Mariposa Life

September 27, 2013

Debbie Croft: Special Sierra trails lead to artistic discoveries

More than 100 artists will participate in this year’s Sierra Art Trails Open Studio Tour.

More than 100 artists will participate in this year’s Sierra Art Trails Open Studio Tour.

In the past few years I’ve enjoyed the privilege of meeting some of these gifted individuals, and seeing their artwork in person. Those who appreciate art in any form will not want to miss this rare opportunity.

From Oct. 4 to 6, from 10a.m. to 6p.m., visitors are given entry into the studios of professional artists and artisans. Not only that, but driving along mountain roads and through some of California’s most scenic areas on an early autumn weekend is refreshing to body, mind and spirit. The following are some of talented people whose work will be featured:

• Award-winning artist Judith Ann Burton is no stranger to Merced. Her artwork is on display at the Merced Multicultural Art Center, the Sierra Point Building and ColorPress of Merced. The state Capitol is also home to her art. Burton’s paintings have been presented in solo shows in San Francisco and Mariposa galleries, as well as at Playhouse Merced and the University of California, Merced. Her oil paintings depict the beauty of nature, seen in flowers, fruit, crashing waves and a horse on the run.

Studies in still life feature colorful marbles or the morning’s first cup of coffee. And portraits of everyday people capture real-life moments on the football field, boxing ring or stage.

• Craig Pinkerton crafts competition throwing axes with his company – Precision Axes in North Fork. From knives to cutting boards, his wood products are all hand-milled and laminated. Forging damaged ax heads is also part of his functional art. Precision Axes are the only American-made throwing axes on the market.

This outdoorsman is a fourth-generation Mariposa native. He and his family have been involved in timber sports for many years and are proud to be a part of preserving the time-honored skills of the lumberjack.

• A purple door greets visitors to the studio of Ocean Jones, fiber artist and poet. As an English teacher at Merced High School for 25 years, Jones also instituted and directed the Valley Voices Poetry Program for 10 years. During her last year teaching, she battled and survived cancer. Retiring to Mariposa fulfilled a lifelong dream.

She now spends her days creating baskets from pine needles, telephone wire, yarn, feathers, other found objects from nature, and paper shreds of poems she’s collected. Her handmade paper consists of weeds, leaves, bark, dried flower petals, cotton and hemp.

Beautiful fiber quilts combine her unique papers, tiny photographs of her own garden’s floral offerings, calligraphy and molded paper hearts and seashells.

• From Oakhurst, William Neill received the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography from the Sierra Club in 1995. His nature and landscape photography is on display in galleries on the East and West coasts. Neill has specialized in Yosemite fine art photography for 35 years. Many of his images can be found in books, magazines, on calendars and on greeting cards.

His portfolio includes photos taken in the dead of winter in Yosemite and near the Tetons, on the beaches of California and Hawaii, and in the national parks and palaces of India. He writes a photo blog, has written several books and teaches workshops.

• According to Judith Ann Durr of Ahwahnee, her original silk art designs are drawn on raw silk, outlined in golden metallic, dyed, treated with salt and then steamed to bring out and set the brilliant colors. “The result gives the design a stained glass look on flowing silk,” she says. Flags, banners, shawls, framed pieces, photo prints and greeting cards feature symbols of her faith, as well as flowers, animals and scenes from nature.

The Sierra Arts Trails tour this year encompasses three smaller trails winding through the Sierra Nevada foothills’ communities of Coarsegold, Yosemite Lakes Park, North Fork, Oakhurst, Ahwahnee and Mariposa.

Entrance to the tour is $18 for two, and provides a catalog with a directory of artists, studios, maps and all the information needed to make the most of your weekend. Call (559)658-8844 or visit to order a catalog or learn more.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at

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