Art in the Library: The Natural Abstracts of Chris Sauer | Arts & Theater


In this month’s exhibition at the Napa Library, Chris Sauer shares the beauty he has found in the natural world with photos he calls “natural abstracts” that invite the viewer to see his subjects as they have never seen them before.

The rocks sticking out of the water seem to be in the clouds. Humble herbs and tumbleweeds are ennobled. Flowers and trees can look like watercolors.

Withdrawn from a professional career in environmental restoration, Sauer’s photographic interest frequently focuses on landscapes.

Outdoor enthusiast, he travels the trails from here and elsewhere in search of what excites him and often waits for the perfect moment when the lighting is the best.

“This photo on metal is of Iguazu Falls in Argentina,” Sauer said, pointing to a spectacular waterfall during a library interview last week. “It is one of the 10 natural wonders of the world.”

Sauer traveled to many countries. Three weeks after he and his wife Bonnie got married, they were sent to live in Saanopu, Western Samoa, by the Peace Corps. They lived in a thatched hut for two and a half years while teaching English to teenagers.

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Although Sauer had a “nice Nikon camera as a wedding present,” there are no photos in this exhibit from their time in the Peace Corps.

“The film had to be sent to New Zealand and it took months to get the footage back and I hadn’t developed my technical photography skills yet,” he explained.

Back in the United States, Sauer got a job teaching English, but felt “suffocated to teach in a classroom”, so he started a landscaping business, which led to a 30-year career as Bay Area Director for the California Conservation Corps.

Sauer’s job was to teach others about plant and nursery management as well as leading planting crews into areas where there was a need, such as places burned by fires.

The couple moved to Napa in 1978 and raised their son and daughter there.

Along with former Napa Valley Unified School District Superintendent John Glaser and his wife Carol, Sauer and his wife were co-owners of Napa Sunrise Montessori.

“We had kids in school,” Sauer said. “Bonnie was Montessori certified and was a principal. We had a whole team working.

Sauer is a member of the Napa Photographic Society. This is her third photo exhibition at the library. Each year, 12 applicants are selected in an annual art call to exhibit their work for a month. In previous exhibitions, Sauer has focused on water and architecture in its “many evolving states”.

“I’ll point my camera and click anything that moves or doesn’t move, as long as it captures my imagination a bit,” Sauer said. “I like to examine the world around me.”

The Sauer Photographic Exhibit Opening Reception at the Napa County Library is Friday, April 8, 6:15-7:30 p.m. Registration is required to attend. Register on

Wearing a mask is not compulsory but recommended. The library is located at 580 Coombs Street, Napa.

Dora W. Clawson