There are a bit more than a few of Wosene Worke Kosrof’s favorite things in his new show at Paul Mahder Gallery.
Kosrof opened up his new art collection My Favorite Things to the public on June 30. This show marks a return to the gallery for the painter, who has work in museums across the nation, including more than a dozen in the Smithsonian. Kosrof’s painting’s will be on display through Aug. 25.
“I’m really happy to be here,” Kosrof said at the opening. “This is really a beautiful town to show in.”
Kosrof lives in Berkeley and is originally from Ethopia. He moved to the U.S. 42 years ago, but it was some time before he called sunny California home, moving 21 years ago after a stay in Sacramento.
Gallery owner and co-director Paul Mahder said he was excited to have Kosrof back.
“All his work brings an energy and musicality that is rare to see,” Mahder said.
Mahder said he hopes that this exhibit will help cement Healdsburg as an art destination. He said that as many travel to the area for its scenic outdoor beauty and vineyards, having shows like this fits with what visitors want as well as locals.
Mahder said Kosrof’s style of meshing scenes together on canvas “creates its own language,” especially since it takes advantage of Kosrof’s native Ethiopian language of Amharic.
Many of the strong black strokes are adaptations of the letters and words of his home language, but Kosrof said it wasn’t as important to know what they might say as it was to show how his work could tell a story.
“It’s not readable, but it has sort of an A-B-C-D format,” he said.
Music is another motif in Kosrof’s work. Saxaphones and other instruments as well as music symbols can be seen in many of the works — some even reference Kosrof’s love for jazz, such as “Elemental Coltrane.”
That painting and “At the Heart of Dance III” were visitor Nancy Molettieri’s favorites.
Molettieri was visiting with her brother from Santa Rosa.
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “To me, it’s a lot of chaos.”
Molettieri was a return visitor to the gallery and said she enjoys heading up north to check out the art scene. Her brother was also an artist, so seeing a different creator’s perspective was also interesting, she said.
Healdsburg resident Peggy Maddock was also enjoying the show, especially some of Kosrof’s larger works.
“It’s so unified and yet so expansive,” she said.
Maddock was visiting the gallery with her granddaughter Lisa.
“I like how it’s so chaotic but it all looks so planned,” Lisa Maddock said.
The two said they like getting out together and seeing what the city has to offer in the arts. They have enjoyed many of the outdoor sculptures around, as well as the galleries and free music in the Plaza.
“I’m so glad to see it all so well supported,” Peggy said.
Kosrof said his interest in art began during his education at his Coptic Christian church and school. While there, he started viewing any type of philosophy as art, and began exaggerating more traditional figurative paintings.
Now, he said he is creating a contemporary style of Ethiopian art, where traditional influences can be seen alongside ideas plucked purely from his imagination.
Sometimes, he said, objects viewers see in the paintings, like a cat one viewer pointed out, he hadn’t even intended.
Kosrof said he begins these multi-scene paintings at random places on the canvas. He works his way around, incorporating new colors and symbols, but often paints over them time and again before finally letting the work go. He said knowing when to stop is more just being willing to show the work to the public and let them decide how good it is.
“Otherwise, the painting would be layered as thick as a pizza,” he said.
In following the motion in the painting, Kosrof said he hopes viewers will take a different path each time, possibly evoking a different memory.
He said he also hopes there is a kind of unifying undercurrent that speaks to moments and memories people share, such as marches, or the birth of a child.
“It’s really about connecting with people and showing all of us living together,” he said.
Paul Mahder Gallery is located at 222 Healdsburg Ave. and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Monday, except Sunday, when it closes at 5 p.m. The exhibition is open to the public and free to view.