THE VALLEY OF THE MOON MAIN STEM:
A Panorama in Space and Time
Main Stem-the main branch of a river. Nick-name applied to San Franciscos
Any main street.
The Valley of the Moon, sometimes called Sonoma Valley,
was so named by General Vallejo, who probably mistranslated it from
the Coast Miwok. Jack London, who lived there in the last years
of his life (his ranch is now a wonderful California state park)
used it for the title of a novel. Geothermal water was discovered
(by Europeans. Native people surely used the waters previously)
in the valley in the 1880s. The area became a thriving resort
spot, mainly for residents of summer-cold San Francisco, and continues
to be to this day, although much has changed.
Long before I moved to the Valley of the Moon I happened
to take a drive down Highway 12 from Calistoga Road to the town
of Sonoma. The setting, the buildings and the place names immediately
and permanently enthralled me. (Agua Caliente!) After I moved here
I became acquainted with the history of the place, which furthered
my fascination. I started to make art with and about my new home.
Finally, I came up with this project.
I have photographed every building and lot on Highway
12 between Agua Caliente Road and Verano Avenue. I am creating a
series of photo collage/watercolor panoramas, each about 40x8.
In addition to recording what is there now, I am incorporating photographs
of buildings that are gone so that I can recreate the street as
it would be if all had survived. If a lot or building were once
the site of other buildings, the various layers would be presented
above and below the panorama. I also intend to collect oral history
about the street, the buildings and people who built them and used
them, which will inform the visual work.
I want to capture the ghosts that inhabit this area
and intertwine them with contemporary images. I love the idea that
all these different eras can exist at once, at least in art. Since
change is constant, this project could continue indefinitely.
The project will be part historical document and part
personal interpretation of images of the area in which I live, that
I love, and that fascinates me.
Many thanks to Diane Smith of the Depot Park Museum, collectors
Gary Heon and Marti Kramer, and historian Robert Parmerlee.
I am always looking for photographs or postcards of
Highway 12 in the Springs area, of any vintage. I can use photocopies
and scans, and I will buy or rent originals (if I can afford them!).
I am also looking for copies of The Valley of the Moon Review newspaper
published in the 40s and 50sA note about the process:
I take digital photographs that I process, minimally, in Photoshop,
then print out on 140lb Arches watercolor paper. The images are
collaged together, built up and painted on.
A note about me: I have been an artist for 40 years.
I have an MFA from San Francisco State.
I do not consider myself to be an expert on the history of the Valley
of the Moon. Any disputation or correction is welcomed.
My show at the Sonoma Community Center in October/November
was a great success. Thank you to everyone who spoke with me about
it. I am applying for a Creative Work Fund grant to be artist in
residence there. Stay tuned.
November, 2009:My piece in the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art sold
at a fund raiser auction.
I was interviewed in the August 14, 2009 Sonoma index-Tribune
Two collages from the series are currently (December) exhibited
at the Arts Guild of Sonoma.
Lucky the cat is sitting in my lap, slobbering.
Michael C. Acker