Geneva Anderson digs into art

Chalk Hill’s Fall Open Studio introduces Ayla Nereo, its latest artist in residence, Sunday, December 11, 2011, at Chalk Hill Preserve

Video still, artist and musician Ayla Nereo at Chalk Hill Preserve, Windsor. Nereo was one of five artists selected this year for the Chalk Hill Artist's Residency. Photo: courtesy Chalk Hill Artist's Residency.

Ayla Nereo is a Windsor musician and artist who has released two full-length albums and is working on her third.  Her melodies are woven into complex electro-acoustic compositions, guitar ballads and intricate harmonies layered in vocal looping and projected visuals that create an epic journey into poetry and the struggles of contemporary living.  She sings with wry humor about topics like fatigue, mothers, and relationships, and often creates accompanying animated videos.  Nereo is also one of five artists who were selected this year for the Chalk Hill Artist’s Residency at the Warnecke Ranch and Vineyards, near Windsor. For Nereo, that meant she could live and work in Hazel’s House on the extensive Warneke ranch for ten weeks and also utilize their re-purposed barn for creating her art.  This Sunday, Chalk Hill is having its fall open studio and the public is invited to take a walk around the gorgeous ranch, have a cup of tea and to meet Nereo and experience her amazing creativity.  Nereo will show three of the music videos she created while in residence at Chalk Hill and will also give a 20 minute live performance against a video backdrop. 

2011 was the Chalk Hill Artist’s Residency program’s inaugural year and five artists were selected: cellist, composer and sound installation artist Hugh Livingston; multimedia and performance artist Tramaine de Senna, who was also the recipient of an Emerging Artist grant in 2010 from the Arts Council of Sonoma County; painter Naomi Murakami, Jeff Glauthier; and Ayla Nereo.  

“There is a loose emphasis on artistic projects that interpret the land, but we basically invite artists whose work we like to come here and live and create,” said Alice Warnecke, the residency’s program director.  “Ayla’s enthusiasm is nice to be around.”  The selection committee has four members from the Warnecke family, a board member, and an investment consultant.  Warnecke, an artist herself, has high hopes for the program.  “We are learning as we go and want to plan more events that involve the artists with the community.”

“It’s been amazing,” said Nereo, “challenging in all the best ways (like being alone for whole days at a time) and wonderful in all the best ways (like learning how to really enjoy — and then adore — all this alone time).  This is really my first opportunity to fully dedicate myself to my music and poetry and art-making and it’s helping me launch my career by just having that space, time and solitude in nature to devote to my creativity.  It’s been huge and wonderful and it’s really grown me and connected to me why I am on this planet. ” 

In her seven week stay at the rustic Hazel’s House, Nereo created two new music videos (one an animation), a book of poetry, new live video projections, and lots of drawings.  She’s also been moving in a new direction musically, away from the folk elements which characterized her first album “Floating Felt” and Sunday’s open studio attendees will have a chance to hear some of the new songs that will appear on her forthcoming third album, “BeHeld.”  Click here to see a video of Nereo’s new work, which includes Chalk Hill footage, and to support her new album through the IndieGoGo funding platform.  (IndieGoGo offers anyone with an idea—creative, cause-related, or entrepneurial—the tools to effectively build an online money-raising campaign.)

“The newer stuff is a lot more with a loop pedal (into which she feeds vocals and guitar) which produces interesting vocal layering and harmonies and beats and you are really building structure into the track,” said Nereo.  “I’ve been told that I need to figure out what genre this is because it’s no longer folk but it’s really getting to who I am now.”

Ayla Nereo, still from "Wasted Hours" animation. Photo: courtesy Chalk Hill Artist’s Residency.

The Warnecke Ranch:  The Ranch was purchased by the Warnecke family in 1911.  Architect John Carl Warnecke (1919-2010) expanded the original boundaries and ran the ranch for many years before passing in 2010. The property is now run by Margo Warnecke Merck and Fred Warnecke, with help from the 4th generation of Warneckes on the Ranch: Alice, Pierce, Grace and Tess Warnecke.

The Residency:   Chalk Hill Artist’s Residency is devoted to supporting artists of all types and at all levels by providing open space and free time at Hazel’s House on the Warnecke Ranch.  2011, the centennial year of the Warnecke Ranch and Vineyard, marks the opening of the Residency. 

The concept for the Residency is based on the vision of the late John Carl Warnecke.  In 1983, he laid out plans for an artist retreat on his 280-acre property near the town of Healdsburg, bordering the Russian River.  The plan included multiple houses, conference rooms and studios.  He established a 501 c3 non-profit and began a master plan for the property to fulfill his vision: artists could live and work together in what he deemed the most beautiful place in the world. Key parameters for the residency come from JCW’s extensive writings about his vision around spending time with friends and fellow architects and artists:

Why not, he wondered, set up a retreat for artists on his own ranch land? But not just for his established professional friends, the architects, but also for established writers, composers and other visual artists, as well as those artists who were just starting to be recognized in their fields. This would give the younger, promising architects and artists an opportunity to mix and work with their peers. Few artists enjoy the luxury of full-time devotion to their work, and most have to work at odd jobs or seek subsidies. An Artist’s residency has long been one form of subsidy.~ JCW  

(Click here to see ARThound’s previous coverage of Chalk Hill Artist’s Residency and photos of the Warneke Ranch)

Details:  Sunday, December 11, 2011, 4:30 p.m. 13427 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg, CA  95448.  Please RSVP to Alice Warneke at (415) 218 – 4912 or .
For more information about the Chalk Hill Residency, visit the website:


December 9, 2011 - Posted by | Art | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. This is Ayla’s new album project:

    Help make her new album happen! Her music is amazing.

    Comment by Noah | December 9, 2011 | Reply

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