Annual exhibit opens at Sierra Azul nursery


("Sculpture Is" curator Hedwid Heerschop demonstrates how "Flight Path," a steel and copper sculpture by Santa Cruz artist Kirk McNeill, can rotate. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — Shrubs, rockroses, lavenders and more rise out of what was once a strawberry field 30 years ago.

Now, for the past 12 years, sculptures of all shapes, sizes, media and colors intertwine with the various plants at Sierra Azul Nursery and Gardens.

"Sculpture Is 2018: In the Garden" is the 12th annual sculpture exhibit put on by Pajaro Valley Arts and Sierra Azul. It runs through Oct. 31 at the nursery, located at 2660 East Lake Ave. in Watsonville.

Sierra Azul owner Jeff Rosendale juried the exhibit with Susana Arias, who selected more than 80 sculptures created by about 40 artists. Steel, bronze, ceramic, concrete and more media are represented in the exhibit.

Rosendale called the exhibit a "win-win."

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"Sketch" is a sculpture made of cotton rope, steel wire, resin, sapete wood, paint and steel by sal;inas artist Richard McLaughlin. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

"It is a natural balance to have the art and garden together," he said. "The art makes the garden better, and the garden makes the art better."

Most pieces are available for purchase, and Rosendale added that Sierra Azul's permanent exhibit grows annually.

More than a decade ago, Pajaro Valley Arts volunteers visited artists from around the county to begin gathering pieces for an upcoming sculpture exhibit. But one of the artists, Moto Ohtake, felt that his work would not be accurately represented in the limited space at the Pajaro Valley Gallery.

Recognizing that sculpture can be larger than a room at the gallery, Judy Stabile and Mary Warshaw of Pajaro Valley Arts approached Jeff and Lisa Rosendale, asking if the nursery would be willing to host an outdoor exhibit.

They agreed, and the exhibit was such a success that Pajaro Valley Arts applied for a grant through Community Foundation Santa Cruz County to make "Sculpture Is" an annual exhibit, which was awarded through the Rydell Visual Arts Fund.

Exhibit curator Hedwig Heerschop said "Sculpture Is" is one of her favorite exhibits put on by Pajaro Valley Arts of the year, noting that she enjoys seeing the "creativity" and "cleverness" of the artists.

The outdoor location is a plus, too, where people "can relax and get away from everyday life," she said.

"It's beautiful. The garden is in full bloom," Heerschop said. "This gives the artist a place to display their work in a beautiful setting."

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This painted welded steel sculpture, "The Garden Sees You," by Pierre Riche of Watsonville is part of the current "Sculpture Is, in the Garden" exhibit at Sierra Azul Nursery & Garden. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian


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