The Table is the Alter of Our Lives

This issue’s cover is by artist Gloria Retzlaff Taylor, co-founder of Retzlaff Vineyards in Livermore, California. Gloria’s husband, Bob Taylor (86), says his wife was always making art—wherever they went. “She couldn’t not do art.” Bob adds that he has only gradually come to realize this during the 10 years Gloria has been gone. He was so accustomed to seeing her scribbling and sketching in notebooks that he hardly noticed. Now he appreciates the 30 or so notebooks filled with Gloria’s sketches and thoughts that he has at the house. “Art was a very consuming part of her life, whether it was needlework, etchings, oil paintings, acrylics, or pastels; it could even be on a box top. She wasn’t concerned about impressing anybody—she just had to do it.”

Bob describes Gloria as “very skinny” when they met in 1956. “She had no interest in food.” But over time she became passionately interested in the table, especially as a social meeting place. The painting on the cover is one of many tabletop images Gloria painted or sketched. On one she wrote, “The table is the alter of our lives.” As to her misspelling of the word “altar,” Bob points out that both meanings make sense—a place of worship and a place that changes our lives.

Gloria’s artistry is expressed everywhere around the family’s 1870s Victorian farmhouse. Her painting of two tomatoes hangs above a special chair she found in a barn in 1965 when the young couple were living in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Bob says it was a simple chair a farmer had made. “He went out in the woods, cut some sticks, and put it together. Gloria had an eye for that sort of stuff, even though it was broken when she found it—just a pile of sticks. She talked the farmer out of it, brought it home, and put it back together.” He adds that people who know primitive furniture covet that chair.

Read more about Gloria Retzlaff Taylor and Retzlaff Vineyards here.

Photo by Scott Peterson