Viewing entries tagged
Wil Edwards


and the beat goes on...

A few months ago we were confronted with a quandary. Our lives at Barndiva have always been, first and foremost, about creating exciting food and drink experiences. We strive to do this by nurturing new talent, pushing the creative envelope, consistently strengthening the ties that keep the farmer to chef connection thriving.

We are blessed with a Chef who remains fully committed to ‘touching’ every plate that leaves the Barndiva kitchen, but increasing numbers of people want to experience Ryan Fancher's food in spaces we’ve designed. The time had clearly come for us to expand, and where else but next door, in the shiny new kitchen we had built for our events and private parties.

Ryan was hankering to put a new spin on classic French Country, cooking which would reflect the easy, brassier style of our early days in town, and he has an extremely talented sous chef, Andrew Wycoff, raring to lead the new kitchen. I have been longing to curate a highly edited selection of fine artisanal spirits;  daughter Isabel was game to produce a series of B&W film montages and a playlist that wasn’t just about filling space with white noise; Lukka wanted to book more live music. 

The only question that hung over all this enthusiastic dreaming was what would become of the art gallery inside the studio. How could we move forward without giving up what we cherished most about Studio Barndiva as it began to fill with bistro tables, wire couches, deep leather armchairs. 

When we first opened the Studio we produced a card that proclaimed: “We All Forage,” and I still believe that sentiment to be inherently true. We filled the space with "Beautiful Objects, Made with Respect" (another of our early aphorisms), handmade arts and crafts that resonated in a way that things designed by algorithm, easily found on the internet, cannot. Sourcing Vetiver nests from Africa, recycled glass chandeliers from Syria, handwoven Balinese batiks, stinging nettle runners from Kathmandu, brought the world closer, in a meaningful way. Perhaps it even helped a few small artisan economies survive.

But over the years it had become increasingly clear that the real heart of the gallery lay closer to home. Whether showcasing remarkable singular talents like Manok Cohen, Seth Minor, Ismael Sanchez, Susan Preston, Jordy Morgan, John Youngblood, Chris Blum, Wil Edwards, or hosting collaborative exhibits like Laura Parker's Taste of Place and Salon de Sens, the art which captured our attention the most returned again and again to explorations of a similar theme: how we define and encourage meaningful connections to the landscape that surrounds us. One that, like it or not, is rapidly changing. 


There is no reason to think a bistro within a gallery that hews to this directive won't inform and delight; if anything it might even allow us to burrow deeper into performance art and music,  venue underrepresented but very much alive in our exceptional and happily expanding north bay community. 

It has been an incredible honor to have a space in the center of town that’s continued to flourish while being able to change, to do its own thing in its own inimitable style. For that we give thanks for your support all these years. We have loved every new incarnation – but it’s a love that needs to keep growing, as much for Ryan, Drew and the kitchen, as for our artists.

While many of the artworks and antiques that surround you as you drink and dine in The 'new' Gallery are now part of our permanent collection, we hope you'll look around for the tags, spend some time with some of the remarkable local artists whose work we will continue to exhibit for sale.

The Gallery Bar & Bistro has only been open for a few months (our prix fixe Sunday Suppers are probably the worst kept secret in town) and we're incredibly pleased it's already become a space that encourages a lively exchange of energy and conversation- for us,  an integral and joyful part of the experience of dining.

On Friday, June 17th, we will add one more piece to 237 Center Street's portmanteau as we open The Gallery Garden to the public for the very first time. Come enjoy the music of Sunday Gravy, the first band up in what we hope will be a monthly series. 

The exhibit that opened Barndiva, coming up on 12 years ago, was called "A Taste of Art."  While so much has changed for Barndiva, and for Healdsburg, in the ensuing years, there is sweet irony that we continue to explore, honor, and expand what those words mean. Having an art gallery- with a bistro inside- is our version of having your cake and eating it too. Come by and have a taste.  Eat the View!





Art of the Rind

(Originally posted June 16, 2010)

We want to thank Cheese Plus, The Fatted Calf, Cowgirl Creamery, Pt Reyes Blue, Kelley & Young Wines and Dragonfly Floral for making our opening reception of Wil Edwards Art of the Rind such a perfectly delicious event.



Art of the Rind

(originally posted June 2, 2010) Studio Barndiva

Studio Barndiva is proud to announce the opening reception for Photographer Wil Edwards’ Art Of The Rind series, on Sunday, June 13, between the hours of 3:00 – 5:30.

The reception for Edwards’ astonishing new exhibit of limited edition color pigment prints is the first showing in our new gallery space. We are thrilled it will be co-hosted by some of America’s premier artisan purveyors.

Join Studio Barndiva and Cowgirl Creamery, Laura Chenel, Pt Reyes Cheese Company, The Fatted Calf, Cheese Plus & the vintners of Kelley & Young Wines for a stimulating and delicious afternoon celebrating the art of cheese, as never captured before.



Love Thy Neighbor

(originally posted April 14, 2010)

Our first show in the new Studio will be photographer Wil Edwards’ Art of the Rind, a series of seemingly abstract, deeply saturated color images that if you didn’t know what they were, would put you more in mind of Salvador Dalí than smoky Gouda.

Going through Wil’s portfolio this week for a B&W series that will run concurrently in the restaurant, I happened upon some strong shots of animal carcasses he had not shown me before. Their formal elegance was reminiscent of the great photographer Atget. Wil captured the sinuous and quite beautiful line of the hollowed out bodies in a truthful way, one that did not objectify the animal so much as respectfully document its life. There is, after all, a long history of artists using the dead as models and inspiration: Michelangelo, da Vinci, Delacroix.

Only his mother liked them, Wil told me. Probably not a good idea to put them in the show. Did he like them? Yes, he did. A great deal. Still, he worried about offending people, turning them off.

I’m usually not drawn to art that takes its impetus in empty provocation, but showing these elegiac images isn't touting abattoir chic. Maybe its time we asked what's up with passionate omnivores who can romanticize the animals they eat while they are frolicking in the field, but still find methods of killing and butchering a squeamish subject. A reality check is important now and again, if you eat meat.

The majority of the Big Mac eating world is only dimly aware of the current national conversation about the dangers of factory farming which books like Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals and films like Food First have rightly raised. Thats cool. It will come. After that, unless you refrain from eating animal proteins on moral grounds, knowing the animals you eat lived healthy lives and were killed humanely can make a consequential difference to your appetite and the way you choose to satisfy it. One of the most important goals of Fork & Shovel ~ the sustainable farmers and chefs collaborative we worked to get started two years ago~ was to make it easier for diners in our restaurants to get honest answers when they ask the question ~ “where does this food come from?”

The fact that ethical ranching represents less than 2% of the animal proteins served to the American public does not negate the paradigm we are supporting here in our food shed with groups like Fork & Shovel and our thriving Farmers Markets. Quite the opposite.

If you haven't read Temple Grandin, or seen the TV film with Claire Danes about her, do one or the other, this is fascinating stuff.  I'm of the opinion it helps to look death in the face and honor it, and animals give us that chance, in addition to feeding us.  Most Americans can't stop gorging themselves on endless images that celebrate gratuitous violence but don't want to know how the animals they eat are being slaughtered.  Major disconnect, no?

I take heart that the recent butchery class at Relish was such a huge success.  More and more eaters (and it usually follows, good cooks) are beginning to accept the fact that you can't talk about following the food chain all the way back to the animal in a field without also accommodating the icky bits that happen in the abattoir.

On Friday when we arrived at the farm for the weekend we found we had no water in the house ~ our entire 200 gallon storage tank was empty.  We did what we could to figure out the problem but had to switch locations for dinner we had planned with our friends, Tim and Karen, of Apple Farm fame, who live just down the road.  We got to their place just as the sun was setting.  As we pulled in I saw Sophia, their daughter, at the end of a row of blooming apple trees, setting off on her evening rounds to check on and feed the animals.

The Philo Apple Farm raises only enough animals to eat and serve to their guests.  What Karen learned at the knee of her Mum, Sally, owner/chef of the original French Laundry, about food and where it comes from can't be put in a book (unless they choose to write one.  Which I wish they would).  When Charlie Palmer gifted us a whole 'leftover' pig from his Pigs n' Pinot a few years back,it was Karen I called to walk me through butchering it. I have never been squeamish, but even I was surprised by how much satisfaction I got from holding the animal and guiding the knife as it cut clean deep channels in the layers of flesh.  That same feeling of connection came back when I viewed Wil's photographs this week.

The light was fading as we tended to Sophia’s horses and moved onto the pigs, who are kept in pens that are moved around the orchards for grazing and fertilizing ~ the heart of bio dynamic farming. Animals have a crucial role to play in this family’s life that goes beyond feeding them. In the case of the magnificent Nordic draft horses Sophia is training ~ they are partners in her life’s journey. What occurred to me traipsing through the gloaming was how all of us ~ Geoff, Sophia and I, the pigs, goats, horses, dogs, & chickens ~ were all sharing the same evening. Hunger and the approaching dark had triggered in us similar concerns. Whether we were able to acknowledge it or not, we were in it together, dependent on each other, on what felt like a pretty profound level.

Before I ambled off to one of Tim’s perfect gin and tonics, I’m not sure, but I think I had a moment with the goat.

All text and photos, Jil Hales (unless otherwise noted)




Moving Forward

(originally posted March 17, 2010)

Time to tell you how we’re going to fill up our dance card this spring:

Next week we will paper over the windows at Artists & Farmers for a major systemic Spring cleaning. When we re-open, as Studio Barndiva, we will have lightened our load of small pieces, allowing us to deepen our connection to painting and sculpture and giving us enough room to use the gallery for live events. In April we’ll move outdoors and “finish” the gardens. In May we’ll throw a party to celebrate with Friends of Barndiva. We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without your support.

For the past three years Artists & Farmers has been privileged to represent some of the finest craftsmen and women in the world, many of whom had no previous representation in this country. That will not change. But our strength as a family, and as three individuals, has always been to follow our interests, and our instincts, even in the crazy world of food, drink, art and design, even as this recession rocks us all from side to side, up and down. You don’t get on a roller coaster unless you crave, at some level, thrill for the ride. And while uncontrollable forces can make you dizzy (or sick to your stomach) they can also make your heart beat a little faster, your creative juices start to flow. We feel a flow coming on.

Most of you know the history of the studio up to now. My friend Bonnie Z is fond of putting on what she thinks of as her Bella Lugosi voice (which in reality sounds more like one of her crazier chickens) to intone ‘first there was 3.... then there was 2… then there was…’ but as we’ve run through partners, eventually inheriting the entire space, we’ve used the time to study this extraordinary property. Building the herb beds and throwing down Sonoma gold on what was just a parking lot was a no-brainer, but we’ve never lost sight of the fact that this land, before the old auto-body shop was built on it, once housed Healdsburg’s first opera house ~ can you imagine the cultural optimism this town had two hundred years ago to have tried to create that scene when you still tied up horses at the front door?

We’re not advancing the notion that a frontier opera house is what’s missing in town (though we certainly wouldn’t mind one) merely that a little frontier spirit is never amiss, especially now. Our MO, the same one that built Barndiva ~ is to have fun, work hard, and build something that doesn’t exist yet in town. We want to be proud of the product we’re selling, whether it's an invitation for you to eat and drink in one of our spaces, entrust your wedding day with us, or buy an object of significance in the gallery and take it home.

So here’s our thinking:

  • There are wonderful galleries in town, but there remains a need for art + performance.
  • There is not yet a great space to dance after a wedding, then stumble safely back to your bed whether it's in a hotel or your own home.
  • There is no small venue, no beautiful room, where a string quartet can play on a summer eve while you sip.
  • The town could use a salon ~ the 18th century definition of one (look it up) where lively intellectual conversation in the fields of arts and letters and, yes, politics, are discussed with wit and verve (remember those things?) over a good cocktail.
  • Finally, if all that weren’t enough (we will never be accused of doing things in half measures) we’d like to advance the notion that coffee is not the only hot drink we long for throughout the day (sorry Phil). I drink tea a lot ~ not least for it's suspected medicinal effects ~ black in the morning, white in the middle of the day, a lightly caffeinated green to get me to cocktail hour, after which my momentum seems almost pre~ordained. But I wasn’t always a tea drinker, even after many years in London. My friend Todd at Rishi never gave up on me, sending small elegant black sachets with every Barndiva order, with intriguing names like Iron Maiden and Ancient Moonlight White. The idea for an occasional tea bar came to me one afternoon during a very long walk across Paris. I must have passed two hundred great bars ~ you know the ones, zinc or marble counter, Godard pinball sounds in the background ~ where for 3 euro’s I could have walked up to the bar, slung my foot over the brass rail and had a moment to myself over a quick espresso. Jeez, even the Queen of England calls it a quick cuppa~ why can’t you get a perfect cup of tea, made and served properly (as befits a drink that goes back 2,000 years) the same way? In the new gallery space we’ll be working with our friends at Rishi, ~ who we believe source the finest organic, fair trade teas in the world, to redress this inequity.

Things will change slowly until the end of May when wedding dinners start beneath the arbors in the new Studio gardens. We invite you to come in and share the transition period with us. If you are on this list you’ll naturally be invited to our Salon Evenings and all of our opening night parties for art shows, the first of which will be Art of the Rind, with photographer Wil Edwards, working with Cowgirl Creamery, in June. In July the crazy talented (and just plain crazy) Frane of worldwide children’s book fame will be in residence. Frane is working big for the first time in years ~ this is fabulous work, work to make you dream, and we are so proud we will be representing her. If we play our cards right in Carmel next week, Susan Keifer will follow Frane in August.

But hey, listen, If you don’t collect art, have no interest in raising high the roof beams at a wedding, are uncomfortable with the idea of Salon Evenings, and would never be caught dead alone at a bar with a cup of rare tea, you still have something to look forward to after our upcoming zeitgeist at 237 Center Street…For YOU, dear reader, there is the great news that as we shift our wedding celebrations to the Studio, Barndiva will be no longer have to close to the public on Saturdays!


All text and photos, Jil Hales (unless otherwise noted)