side of the street, you’ll see a sweet, vintage-style map of the area on the outside of Palace Market. Designed by Bill Russell and painted by Michael Mensel. Definitely counts as original art, right?!
Everyone around here knows this one…Depicting West Marin life in the days of the locomotive, this mural by Hector Escarraman was painted in the 1990’s. It is on the outside of the post office, which was once the railroad depot building. The artist also painted a popular mural “Icons of Mexican Art” in Balmy Alley in the Mission District of San Francisco.
Next is Toby’s Feed Barn and you need to look inside and out for murals and don’t forget the always-changing art gallery in back of the store.
Local painter and yoga teacher, Amanda Giacomini, has embarked on an artistic journey to create 10,000 Buddhas and has painted her large scale public murals from here to Miami. She says that the image of many Buddhas sitting together speaks to the ability within all of us to become enlightened. Test it out yourself by sticking your head in the oval of the large pink panel inside Toby’s Feed Barn.
And as an aside, if you’re up for a short drive north, turn onto Point Reyes Petaluma Road. A couple miles up you’ll find some more Buddhas painted on the old building on the right where we used to go to buy our gravel.
And while we are detouring, go a little further and you’ll get to see our famous Graffiti Bridge at the Platform Bridge Road intersection. The bridge has quite a long span to it and is completely painted (and re-painted many times over for years!), both sides of the road.
Back to downtown Point Reyes Station and two more quick stops before we head over to Inverness. Returning back to Hwy One, across the street from Marin Sun Farm’s Butcher Shop you’ll see in front of a private residence, a large 6 foot diameter stainless steel sphere by Portland metal sculpture artist Ivan McLean. His work is exhibited in numerous public sculpture parks all over the west. He grew up in Point Reyes.
Turn onto Sir Francis Drake and stop into Love Field. In the summer it hosts food+art+music festival, “Parachute Days”. Several simple 12 -14 ft tall structures, built by the organizer/artist, Gabe Korty, remain year-round as something of an art installation all by themselves. A fun stroll.
Head out for Inverness for my favorite local mural since 2002 when it was painted by San Francisco street artist (now LA ceramic artist) Ruby Neri who, at that time, was painting many large murals and graffiti type horses around the Bay Area. This one is across from Vladimir’s Restaurant.
Less than a minute up the road, find this surprising bit of architecture built on a pier on the Tomales Bay. It is Lipnosky’s Dacha, a replica of a Russian summer home (dacha). This is about how close you can get to it without trespassing. The decaying statuary a treasure as well.
Heading for Olema on Bear Valley Road, here’s one for the kids and for the kid in all of us. Stop into the Point Reyes National Seashore Bear Valley Visitor Center. There is a unique, touchable, life size (14 ft long) Elephant Seal created by Bay Area sculpture artist and muralist, Bridget Keimel.
In Olema, at the corner of Bear Valley Road, on the roof of the Victorian (that was until recently The Bear Valley Inn) look up to see a hand-crafted weathervane created by metal sculpture artist Barry Norling from Maine (my home state!)
In the heart of Olema we go next to Hotel Olema and Druids Hall to be amongst the
unique interior designs of Margaret Grade’s lodgings. Every time I enter the Sir and Star foyer for supper I feel I have walked right into an art installation. Upstairs guest rooms have images painted on the walls and at Druids Hall a wild sky mural adorns the parlor (you need permission to enter Druid’s Hall).
At Olema Cottages, just one property up the hill on Sir Francis Drake, there are five outdoor sculptures installed on the grounds.
Each has been commissioned from the artist specifically for this site. Some you can see a little of from the street but for an up close view you need to call for permission to enter or book a cottage stay (with me!). All the pieces on the property are done by West Coast artists and all these artists have many sculptures currently installed in public spaces from Seattle to San Diego.
First, “Olema Tree”, a 14 foot tall steel sculpture by Lake County artist Diego Harris. Diego designs and welds large scale pieces that are a blend of nature and industry, incorporating spirals, horns and serpentine shapes into fanciful trees, creatures and abstract forms.
Portland metal sculptor (and West Marin native) Ivan McLean’s work was noted earlier on the tour in Point Reyes Station. Here’s something completely different of his, “House”, a 12 ft tall sculpture made of Corten Steel and Stainless Steel.
San Diego ceramicist Doug Snider made this whimsical 12 foot tall “Happy Tree” that sits at the entrance of Olema Cottages. It contains 20 colorful anthropomorphic architectural clay creatures that greet guests from atop their stainless steel tree.
This stainless steel kinetic piece, “In Line” is by Seattle sculptor Troy Pillow. To appreciate it you need to see it in motion. Troy’s sculptures create a union of ease between modern design and nature.
And finally “Hypnos” the Greek God of Sleep. He is said to be a calm and gentle god, as he helps humans in need and, due to their sleep, owns half of their lives. This dramatic 10 foot tall sculpture of concrete, steel and mosaic is by Sonoma County artists Peter Crompton and Robyn Spencer-Crompton.
Our tour is complete for now. Of course there is more. There is always more. In A Psalm of Life Longfellow writes, “Art is long, and Time is fleeting…” He is speaking of the creating of art here but this surely can be said of the appreciating of art as well.