1986 Arbor Way
Built in 1946
3 bed/2.5 bath
This California Ranch style home was built in 1946. Artists Titia Barnett-Gudde and John Barnett, along with their son James, moved into the home in 1999. At the time, it was white with a wood shingled roof, surrounded by an English style yard with common bushes in front of the windows, suffering grass, two standard city trees, and a pink path meandering from the street to the front door.
After watering and mowing the lawn for years, and visiting a neighborhood built by Frank Lloyd Wright students in Scottsdale, Arizona, the couple decided to change everything. They were inspired by the wonderful balance in the Scottsdale neighborhood: climate and plants, architecture and space, color, and the use of local crushed granite.
Titia remembers feeling the similarity of the flat valley landscape to her home in Holland; the difference was in the climate. “The average rainfall in Amsterdam, where I am from, is 33.5” per year; Stanislaus County is 13.5” per year, and Scottsdale is 10.5”. That made me think…Why does everyone want an English style garden? England has 33.7” of rain each year. We wanted the garden to be fitted to the area’s climate and water.”
In 2010, Titia started working at the alley end of the yard, on Johnson Road, and eight years later ended the landscape project at the neighbor’s front yard. She made ceramic sculptures based on cactus forms to add to the landscape design. The sculptures are large, but now almost disappear between the huge cacti. Drought resistant trees like the Palo Verde were added to the front yard. “Many people have helped design, clean, dig, plant, donated cacti, and helped me finish the project,” recalls Titia. “Our son James made all the planters and the cement entryway to the house.”
The back yard was started as a nature, relaxation area, but is also a workplace; it all found the perfect balance. The two artists needed an outside sculpture studio and kiln, and the birds and bees needed fountains. The pool became a cactus garden; the small lawn became an area for the chickens. Fruit and shade trees were added as well as a ceramic studio, housed in a yurt. Titia considers the back yard to be a work in progress, but now quite an improvement over the old grapevines, dead nut trees, incinerator and well that it used to have.
Because John and Titia were/are artists, the house and yard became a gallery for art pieces . In the yard, look for tree skins and mud prints cast in fiberglass and other media, as well as sculptures in ceramics, wood, cast bronze and aluminum. The house itself is filled with art — by John and Titia, and by artists they like and were influenced by (including Mark Tobey, Winston McGee, John Battenberg, Robert Freimark, Randy Shiroma, among others). Titia hopes the art speaks to her guests: “The energy and texture and color. And what is very important to me – the balance of it all.” She offers a quote from John that encapsulates their art and their love of nature:
As a sculptor, I am especially attracted to surfaces, pattern and forms, and to feel the material substance of things. For example: I make molds of tree barks, of eroded fissures in the earth. These flexible latex negatives are arranged and then positives of them are cast in bronze, aluminum or fiberglass. The pieces that result are often strikingly like the originals, but by removing them from their natural settings and manipulating their structure, they are transformed into aesthetic objects. They surprisingly shift back and forth from tree bark to sculptures that resemble but are not tree bark. They range in character from humorous to replication to abstraction, depending on the content or theme. These sculptures are an invitation for you to go beyond the initial appearance of these forms and to see the analogies between nature and man and to find the human form in eroded earth and to see the analogies between tree bark and the human skin. Playfully, yet with deep seriousness, I entreat you to see that we all share the grace,
the vulnerability, the vitality of trees, rocks, the earth. We too are part of the cycles of natures, of growth, change and death. There is within these works an ecological invitation for people to leave their urban
places for a while and to be in the world of nature once again.
— John Barnett