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Art Review: Artists at the Source 2016


Art Review: Artists at the Source 2016 

By Jim Kelly

I’m not normally a fan of using French words in newspaper columns but when the subject of art is discussed, the Language of Love seems essential. Besides, because of his French daughter-in-law, Jacqueline, Jack Smith, long-time columnist for the L.A. Times, frequently peppered his sentences with parlez-vous. Not too much pepper, mind you, only enough to add a bite to his words.

Armed with this irrelevant piece of trivia, I went to see some new friends and old at Sebastopol Center for the Arts and Art at the Source (not to be confused with Art Trails) 22nd annual, free, self-guided, open studio tour of western Sonoma County artists. Yikes, that’s a mouthful. 

Whenever I see new art, I’m reminded of James Thurber’s famous line, “He knows all about art, but he doesn't know what he likes.” 

In my case, I may know more than I think I do but I think I know nothing. Ergo, the French.

Sterling Hoffmann

On the day Art at the Source began, a comfortably warm Saturday, I drove over to see four maestros who were gathered together at Sterling Hoffmann’s home in Sebastopol so, in fairness, the interview started with him. Sterling is an affable person as well as a fellow Veteran and his art clearly speaks for itself. 

My brain had difficulty fathoming the depth of style Sterling uses so, per usual, I turned the job over to my heart and relaxed as my eyes scanned his studio walls. I thought, c'est tres bon as I enjoyed his renditions of airplanes, cars and rustic barns. My mind was chanting, impressionist, but my heart whispered, “Lovely.”

Sterling told me, as a seasoned out door painter he often found it difficult and inefficient to locate a certain color while painting. While searching through his bag of paints he would find some tubes had leaked paint covering the entire contents of the bag. His solution was to patent cases to hold his tubes so they wouldn’t rupture making it easy for him to transport and use. You can find more information on his website. 

I asked Sterling what he enjoyed most about being involved with Art at the Source. He said he was able to meet new people who shared his love of art. 

Michelle Hoting

If you are lucky enough have someone in your life who is funny, friendly and just all around fantastic, you have a friend like Michelle Hoting. When she moved to West Sonoma, she made a leap of faith and changed careers from repairing antique jewelry, and managing at Cartier and Bulgari, to designing her own art. And art it is. 

“I didn’t know anyone when I moved here four years ago.” She said. “I thought it would take forever to make new acquaintances.” When you meet her, you’ll understand why she was so wrong. Think of your best friend. Michelle’s art jewelry is geologically compelling, mixing precious stones into aggregates with streams of silver flowing through each element.

According to her website, Michelle’s grandfather cofounded the Corpus Christi Gem and Mineral Society and she grew up surrounded with his rocks and stories of her mother and grandfather rockhounding on the King Ranch in Texas.  It wasn’t until she was at UT Austin that she ended up in the jewelry business thanks to her favorite Geology professor.

Bill Theis

Bill Theis is one of those rare men who can use both sides of his brain. A photographer by night (and day) and a physicist all the time. This strange mix of brilliance and talent produces some astounding photography. As a long time reporter, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen more energy and beauty in photography. 

I asked him the same question I asked the other artists (What does Art at the Source do for them) and he politely answered saying it makes him hold to a deadline. 

Now there’s a physicist for you. 

Victoria Kochergin

I’m especially fond of Victoria and her kind husband, Andrew, who were both there for me when I needed friends the most, so writing anything about her magnificent botanical art without falling into hyperbole up to my eyeballs is difficult. There’s the disclaimer. 

From the outside, Victoria looks much different than Michelle Hoting but inside, they’re the same spirit. I’m positive of this. Nobody doesn’t like Victoria. And nobody can see her work without having time and place suspended. Some art springs out but Victoria’s botanical drawings pull you in. 

And art judges know what I’m talking about. This year, she was invited to show a piece of her art at the famous Filoli Gardens’ 18th-Annual, International, Botanical Art Exhibition ( for the third year in a row. In additional, Victoria is a wine judge and an excellent one, I was told by another fan. 

Victoria loves spending hours upon hours drawing her plants and flowers in her quest to capture nature’s essence. “Every plant has its own unique beauty,” she told me. 

All in all, I had a lovely day meeting new friends and seeing Victoria and Andrew again and I know some may believe art is not as important as other things. However, in Jack Smith’s famous words, “Some things may be irrelevant, but then, Irrelevances have long memories.” 

Vive l’amour de l’art.