Yountville's 'A Memory of a Tree' mural in process. (Courtesy of LC Studio Tutto)

A Pair of Painters Brings California's Highways, Water Tanks & Buildings to Life

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Many a trip to Wine Country includes a stop in Yountville, known for its high-end tasting rooms and famous restaurants. But on your next visit, as you cruise into town, don't overlook the gorgeous new mural adorning the highway's underpass.

From left: Hennessy Christophel and Sofia Lacin.(Courtesy of LC Studio Tutto)

Artists Sofia Lacin and Hennessy Christophel, founders of LC Studio Tutto, are interested in "connecting people to their surroundings in an emotional way through color and lively abstract imagery." They met as teenagers in Sacramento and both studied Fine Arts at UC Santa Cruz. After college, they started the studio, and in the past 10 years they've collaborated on 75 murals, custom paintings, and interactive installations that can be seen all over California. Earlier this summer, they completed Memory of a Tree, a mural emblazoned beneath Highway 29 in Yountville.

"We have different artistic strengths," says Christophel. Lacin's background in abstract painting combines with Christophel's love of illustration to form a one-of-a-kind approach to creating works that are "greater than either one of us," Lacin says. Their development process, which involves coming up with key words about the landscape as well as extensive research on the area, can take as long as six months.

In Yountville, the process took a personal turn. After entering a national contest to beautify the underpass, Christophel said they "found an opportunity to engage more deeply because it's such a small town." The artists asked the residents to supply keywords that described the place where they live and, with those in mind, they fine-tuned the mural to this authentic perspective. In four months time they came up with as many different designs and put them to the vote: The residents selected Memory of a Tree, which harkens back to the landscape of the area before vineyards were planted, where native oak trees stood guard over the valley. According to Christophel, this particular piece connected the mural to the location in a "more permanent and deeply rooted way."

In contrast to the sun-soaked rolling vineyards of Wine Country, the artists incorporated cool shades of blue and illustrated oak trees to make the space what Christophel calls, a "shaded oasis."

While defined brushstrokes and abstract forms whisper of expressionism, the duo's most significant influence is Mother Nature, "the original artist," they sing in unison. Lacin says that striking that balance often translates into a piece that's beautiful, "but with enough tension to be timeless and interesting."

Their next large-scale work, Woven City—a vibrant installation at the entrance to the Mountain View Community Center—will be completed in late 2018. The piece will include metal figures scattered over an abstract aerial map of Mountain View and fiber-optic lighting for nighttime viewing.

Other notable LC Studio Tutto works include Bright Underbelly, located under a freeway overpass in Sacramento, also the site of the largest farmer's market in California, and Same Sun, which adorns a water tank in Davis.

See more of the pair's work in our slideshow below, and visit them at lcstudiotutto.com.

The artists at work in the evening at the Same Sun tank

(Courtesy of Kent Lacin)

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