Thank you, Amy Stewart, for visiting the Di Rosa Preserve, and for writing about it (“Dirt,” July 24). I spent three years as a volunteer there, guiding tours. Rene never called us docents; he said our main purpose was not to lose anyone on the property. Rene’s collection always surprised me, and I left there each time feeling energized.
I am sorry that Amy missed the central theme of the collection: These are all San Francisco Bay Area artists. Every piece of art in the collection was made by someone who lived, worked or taught in the San Francisco Bay Area. Rene, who sat on the board of the San Francisco Museum of Art, believes that art does not have to come from far away, or be fabulously expensive, to be good. He doesn’t think anyone’s blah blah blah could convince you of how good a piece of art is. He is just as proud of the wood block piece he bought from a high school art student as he is of the huge Wiley painting in the main gallery.
The collection exhibits (the pun fits the theme here) a shining, if offbeat, sense of humor. (When Rene met the tours at the Gatehouse -- which he did at odd times; we never knew where he’d appear -- he always thanked people for coming when they “could just as easily have gone skateboarding in Vallejo.” You start your tour of the Gatehouse gallery with a stack of cardboard boxes, each sporting the word “BLAH”; you look out on the lake and see floating figures (who manage to lose their tethers in a heavy storm) among the transient geese. Arneson’s ceramics are right there in front of you. Everywhere you turn, art catches you, pulls at you, tickles you.
And oh, yes, the photo included in the article: The car hung from the eucalyptus tree was Rene’s idea; he said that cars had killed enough people, and it was time to kill a car. Visitors often commented on the “shallow-rooted” eucalyptus -- “won’t it fall? Isn’t that car too heavy?” -- but it looks like the tree is living up to one of Rene’s standards for art: It belongs here.
— Pat Dillman, Bayside
Sweet Spot: Pat Dillman wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite letter of the week.