Santa Rosa’s Astro Motel Hosts ‘Mary Fuller McChesney: Myth and Monument from Sonoma Mountain,’ Exclusive Sculpture Exhibit from an Original Bohemian
Onsite at the Astro in conjunction with Santa Rosa Urban Arts Partnership Aug. 25-Nov. 25, largest collection ever exhibited features 18 sculptural creatures from McChesney’s Sonoma Mountain home, most never before seen by public
SANTA ROSA, CA – Aug. 25, 2021 The Astro Motel—Sonoma County’s premier mid-century modern urban motel—announces the upcoming Aug. 25 opening of “Mary Fuller McChesney: Myth and Monument from Sonoma Mountain,” an exclusive exhibit of sculptural work by the late artist Mary Fuller McChesney staged in conjunction with the nonprofit Santa Rosa Urban Arts Partnership. McChesney, who passed away in Petaluma this May at the age of 99, lived for over half a century on Sonoma Mountain with her husband, the acclaimed late painter Robert “Mac” McChesney. A reception is slated for Sept. 8.
Mac’s work is stored at the Smithsonian and was collected by New York’s Whitney Museum and the SFMOMA, among others; Mary’s was mostly made and kept onsite around the two-acre property the couple developed over decades on Sonoma Mountain. While thousands have experienced Mac’s canvases, only those intrepid few who made it up to the McChesney’s aerie for parties or sought out her occasional art exhibit have seen the bulk of Fuller McChesney’s life’s work. The Astro Motel exhibit seeks to rectify this absence, allowing visitors to see her life-sized creatures outside, as she intended them to be shown.
“We are so proud to be able to share Mary’s vision by placing it among the stunning garden cultivated around the Astro,” says exhibit curator Spring Maxfield who, with Santa Rosa gallerist Dennis Calabi, is responsible for ensuring that Mary’s work was preserved after Fuller McChesney died last spring without direct heirs. The imminent sale of her property, where all of these works have resided outside for decades, adds an air of urgency to the exhibit.
“Mary was an extraordinary force of nature herself,” Maxfield adds. “Incredibly intelligent and hugely ambitious, she helped to document the San Francisco Abstract Expressionist movement that Mac is associated with, wrote mystery novels to support the family, helped to build her own home from scratch, and always made art. In fact, I would argue that her life itself was a work of art. We’re delighted to share her story and her vision. She and Mac were original bohemians.”
Talented in many genres, Fuller McChesney found that her sculpture was often overlooked in favor of her husband’s paintings. Working in cement mixed with vermiculite to slow its drying process, she built and carved a world’s worth of mythic creatures deeply influenced by her philosophic studies as well as Maya and Aztec mythology. They are both fierce and approachable. The “Myth and Monument” exhibit explores the breadth of Fuller McChesney’s vision through 18 pieces, three of them bronze, scattered throughout the Astro Motel’s footprint, allowing visitors to experience unexpected encounters and casting the motel’s mid-century modern aesthetic in a new light, one informed by an artist who came of age during its ascent.
“While the Sonoma County Museum was able to take on a few pieces upon Mary’s death, this is the first large collection of her sculpture to be shown to the public in decades — if ever,” says Maxfield. “They’re funny, they’re terrifying, they have life, they have movement. Everyone should have a chance to see them. I’m grateful we’re able to provide that moment for Mary.”
‘Mary Fuller McChesney: Myth and Monument from Sonoma Mountain,’ runs at various locations throughout the Astro Motel Aug. 25-Nov. 25. All work is for sale and a GoFundMe is available for those wishing to help defray the exhibition’s cost. An opening reception is slated for Thursday, Sept. 8, from 5-7pm. Astro Motel, 323 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa. 707.200.4655 theastro.com
Located in Santa Rosa, California, in an up-and-coming arts district dubbed “Sonoma County’s next big destination neighborhood” by the San Francisco Chronicle, the 34-room Astro Motel is an ambitious and stylish remodel of a 1963 motor lodge with a lush interior garden and smart amenities for cyclists. Affordable, urban, and furnished with original mid-century modern pieces, The Astro is located on Juilliard Park in walking distance of downtown Santa Rosa. The Astro was acquired by members of The Spinster Sisters team in 2017 under the leadership of chef Liza Hinman, Santa Rosa native Eric Anderson, and champion cyclist Andy Hampsten. theastro.com
About the Santa Rosa Urban Arts Partnership