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In the Gallery with Christina Stafford
— Napa, Sonoma, & Marin



Intro

It was a sixth-grade field trip to see the Armand Hammer Art Collection, an impressive array of 16th through 20th-century European and American paintings and drawings, that spurred Christina Stafford’s fascination with art. The first work of art she can recall purchasing was a signed, limited edition print by Michael Parks. “I think I was 15 years old at the time,” she says, “and I couldn't believe I was spending so much money for a signed poster, but I was compelled to, and I did.” But it wasn’t until she enrolled in an art history survey course that she “jumped in with both feet,” as she puts it, and declared art history as her major. After college, she entered the gallery world, managing one of Charleston, South Carolina’s finest contemporary art galleries for seven years. There, she learned firsthand not only about sales, but also about the day-to-day business operations.




IN THE GALLERY WITH CHRISTINA STAFFORD

It was a sixth-grade field trip to see the Armand Hammer Art Collection, an impressive array of 16th through 20th-century European and American paintings and drawings, that spurred Christina Stafford’s fascination with art. The first work of art she can recall purchasing was a signed, limited edition print by Michael Parks. “I think I was 15 years old at the time,” she says, “and I couldn't believe I was spending so much money for a signed poster, but I was compelled to, and I did.” But it wasn’t until she enrolled in an art history survey course that she “jumped in with both feet,” as she puts it, and declared art history as her major. After college, she entered the gallery world, managing one of Charleston, South Carolina’s finest contemporary art galleries for seven years. There, she learned firsthand not only about sales, but also about the day-to-day business operations.

Her route to becoming a gallery owner, though, was anything but direct. In her words, she “wore a great many hats” prior to becoming one. At age fourteen she began working, and her favorite jobs along the way included apprentice sign painter in Vermont, restaurant manager in New Zealand, professional art model, bartender in San Francisco, manager of Martin Gallery in Charleston and real estate marketer. (She is still a licensed real estate agent today and does marketing consulting, as well.) About eight years ago Stafford visited Healdsburg and quickly realized it was the kind of town in which a gallery of her own would flourish.

Stafford Gallery focuses on contemporary, eclectic fine art. To capture the depth and breadth of artistic expression, Stafford tries to represent as much variety as possible. There is, however, one caveat: regardless of whether the pieces are wood and bronze sculpture, Impressionist oil paintings, Abstract Expressionist paintings, large-format limited edition photography, fine art glass, handmade custom jewelry or select, locally made design items, she has to love them. Says Stafford, “My personal taste in art is consistent in that I love inspired, well-conceived and brilliantly executed art.”

Stafford views her work as “an avenue for education or personal development.” Consequently, she values exposure to art and artists globally as a source of ongoing education and inspiration. Her continual evolution is reflected in her personal art collection, which “used to consist of mostly small works, but in the past few years has incorporated an enormous painting and a very large photograph — large enough works that they might actually dictate where I can live!”

Although not an artist herself (“I leave that up to my incredibly talented colleagues”), Stafford considers curating a gallery’s collection as an art form. “I see the gallery as a composition, with specific constraints, that needs to harmoniously contain everything here,” she explains. “A successful composition possesses a rhythm, a balance, an order to it, perhaps harmony, or perhaps counterpoint. It needs to feel right to look right.”

Picasso, a master of composition, is one of her favorite authors. “I was brought to tears when I saw Guernica in person,” she says. “I love Dadaist Hannah Hoch’s savvy collages, and I have a real soft spot for Paula Modersohn-Becker,” a German painter considered one of the most important representatives of early expressionism. With regard to current contemporary work, Stafford reports that she is surrounded by her favorite artists every day.

Stafford’s favorite, not-to-be-missed experiences in Healdsburg include going to SHED, a market, cafe and community gathering space designed to nurture the connection between good farming, good cooking and good eating — “an incredible retail and culinary adventure,” she declares. Playing bocce at Campo Fina, swimming in the river, hiking at Lake Sonoma, picnicking at Preston and sipping wine at Studio Barndiva or a cocktail on the patio at Bravas Bar de Tapas are also among her favorite activities. For a perfect vacation, Stafford says it could be almost anywhere, as long as she had enough time “to see and do everything, and yet do so in a luxuriously relaxing way.”



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