Of Sea and Sky: Artist Ira Yeager creates study of nature

By Gary Brady-Herndon, Register Staff Writer, The Napa Valley Register

SkyandSea1A photograph of Ira Yeager’s Calistoga studio showing the range of his style and the diversity of his art. Water and sky – constants in the lives of every man, woman and child on earth. Poets have idolized their beauty in verse, and mankind has scaled to the peaks of the ether and the depths of the deep blue – all in the quest to capture their beauty and pass along the depth of emotion they have evoked through the ages. For the past two years Calistoga’s own Ira Yeager has devoted his painting talents to these subjects and now gives the world a unique, deeply felt diary of his own impressions of these two beautiful forces of nature. In 25 paintings, on display in the Vineyard Room at the Robert Mondavi Winery, Yeager displays a comprehensive variation on this theme as he explores the view of the ocean and sky from his Sea Ranch home on the northern Californian coast. The result is a mesmerizing stroll through the mind and art of a brilliant painter who is attuned to the forces of nature as he is to his craft. Yeager first dabbled in the subject in paintings he created of the sky and sea off the coast of Greece in the mid to late 1990s. How his interest became focused on the subject is still a mystery to the artist. “I think it’s just something that happens. The last thing I thought about painting was seascapes. I do watch the sunset every night. It’s a beautiful show, and it’s always different. People sit in their homes watching TV and miss the real show going on outside – the colors are fantastic,” Yeager said. The colors he speaks of are one of the primal driving forces behind his work. His masterful use of blue, yellow, red and green pigments reveal the beauty that Yeager gleans from the landscape. Yet, just as the light changes with the season, so do Yeager’s colors change to give added highlight to the land and sea with all of their different incarnations. Purples, pinks, turquoise – all find expression in his work, giving us his own very personal view of the beauty of nature. Additionally, Yeager is fascinated by the light of the setting sun and the manner in which it reshapes the features of his unique world. The land and sea are his masters, reluctantly relinquishing their secrets in quiet murmuring at dusk. In Yeager’s world, daytime features meld with the fading light creating a composite of images he experiences around him. His colors ride on the texture of the waves and the firmament of his clouds. Yeager tweaks the composition of his pigments and applies them in a meticulous campaign to achieve his desired results. Textures become live agents in his works – personas that will not be ignored. They speak volumes to the viewer in subtle tones in some pieces, and shout out to onlookers in others. When a shadow is needed, a thickened layer of paint is artfully placed and allowed to crack in a manner, which through 50 years of experience, he says he can now control. “It’s nice at my age to paint and know how the paints will react – how the texture will crack or dry for different effects,” Yeager said. This is a large show with hidden delights and surprises at every turn. Just when you think you have a handle on what Yeager is trying to express, around the next corner, you’ll find yet another view of the land and sky that changes your mind about his meaning and intent. An effect, not unlike the changing seascapes he views on successive evenings from his home on the ocean. The Ira Yeager exhibit is on display at the Robert Mondavi Winery through Oct. 4. To view Yeager’s new collection of “Dreams and Realities” in the Vineyards Room Gallery at the winery in Oakville, call 968-2213 or 968-2203 for a viewing time.