Robert margrit

Artizenship: Wine Whine

Aug. 10, 2017 | Jeremy Benson

Every night when I brush my teeth, Robert and Margrit are there in the corner of my bathroom window, cheering to my good dental health. If only my teeth, I think, were as white as their skin (or their hair, their clothes, their hats…), then my dentist would be happy.

I can’t say exactly what I thought when they moved in a few doors down. I was somewhere between and including bewildered, curious, befuddled. “Is that Bob and Margrit?” I asked, when I first walked by; a question which would be repeated and confirmed a few weeks later, when a sign with that title was constructed below the statue.

“And do they ever go to sleep?” I asked, when I first noticed them tom-peeking through the window, emblazoned in light against a darkening dusk sky.

Historic Precedent

One only needs to sit in the back of Art History 101 and listen for 5 minutes before snoozing to know there’s a long history of erecting artworks that celebrate the major economic forces in any given time and place: the earliest cave painters drew antelope and boars, which they depended on for sustenance. And of course it’s well known that in that period, many tourists flocked to Southern France to taste their killer swines.

And we humans have been doing that ever since: South Dakota has the Corn Palace. Wall Street has its Bull.

I always like to think what will happen in thousands of years when future Indiana Joneses dig up our remains and draw conclusions from what they find: “They loved fighting!” one archeologist digging up Detroit in year 3478 might say when they start unearthing Joe Louis’ Fist. There’s no doubt what they’ll say about Napa: “We think they worshipped wine.”

And we do, of course. I do, every time I clink my glass to yours. I have to; wine pays my rent, it pays yours, and we know what we must respect in turn. In this valley, money flows when wine flows, so, it only makes sense that statues hailing its creation and its pioneering vintners will go up like hands from the pavement: the Crusher at the Meritage, the bottle of grape vines outside Gott’s, Robert and Magrit a top the CIA’s Copia building, a million oil paintings of mustard blooms, a million photographs of vines and rolling hills of vines.

Confession

I’m happy to see the old Copia building full and full of life again (and I can’t wait until someone decides to turn the gardens across the street into a locals-only beer garden…hint, hint), and I’m happy to live in a city that mandates certain larger developments contribute to public works of art. I just sometimes, sometimes, want to take a walk and see artwork that is about more than wine. I want to do things in Napa that are more than just wine.

There, I said it.

Speaking of Margrit

I feel Margrit, like me, wanted her life in Napa Valley to be more than wine. She volunteered to organize a concert at Krug winery, before creating a fine arts program at Mondavi Winery, and soon started the summer music series there too, as a fundraiser for the Napa Valley Symphony. She later instituted cooking classes at the winery. She and Robert raised money to reconstruct the Napa Valley Opera House, and to restore the Lincoln Theater. And that’s just what’s mentioned in her Wikipedia entry!

If you are anything like me, you probably have at least one meal a week of wine and cheese and bread—and man, nor Margrit, can live on that alone. We need more substance, we need more diversity—we need more art, and art that causes us to grow.

Robert and Margrit are alright staring in the window, and I hope Napa’s art keeps evolving.

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Arts Council Napa Valley 501(c)3 is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

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