ROSEMARIE KEMPTON

Studio 42, located at 3061 Cuttings Wharf Road, is new to Open Studios Napa Valley this year. With 200 works of art displayed in five open-air garden rooms, it offers visitors a treasure hunt of discovery.

The art and gardens were created by two talented and hardworking artists, Dona Kopol Bonick and her husband, John Bonick.

Kopol Bonick is an award-winning photographer who launched Kopol Bonick Art & Photography shortly after arriving in Napa. She has been photographing the people, places and wines of Napa Valley for 20 years, both as a wedding photographer and photojournalist. His images can be found in the di Rosa Art Museum and in private collections around the world as well as in numerous publications.

Bonick is a photographer and painter whose art has been featured in numerous galleries such as the Andrea Schwartz Gallery. He is also known for his 10-foot-tall wine bottles made with vine cuttings featured at the first BottleRock. Since then he has been commissioned by several customers to make more, so there are quite a few of his vine bottles in Napa Valley and elsewhere.

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Upon arrival, visitors enter Kopol Bonick’s bright photo studio before exiting onto a well-maintained path leading to the gardens. A century-old oak and other large trees provide shade. Tall hedges of Escallonia and Cherry Laurel plants separate the garden rooms and form a perimeter around the Alice in Wonderland Room and the Labyrinth.

Walking under a large trellis covered in Lady Banks roses feels like traveling through a magical plant tunnel. Above the head, the twisting vines on the trellis look like a large abstract painting.

“Our son, Max, drew the design for this trellis and took it to the ironworker. It only took five years for the plants to cover that,” she said during an interview and tour of the gardens last week.

On the other side of the vine tunnel is a large grass-covered opening with a stage at one end.

“Our sons used to perform here when we gave parties,” Kopol Bonick said. “Max, is a well-known multi-instrumentalist jazz musician and composer. He played ABC Bakery every Sunday and Silos.

Discovering the splendor of these gardens may inspire identification with the character of 10-year-old Mary Lennox from the classic children’s novel “The Secret Garden,” written by Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett.

“Everything you see, we put it on,” Bonick said. “That didn’t exist.”

“Yeah, he was in pretty bad shape 20 years ago,” replied Kopol Bonick.

Before the couple bought their eight-acre property in 2002, it was a horse pasture with an old building.

The art-filled gardens take up an acre of their property. They use organic fertilizers to keep the plants green rather than using lots of water. Kopol Bonick, who pulls the weeds by hand, takes care of the gardening but brings in a gardener once a week to trim the hedges.

“We had to ask the gardener to cut down the one meter hedges last year. They were monsters,” Bonick said.

“You can’t maintain them when they’re that big,” he added.

Their vision and passion for creating and maintaining their beautiful gardens is strong. “It’s a creative process, just like photography. I love to create,” said Kopol Bonick. “It fills my soul.”

The couple also own an Asian pear farm and vineyard on their property. They sell the fruit and John makes wine from the grapes. Their wine is called Art House wine.

Bonick’s renovated vineyard art studio, built in the 1800s, is not included in the tour, but his paintings can be seen in the gardens during OSNV.

Much of his work is significant, such as the 8-by-3-foot aluminum series he did for Floral Springs Winery and his 6-foot-tall abstract paintings. He said he is inspired by the nearby farm life he sees every day – “the vines, the growth and the energy channels”.

Near the entrance to their property, two large works of art can be seen. Ivy breathes new life into Bonick’s 10ft wine bottle sculpture as she intertwines with the vine cuttings

“Metamorphosis”, the other piece, was created by Kopol Bonick for the Napa Art Walk.

Part of the couple’s art is mixed media that they collaborated on together.

Kopol Bonick’s photos showcase the fine art photography she has done over three decades as well as her commercial photography.

Some black and white vineyard scenes were shot in infrared, making the white greens and blues appear very dark, giving them a stormy and moody look. “I made them from my own darkroom,” she said. “I loved doing this in the darkroom, but now I work digitally.”

Although some of the shots in his film noir series look like they were shot in one city, they were all shot in Napa and Sonoma with “beautiful friends.”

Over the years, she has often been commissioned to photograph well-known personalities.

“Dona photographed Francis Ford Coppola’s Christmas several years ago at their home,” Bonick said.

“Directing five directors (at the Coppola event) was a bit daunting, but they were totally gracious. Once you start working, the nervousness goes away. Kopol Bonick responded with a laugh.

The couple met in Chicago where she grew up, and they moved to San Francisco in 1980 before moving to Napa years later. They are both grateful for doing what they love to do.

“I’ve always wanted to be an artist since I was 12,” Bonick said.

“I never imagined that I could do this (photography) for a living, but I was very lucky,” said Kopol Bonick. “I have great clients and my business has been word of mouth for 30 years.”

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