Afoot in Jack London Village: SculptureWALK
By Tracy Salcedo
E arly on a pandemic Sunday morning, with rain clouds thickening overhead, Jack London Village was empty and still. I was alone in the creek-side quiet; just me, a few dark-eyed juncos, and the sculptures.
Doubtless you’ve seen them. “Yellow Oak” (aka “Yellow Disk 78”) is the one that catches my eye every time I drive past the Village along Arnold Drive. Created by Ivan McLean, the suspended disk fills a frame in the arbor along the street front, its powder- coated steel a startling yellow splatter against the burgundy walls of Joshua Chauvet’s historic winery.
“Yellow Oak” is one of nearly two dozen works that make up the Village’s Sculpture-WALK, a tour of garden art installations curated by Sculpturesite Gallery. Once housed in one of the old winery’s storefronts, the 28-year-old business closed its gallery in the summer of 2018 and now displays its collection along the Village pathways.
Being a guidebook writer, I of course downloaded the map of the SculptureWALK and then proceeded to not follow the directions. No matter: Each sculpture is identified with a plaque in place, so even if #23 turns out to be your #1, you’ll be able to identify the artist, admire the work, and move on to the next. Given that the walk essentially circumnavigates a country block, it’s not like you’re going to get lost. I started in the field across the parking lot on the north side of the Village, mesmerized by another of McLean’s sculptures, “Suspended Sphere 60” (yes, #23 on the map). The oaks forming the sphere’s backdrop were devoid of leaves, their limbs as silvery as the orb’s steel, a perfect complement and juxtaposition. The three other works scattered in the grass were a study in contrasts: the brilliant yellow of Vincent Faust’s “Bound Up,” the soothing rusted curves of “Ribbons of Memories” by Jean Pierre Rives, and a sunburst orbited by a smaller sunburst, unidentified but lovely nonetheless.
Walking across the parking lot and then across the bridge spanning Asbury Creek, I followed the SculptureWALK counterclockwise, beginning in the courtyard fronting the Mill and Yeti restaurants. McLean’s “Stainless Sphere 84” was half-hidden in the headhigh grass, and surrounded by the works of Jeffrey Laudenslager (stainless steel), Troy Pillow (painted stainless steel), and Michael Gustavson (ceramic). These artists and a few others have multiple pieces on display along the walk, and you’ll come to recognize their styles. Other sculptors have contributed single works to the walk, offering contrast and variety. I meandered past the little library next door to Yeti’s entrance, lovingly stocked and maintained by community members, and then followed the ramp to the arbor-shaded path alongside Arnold Drive. “Yellow Oak” is, in my view, the dominant work along this part of the walk, but another ceramic by Gustavon and Pillow’s kinetic “Ovum” don’t disappoint. If you’re at all fatigued by this point in your walk, you can bolster yourself with a bite from Wine Country Chocolates before turning the corner of the winery building and looping through the parking lot to the backside.
Here artworks mingle with the relics of Village history. Rebecca Johnson’s “Stone Skep” is a counterpoint to rusting steam pistons, “Parallelograms” rises opposite a de-stemmer and crusher that might have been used by old Joshua Chauvet himself, and “Harmonic Balance” hangs on the wall of the Tower, where stems, leaves, and pomace were once stored during crush, and where psychotherapist Jim Shere now provides counsel. Just in case you need something to wash down that chocolate, Schermeister Winery can pour you something delicious.
The last stretch of the walk, shaded by the Sonoma Creek’s woodland canopy, features evocative sculptures by Michael Chatterley (“Tall Woman” and “Listening for Sounds of Joy”), Jane Burton’s “Unspoken Voice,” more from Pillow and Laudenslager, and works by Sally Russell and Jeff Key. Closing the circle also lands you among the creek-side dining decks of Yeti and the Mill, where you can satisfy the appetite you’ve worked up on your stroll.