Hands up! M.C. Carolyn's sculpture is on display during ARTrails.
On the Trail
New twists at ARTrails open-studio tour
By Paula Harris
"STONES + Trees + Mountains = My Place" reads the sign along Mill Creek Road, a meandering route that ends high on a ridge half an hour outside Healdsburg. Every year, sculptor M. C. Carolyn sets up a series of such cues to guide visitors to her mountaintop studio, one of the most out-of-the-way venues in this year's ARTrails open-studio tour.
"Three years ago I decided to join ARTrails and let the community in," says Carolyn. "I meet people and we talk about art, Healdsburg, the community, and what I do. It's a wonderful experience."
Carolyn, who declines to reveal her age, uses a forklift and flat bed truck to help her create monumental abstract sculptures, some more than seven feet tall, from huge blocks of soapstone or exotic marble. She also creates smaller, evocative figures that are a little easier to transport.
"People are surprised to see a woman doing this work," she says. "But I get a block of stone, an idea in mind, and I just go to it.
"With stone it's so physical," she continues. "I get tired and I can work out my frustrations if I get angry. And I can't cheat. With stone, what you do is what you get."
Even Carolyn's gallery and workshop are products of the artist's creativity: she built them both with materials rescued from an 1850s barn, including the original tin roof and floor planks.
Carolyn is one of 144 local artists who will open their workspaces to the public during ARTrails. For two weekends--Oct. 13-14 and Oct. 20-21--the artists will give demonstrations, answer questions, and (they hope) sell some of their work during this 16-year-old open-studio tour that stretches across Sonoma County.
But this year's ARTrails offers a few new twists. Previously, a preview exhibit offering sample works from artists featured on the tour took place at the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa. This time out, the preview exhibit will open Oct. 5 at SoFo2, the Cultural Arts Council's Santa Rosa gallery.
Additional preview exhibits will be on view at venues throughout the county, including the Healdsburg High School Art Gallery, the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, the Herold Mahoney Library at Santa Rosa Junior College Petaluma Campus, and the Arts Guild of Sonoma.
But one thing remains the same: ARTrails continues to provide the voyeuristic thrill of traipsing through artists' private homes and studios.
"We all have a curiosity about people's homes and how they live," says Elisa Baker, ARTrails coordinator. "Especially creative, artistic people."
The workspaces featured on the tour range from a tiny corner of the kitchen to a fancy studio to a primitive barn in the backyard. In these eclectic settings, artists produce an incredible variety of arts and crafts, including textiles, woodwork, painting, printmaking, jewelry, and photography.
Indulging the curious offers big rewards for the artists. Organizers say ARTrails draws between 10,000 and 30,000 visitors annually. According to Baker, last year's artists grossed more than $600,000 in sales from the event.
But for Carolyn, the financial benefit is only one reason she participates.
"Maybe all the people that come on ARTrails can't take the huge pieces home," she says. "But they can touch a piece, think about it, and take home the memory of it."
ARTrails takes place Oct. 13-14 and 20-21. A preview exhibit Oct. 5-25 opens with a gala reception on Friday, Oct. 5, at 5:30 p.m. at SoFo2, 602 Wilson St., Santa Rosa. A catalog with maps can be found at various venues. 707/579-2787.
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From the October 4-10, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.