Past Exhibitions

Sep 12 – Dec 5, 2015
September 12, 2015 to December 6, 2015

Prior to formal schooling, children between the ages of 5 and 10 in the small Coptic Christian village of Harrania, located at the foot of the Giza Pyramids, were selected to weave images created entirely in their mind’s eye. The joys of childhood fantasy came to life on their looms. The Egyptian Village, which up to 30 years ago had not known changes for 2000 years and had no source of income but farming, now prospers. Its tapestry artists are internationally famous and their work is prized throughout the world.


June 6–August 23, 2015
June 6, 2015 to August 23, 2015

Richard Diebenkorn is most widely known for his signature large- scale, vivid abstractions known as the Ocean Park paintings. His abstract, as well as his earlier figurative work, explores the balance between surface modulation and illusionistic depth, between the establishment of structure and its disintegration in light and space. Diebenkorn became known as one of the founders of the Bay Area figurative school. He always resisted the notion of a ‘school' in any formal sense, noting that the artists involved simply enjoyed a close association, but he led the way in developing a unique northern Californian realism.


April 17–May 17, 2015
April 17, 2015 to May 17, 2015

Alongside the American quilt exhibition, Sonoma Valley students will display their class projects that reveal the roles that shape, color, and value play in quilt patterns, and how these young artists both followed and broke the rules to create their own maverick designs. Initiated in 2000, Art Rewards the Student (A.R.T.S.) is the Museum's longest- running education program that places teaching artists in 4th- and 5th-grade classrooms throughout Sonoma Valley at no cost to the schools. 

A.R.T.S. 2014 Exhibition
February 14–May 17, 2015
February 14, 2015 to May 17, 2015

Never before has there been an exhibition of maverick quilts like this one. Unconventional and Unexpected shows how primarily anonymous, often self-taught women working below the radar of the art world have often produced quilts for everyday use in their homes, that nonetheless articulate many of the same issues that have been at the core of the development of modern art during the second half of the twentieth century. The exhibition presents a selection of visually stunning pieced quilts and quilt tops from the mid to late 20th century. 

February 14–May 16, 2015
February 14, 2015 to May 17, 2015

America's oldest experiment in utopian, communal living, the United Society of Believers (Shakers) movement was founded in the 18th century. The society reached its apogee of about 6,000 members just before the Civil War and then slowly went into decline. 

Yet the Shakers have lasted longer and gained more fame than any other utopian community this country has produced. With the exhibition, we have the opportunity to look back at the origins of a unique American design aesthetic that continues to influence architects, artists, furniture makers, and product designers around the world. 


Nov 8–Jan 25
November 8, 2014 to January 25, 2015

Eleanor Coppola is a conceptual artist, documentary filmmaker, and writer based in Napa. Her artworks and collaborative installations have been exhibited in museums and galleries in the U.S. and Europe, including recent museum exhibitions in Oslo and Stockholm. She was an active participant in the Bay Area conceptual art movement of the 1970s, exhibiting and staging events at venues that included the San Francisco Art Institute, the Dante Hotel in North Beach, and other spaces. She has collaborated on installation works with fellow artists Lynn Hershman, Robbilee Frederick, Richard Beggs, and others. Eleanor Coppola’s sensibility and sensitivity to phenomena of the natural world is seen in her drawings, watercolors, photography, and sculptures that respond to and incorporate elements from her surroundings. As a documentary filmmaker, she is best known for her film “Hearts of Darkness,” which chronicled the making of her husband Francis Coppola’s film “Apocalypse Now.” This exhibition is co-curated by Kate Eilertsen and Diane Roby.

August 8, 2014 to October 26, 2014

What is a "realistic" picture?  When does a painting seem deeply resonant of the real world, one that taps into our sense of lived reality?  These questions, which artists have long grappled with, continue to drive the explorations of many painters today. Realism, really? presents a selection of California artists who focus on diverse aspects of realism in their work: Chester Arnold, Guy Diehl, F. Scott Hess, Marina Moevs, Douglas Fenn Wilson, and Jeong Im Yi.  Guest curated by Jennifer Bethke, the exhibition explores the expansive boundaries of realism today, through this collection of powerful contemporary painters.

May 10, 2014 to July 27, 2014

Over a period of fifty years, William T. Wiley has distinguished himself as an artist whose extensive body of work has consistently defied mainstream contemporary art. Through the years, the subtle power of Wiley’s unique voice has been widely recognized with his inclusion in the Venice Biennale, Whitney Biennial, Documenta V and the Carnegie International.  His first solo exhibition was held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1960. In 1979 the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis presented a retrospective in celebration of the museum’s opening. Thirty years later, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Berkeley Art Museum honored him with another wide-ranging retrospective. As co-curator Joann Moser wrote, “This exhibition affirms his significance as an artist of national stature whose accomplishment resonates well beyond the region in which he has chosen to live and time period when he first achieved recognition.”

In spite of his international recognition, Wiley’s activist political and social spirit and his early, prescient commitments to the environment render him an essentially Bay Area California artist. He creates innovative, highly personal works of art in many media that combine a sense of irony with commanding craftsmanship. Painting for Wiley is intertwined with language. Word and image seduce the viewer to experience the unexpected.  Elizabeth Broun, Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum writes, “Wiley is our guide to our confounding world, with a body of work that is astonishing, engaging and comforting, too. With visionaries like this in our midst, there is hope.”

Curators: Peter Selz, Professor Emeritus of Modern Art at UC Berkeley and collector and artist, Sue Kubly

April 18, 2014 to April 27, 2014

The goal of this year's theme, Sense of Place was to connect students to a particular environment or geographic location, engage their visual and tactile senses, evoke memory, imagine new possibilities, explore personal connection to Sonoma, and challenge students to make and document an important discovery of their own. Artistic concepts and projects explored included: space planning, space visualization, perspective, proportion & scale, 2-d and 3-d designs in response to specific people/places/uses, real & imagined.

Initiated in 2000, Art Rewards the Student (A.R.T.S.) is the Museum's longest-running education program that places professional teaching artists in 4th- and 5th-grade classrooms throughout Sonoma Valley at no cost to the schools. Activities and current SVMA exhibition themes are integrated with the public school curriculum and the California Visual and Performing Arts Framework. Site + Senses: The Architecture of Aidlin Darling Design provided the primary inspiration for this year's progjects.

A.R.T.S. 2014 is funded by grants from the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation, plus additional support from Rosemary and Kevin McNeely and Megan and Paul Segre, as well as contributions from SVMA members and friends.

March 14, 2014 to April 27, 2014

An awards program supporting the exposure and advancement of Sonoma County’s emerging artists.

Each one of the four artists in “Discovered” has a distinct, yet connected vision of the world today. Maura Harrington juxtaposes scenes from her local, natural environment with the fluorescent, artificial world that surrounds us. This contrast presents a startling, eerie and familiar aura. Miles Votek, is an interdisciplinary artist exploring utopian visions of California through contemporary video and ceramics. His romantic, apocalyptic worlds collide in his struggle to make sense of the failed dreams of Western idealism. Erik Castro’s poignant photographs and videos allow us to step into the world of people we typically observe from a distance. Choosing subjects that we see and ignore every day, such as homeless children, he forces us to look at difficult subjects and confront our feelings of despair. Stan Abercrombie, with his encyclopedic knowledge of art and architecture, assembles objects and images into two and three-dimensional combinations that inspire abundant curiosity and mystery. Each of these four exceptional artists, from different regions of the county, of diverse ages, provoke us to think outside the box, to step outside of our minds, and to see through a new pair of eyes.

Selecting these four artists fell to three jurors. Peter Hassen, an extraordinary artist  himself who was in Undiscovered, an exhibition SVMA sponsored in 2012; Pat Lenz, an artist and arts advocate who runs Slaughterhouse Space, an alternative arts organization in Healdsburg; and Kate Eilertsen, Director and Chief Curator of the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. Brilliantly assisted by Flynn O’Brien who organized the many details that needed coordinating, they invited colleagues (curators, artists, gallery owners) to recommend artists they thought were extraordinary who had never had a museum exhibition and were not currently represented by a gallery. The team traversed an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, considered over 40 artists, made 20 studio visits and selected the four whom they felt best represented the excellence and diversity of artists in Sonoma County today. This exhibition proves that artists, who live and work in Sonoma County, are committed to their practice, involved with their community and vitally engaged in the issues of our time.

Discovered: Exceptional Artists of Sonoma County is made possible with the support of the Community Foundation Sonoma County.  Sonoma Valley Museum of Art is very grateful to them, and especially Karin Demarest, for their belief that art in Sonoma County matters.


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