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Two Napa Valley art exhibits offer exciting array of works

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There is much to see in Napa Valley this week, as two very different-looking art shows open to the public.

In Yountville, internationally known celebrity Lucy Liu exhibits a wide display of art at the Napa Valley Museum. Opening on Saturday, Feb. 1, "Lucy Liu: One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others" presents the actress and social-justice advocate in a new light, and marks the first art exhibit in the U.S. for Liu, who will appear at the Napa Valley Museum for the upcoming fundraising luncheon, Phenomenal Women, on Feb. 25.

"We wanted to showcase women who were doing something extraordinary," says Napa Valley Museum Executive Director Laura Rafaty. "I found out she had just done her first art exhibit at the National Museum of Singapore. We invited her to be the keynote speaker at the luncheon, but as those discussions evolved we asked if she would be willing to have us post the first museum exhibit of her work in the United States."

Liu's art includes erotic Japanese "shunga" woodblocks and paintings, embroidered works, found-object sculptures and silkscreens featuring bold designs and even bolder subject matter.

"Some of it is kind of provocative, honestly," Rafaty says. "Lucy's work is very intimate, in some ways shockingly so. It's emotional, it wants you to challenge cultural and gender stereotypes and I think people are going to find it thrilling to see."

Up the road in Calistoga, Napa Valley–native Kate Solari Baker opens a new exhibit, "Keeping Accounts," at Sofie Contemporary Arts on Friday, Jan. 31. Generations of inspiration lie behind Baker's latest works, which mark a new artistic direction into mixed-media collage in which she incorporates her mother's handwriting into colorful overhead landscapes.

"My family bought a property in Napa Valley in 1948," Baker says.

That property was the historic Larkmead Cellars winery and vineyard, and while Baker's father worked in San Francisco, her mother ran the co-op property, and in doing so kept meticulous handwritten ledgers and accounts that Baker discovered after her mother's death in 1992.

"It was a part of Napa Valley history in my mind; the people who worked there, their hours and their time," Baker says. "It represented to me a different time in Napa Valley, when it was mostly farmers."

Baker uses those ledger papers as a source for her art, creating large maps of the Larkmead property and other Napa Valley locales superimposed over the ledgers.

Working from her art studio in Sausalito's Industrial Center Building (ICB), where she's been since the late '70s, Baker was best known in Marin and throughout the North Bay for her nature-inspired pastels and figurative paintings before taking a turn toward collage.

"It's very personal and it's fun," Baker says, of her collage. "This is a part of my mother's history and I'm following in her footsteps and thinking about her part in Napa Valley."

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