Ranches & Rolling Hills: Art of West Marin–A Land in Trust, by Elisabeth Ptak and the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Windgate Press, 2008, 160 pages, $50.00
The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), which preserves West Marin farmland, has created a legacy not only of conservation but also of art. Since 1998, MALT has hosted an annual landscape art show called Ranches and Rolling Hills to support and publicize its work. The show, held in Nicasio each May, includes artwork by dozens of talented landscape artists depicting West Marin’s farms, ranches, parklands, and open spaces.
To commemorate the show’s first decade, MALT has published a beautiful collection of art from the show. Among the more than 135 images in the book are works by the founders of the show, Ray Strong and Arturo Tello, as well as other artists, including Bay Nature contributors Ane Carla Rovetta, Zenaida Mott, Ralph Borge, and Richard Blair. Brief essays help the reader understand how landscape art has evolved in America and how a novel coalition of artists, family farmers, and environmentalists has advanced MALT’s mission. But most of the book is devoted to the art itself. Each painting, pastel drawing, print, or photograph is given its own page in this well-designed large-format book. The art depicts the enduring pastoral character of West Marin through its barns, churches, cattle, and tractors, as well as its open spaces, wildlife, wildflowers, and, most of all, its iconic scenes of rolling hills.
By illustrating West Marin’s bucolic landscape, the art in the book also brings home the importance of preserving it. Like the art show, the proceeds from the book will be used to further MALT’s work.