Okay—so the classic jazz ballad is really titled, “Stella by Starlight”, but you readers know me by now and it’s hard for me to stay on the same page at times. And by the way—can any of you sing, hum, or whistle that tune? For the longest time in my guitar studies, I’d see this song in a music fake book, recognize the title, but couldn’t think of how that melody went.

Anyway—we’re using this title as a jump off point for discussing wine and the arts. Last year or so, we titled our article “Arts & Carafes” and we wrote on the Spanish Cava bottle which the fame artist, Gaudi, designed.

This time, I thought we would do something a little more local. Palm Desert, California is the flagship location for Heather James Fine Art. The 8,000+ square feet gallery features an encyclopedic selection of objects and artwork from antiquity through today. Located in the luxury district of El Paseo, Heather James has served Southern California as a cultural destination for residents and visitors to the Palm Springs area for 20+ years.

The gallery has housed blockbuster exhibitions such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Calder, Rockwell, and Warhol. A couple of years ago or so, we were treated to a showing of classic 1950s European and American sports cars—of course, in original mint condition. In between enjoying offered glasses of Champagne and red wine, many of us were finagling in our minds, how we could somehow afford or acquire one of these cars and get on the road.

Currently showing at Heather James, among so many other works of art, is a Frank Stella piece we’re showcasing for this column which is titled, Midnight, Forecastle (1992). So, as you can see—we’re running with the “Midnight” moniker.

Frank Stella, an iconic figure of postwar American art, is considered the most influential painter of a generation that moved beyond Abstract Expressionism toward Minimalism. He was never one to embrace symbolic meaning. He famously quipped, “What you see is what you see,” a statement that became the unofficial credo of Minimalist practice. In the 1980s and ’90s, Stella even turned away from Minimalism, adopting a more “additive approach” for a series of twisting, monumental, polychromatic metal wall reliefs and sculptures based on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Of which Midnight, Forecastle is one in this series.

Stella creates art that is about itself, analyzing and reimagining materials and surface values. Despite all of his fame and success, Stella continually looks for new modes of expression – a new kind of painting, a new kind of relief, and even a new kind of sculpture. Yet Frank Stella reveals to us an eye fixed on creating art that serves to keep the history of abstraction vital and relevant.

Heather James offers, “The riotous exuberance of “Midnight, Forecastle,” seems light years from those extraordinarily reductive paintings that banish illusionistic space or a narrative. Modeled on a computer, it is a construct of cut, trimmed, bent, and torqued honeycomb aluminum incised and painted in a wide range of fluorescent, metallic and acid colors that explode into low and medium relief.

“There is something of a narrative in “Midnight, Forecastle”, but Stella likes to point out that it is as much an homage to the great Abstract Expressionist painters as it is a metaphor for Melville’s themes of intangible, unreachable greatness.”

The piece is acrylic, enamel and paper collage on aluminum, 74x117x17 inches, $875,000.00.

Speaking of art and wine, we’ve all seen the Ménage à Trois Twin Dancers wine label inspired by the infamous Rorschach inkblots. The company website says, “This was no accident. The founders felt that using abstract dancers in motion, which you interpret in your own way, would communicate the thrilling taste experience, and the alluring, playful personality, that’s blended into every sensual sip of Ménage à Trois.”

Their PR continues, “When our boldly curious founders decided to “experiment threely” and blend together a luscious threesome of distinctively different grapes into one wine, they knew it needed a name that would live up to this innovative, provocative blend. That’s why it’s called: Ménage à Trois. Not just because it was a revolutionary three-grape blend, but because like its taste, it deserved a name that would never blend in.”

As you probably know, Ménage à Trois has a line-up of red wines. Their Midnight Red Blend is indeed a blend of Merlot and smaller portions of Cab Sauv, Petite Sirah, and Petite Verdot. The company informs us, “Midnight represents the dark side of Ménage à Trois—it’s our most intense expression yet, a passionate blend bursting with dusky aromas, a gorgeous garnet color, and rich, ripe black fruit of bold blackberry and plush spiced plum flavors with hints of mocha, and exotic spiced kisses, which linger on your lips. Our supple, expressive taste with its long, flavorful finish intermingles with blackberry pastilles and hints of violet.”

The jury is still out on whether the two “Midnights”, above, are a perfect art & wine pairing, but who’s figuring that out? We enjoy our stuff when we wish—life is good.

Often times, wines are served at many of the exhibitions and events held at Heather James Fine Art. Please get on their email list by calling the gallery:760.346.8926. Heather James Fine Art, 45188 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, Ca. 92260. Hours Monday – Saturday 9am – 5pm