By Jackie Lee | Sun Fine Arts
Tucked into the end of a quiet street in Sonoma, enfolded by a mini forest of trees and shrubs, lies a house built in 1958 by a previous generation of the Foley family. You won’t find chintz furniture, lace curtains, or Aunt Bea’s casserole dishes inside. Like many other artists’ homes defying design description, it’s inhabited by two sculptors, two dogs, one giant cat, and dozens of jaw-dropping sculptures ranging from small to life-size.
This is the secluded life chosen by noted sculptor Maryann Steinert Foley and her husband, partner, critic, and supporter Bill Foley, also a well-known sculptor. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship, with each artist given free rein to critique the other’s work in process. Maryann said Bill encourages her to stretch a bit more with her works, or to adjust something she may not have considered, and she depends fully upon his honest input.
Much of the floor space is in use as their studio, appropriately outsized for two sculptors and their chosen materials of clay, concrete, steel and stone, two kilns just outside one open wall, and all the tools and gadgets you’d expect from many years of accumulation. Maryann said she uses Bill’s tools from 1968 but also has a “newer” 1980 set for her red clay works. It’s difficult to imagine this slight woman can haul around such heavy materials, but she does, although Bill can help when necessary.
The expansive garden property contains the overflow of works in process, some too large to work on in the studio, as well as finished pieces strategically tucked into the shrubbery, anchoring mini retreats of peace and serenity.
Maryann’s sculptures are readily identifiable by the brave splashes of multiple colors applied in the glazing process. Her pieces are tactile, grainy, and bold, with textured chunks overlapping each other. Horses are a favorite subject. She paints on canvas as well, but says her heart is really in sculpture. One large painting hanging in the studio appears to be currently in process, but evidently it has been for a very long time. Maryann is at an impasse with it because the face has a haunting expression, and she can’t let it go.
Maryann completed a BA in Art Studio, with honors, at the University of California, Davis and received the prestigious Departmental Citation for Outstanding Performance from the Art Department Faculty. “It was going to be a surprise announcement at a gathering,” she said. “But I didn’t know about it and didn’t show up for my award!”
While at UC Davis, she worked in the renowned TB-9 ceramics teaching facility, a World War II era building intended to be temporary, but which is still there. It is famous in creative circles as the place where the much-lauded father of ceramics, Robert Arneson, spearheaded the elevation of ceramics from craft to fine art. It was the atmosphere that inspired Maryann to embrace clay as her preferred medium. The expressive and prominent marks in her sculptures result from TB-9’s mantra that work “ought to show evidence of the artist’s hand.”
Maryann continued her professional development with sculptor Cristina Cordova from 2016 to 2020, now interrupted by the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic. She currently shows at Jen Tough Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, b.sakata garo in Sacramento, CA, and the Pence Gallery in Davis, CA. Numerous private and public collections across the country include her sculptures. Maryann and Bill continue to create more masterpieces in their peaceful retreat in Sonoma. For more information, visit: https://www.maryann-sf.com