Sonoma Valley Sun


Rundstrom’s ‘Pollinator Series’ blooms at Sonoma Community Center

Posted on July 19, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

By Jonathan Farrell —

The second floor of The Sonoma Community Center was busy early Tuesday morning as a crew was helping local artist Sig Rundstrom mount his “Pollinator Garden Series” show for a July 20 opening.

The exhibition was organized by Jill Valavanis, the visual arts program director for the center. “‘The Pollinator Series is just one example of how Sig’s work in essence can make the viewer feel as a visitor to the actual garden. We get a taste of what Sig sees. As the garden blooms, takes shape and changes within the season, Sig makes this clear.”

Jim and Jill Valavanis, Mike Acker and artist Sig Rundstrom intsall the ‘Pollinator’ show in Galley 212.

“I think what pulls me to Sig’s art is his ability to highlight the subject matter in such a way that the subject he focuses upon is an accurate artistic representation,” she said.

Said Rundstrom, “My artwork utilizes a wide variety of mediums, techniques and surfaces. It includes oil, cold wax, acrylic, alcohol inks, water color and enamel paint done on canvas, scratchboard, aquabrd, wood panels and glass.”

Jill Valavanis, Sonoma Community Center visual arts program director.

For Valavanis, “This includes layers, textures allowing the average person to experience the garden in an artistic sense and appreciate it. He makes it accessible.” 

The exhibit includes a years’ worth of work of over 50 paintings and is inspired by the Creekside Pollinator Garden in Sonoma. A reception will be held from 5 to 7pm the opening day of the exhibit.

In booking the show, Valavanis was drawn to Rundstrom’s work, particularly a series he produced during COVID-19 that became popular on social media. “I’ve always been a fan of the natural world and of course animals,” she said. “I enjoyed his series on dogs,” she said while pointing to Sig’s painting of Maggie, the dog that Sig and his wife Charlene took into their home just as the pandemic hit in March of 2020.

It was during the pandemic that Sig’s creative energy reached an unprecedented peak. He refers to wave of energy as “Mr. Mojo.” 

Initially, as Sig and Maggie took many walks together during COVID, he was inspired to paint a portrait of a neighbor’s dog they met; then another and then another. What was a pastime to deal with the boredom of the pandemic, unexpectedly turned into a flurry of painting.  

As Rundstrom would finish each series he would post his accomplishment on social media, much to the delight of Valavanis and many others.

“I was impressed that Sig was committed to making a series of works, even if it occurred a bit spontaneously,” she said. “But it was when Sig got to doing his Pollinator Garden series that I realized something like this is important and should be featured.”

Valavanis said she had been aware of the ecological importance of a Pollinator Garden, and “that bees are struggling environmentally. Bees are major pollinators, and there are more species of bees than just the honey bees.”

The formal name for a bee keeper is called “an apiarist.” Bees and other insects are vital for the harvest of an abundant produce of vegetables as well as fruit and pretty-much all plant life.

Rokus Armonas and his wife, Kelli, manage Bay Area Bee Company. As a small but dynamic and devoted group of bee keepers, they know firsthand the importance a pollinator garden has upon the local ecosystem. “Local plant life factors into the honey-making process. It has an effect upon everything from flavor and taste to the quality of the honey,” said Armonas. 

This is one of the reasons Valavanis wanted to spotlight Sig’s work at SCC.

Getting a preview glimpse of some of the paintings as they were going up on the wall at SCC, local resident Jo Ann Ryon exclaimed. “Those are absolutely beautiful! The color is perfect.” 

Fellow Sonoma resident and longtime friend of Rundstrom, David Herrema agreed. “Sig’s definitely got the essence of the pollinator garden. I especially like the different painting techniques and the different styles, from realistic to the more abstract. Each one is unique.” 

Valavanis is pleased that she maintained contact with Rundstrom throughout the pandemic. “It usually takes about six months to get a show like Sig’s put together,” she said. “I knew Sig had shown his art work at SCC previously some time ago. Yet it was his postings on social media of his work during COVID-19 that really caught my attention.”

Even though the current protocol to getting an art exhibit up at the SCC isn’t as “regimented as it used to be,” it still takes considerable effort, said Valavanis. “I have scheduling of local artists of at least a year or more in advance.”

The show runs through August 25 at the Sonoma Community Center from July 20 through August 25. The SCC is located at 276 East Napa Street.


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