Artist, Gina Torkos, recently sat down with team member Miles Cotton to discuss her craft and partnership with SAMsARA Wine Co. in designing labels for our Lotus and OM labels.
Good morning, Gina. We’re so happy to have you with us, because your art is always a great topic of conversation in our tasting rooms. Tell us the story of how your art made it onto the bottles of SAMsARA’s reserve wines, Lotus Pinot Noir and Om Syrah.
Wow, what a privilege! My husband Mark and I attended an art event that coincided with the Nights of Lights in St. Augustine, Florida about eight years ago. Over a few glasses of wine, we met Joan and Dave Szkutak for the first time, and we really hit it off! The seeds of our friendship were planted in art and wine. Through the years we’ve attended many art openings together and have also traveled with Joan and Dave to wine destinations throughout the United States.
After Joan and Dave purchased SAMsARA, they were working on bottling Lotus and Om and approached me and asked if I would be interested in providing some artwork for the labels. It was a little scary at first, as I had never done anything like that before, but I thought it was a great opportunity. In my mind the name Samsara sort of gives me ideas about all the spiritual energies, and so I thought, “Well, let’s go for it.”
I had recently finished a painting from a trip to Cambodia, and I thought it would be perfect for the label of Om. The name of the painting is Reverence, and it now lives in the tasting room. The piece is a large Buddha face from Bayon Temple which was built in the 12th century. I thought it was an extremely spiritual place and it really inspired me. We took a look at that painting, applied it to the Om label, and suddenly, Om had a face! Joan and Dave carried the painting home that day for use in the SAMsARA tasting room.
The piece of art for Lotus was a little more work. The sacred lotus symbolizes eternal life, and I just thought that that was another great spiritual reference to work on. I had just returned from the New York Botanical Gardens where I had taken a lot of photos of lotus flowers in the courtyard pools, and I used those images as the reference to create the lotus collage for SAMsARA.
Tell us a little bit more about the techniques you use – your process, your sources of inspiration, and your other work outside of what you’ve done for Samsara.
I draw my strength and inspiration from the spiritual essence of life. I’m really moved and inspired by nature particularly, so when I look at something that moves me and I feel it’s paint- or collage-worthy, I figure it will probably move the viewer, too. I really put a lot of positive energy into my art work as I create it, and sometimes that’s a miracle in itself, to get that energy and all of your ideas and put it down on a flat canvas, and make it work.
I work in many mediums but my main focus now is collage. In my collages, I don’t use paint, I only use pieces of magazines. I think up-cycling is really important now, more than it’s ever been, really, and I try to be as kind to the earth as I possibly can. I use old magazines, and I have an entire studio full of them in Tupperware containers. My process is fairly simple. I start off by sketching from my reference photos onto a canvas, and then I go through my piles of magazines and start pulling images according to color and value. I have piles all over the place that I can use, and it’s sort of my paint. So instead of dipping my brush in paint, I grab the color that I need. I rip or I cut those pieces, and I glue them to my canvas with an archival gel medium. As I’m looking for colors, I keep my eyes out for words and phrases that in some way relate to the image or to my eternally optimistic nature.
I have also created a number of collages inspired by California scenes. Several from Santa Barbara, Alice Keck Park in particular. And a collage of the Lavender and Olive Trees at Clairmont Farms, in Los Olivos. I love to work with images from nature. I also love to create collages of wine and martini glasses and I’ve done several of those. Apparently those are also my passions!
There seems to be an undeniable connection between wine and art. Can you tell us what that connection means to you?
Ah. Yes. In my mind there are basically two big similarities between art and wine. One comes from the creation of them, and the other is the appreciation of them. In creating both art and wine, I think you need to do your homework, you need to know the basics. It requires education and study. You really need time to understand the materials that you use and how they mix or work together , or if they don’t mix at all. You need a lot of patience. Sometimes things don’t work out right. You need imagination.
You make your product unique; you don’t want to be the same as everyone else. And at the end of that, I think you need your intuition to know that okay, what you think is going to work will work, and you just sort of go with it. You have to have a little bit of faith. That’s the creation part. In the end, after everything is done, it’s the appreciation of what you’ve created. And both of these things, both art and wine, I think are thrills to the senses. And after you finish creating it, you’re sort of letting it go, right?
And you know you did a good job, but there’s really nothing sweeter than having your product appreciated by people. Everyone has different tastes. They have different tastes in art, and different tastes in wine. I think in the end you just sort of send your product out there, and you hope and pray that people love it. I think my Italian heritage predisposes me to loving both wine and art. Although I don’t make wine, I can make a mean limoncello.
Oh, nice. You’ve got all of the bases covered. Wine with dinner and limoncello after!
Thank you so much for taking the time to share a little bit about yourself with our readers. It really means a lot!
Contact information for Gina Torkos and further examples of her work can be found at www.ginatorkosart.com