Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Art in the Parks

ART REVIEW : Art Inspired by County Parks - In the current Channing Peake Gallery exhibition, 'Art in the Parks,' artists show how natural spaces manifest creatively

Santa Barbara News Press, Scene Magazine, Friday, October 15, 2010

Courtesy photos




October 15, 2010 6:48 AM


When: Through Feb. 18, 2011

Where: Channing Peake Gallery, County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Information: 568-3990, sbartscommission.org

Even in Santa Barbara's relativity relaxed urban setting, parks can seem like God-sent oases. We cherish the open fields, lawns, vegetation and undeveloped acreage that are open to the public and regard park land as a hedge against civic claustrophobia. We breathe easier just knowing the park system is in place.

Or perhaps this is a romanticized vision, encouraged by the considerable wealth of inviting, preserved and government-kept park spaces in the county. We're spoiled, in a sense, and loving it. The same can be said for the artists in the group exhibition "Art in the Parks" at Channing Peake Gallery. The show's assorted visions have channeled inspirations from county parks into inventions suitable for framing.

This gathering of works uses various media and is spread out over many county park sites. Curator Scott Canty, from the Los Angeles County Municipal Art Gallery, is an objective outsider, allowing him to view the entries without fear or favor. The end result is a show well-stocked with some fresh faces alongside other, more locally recognized artists.

Not incidentally, this exhibition also serves as a showcase for the properties being dealt with, showcasing the diversity of topography and terrain in the county park system, including beaches and in-land sites. The creek-sided Rocky Nook Park's quasi-forested and cloistered feel is nicely captured in Nancy Taliaferro's detailed but also dark and moody paintings.

By contrast, Nicole Strasburg brings her inspired minimalist attentions to light, forming a lean, luminous mystery to the Goleta estuary at twilight. Goleta Beach is viewed differently through the artistic prisms of Mary Frederick's faux folk art style and Allan P.C. Liu's fine and more traditional way with watercolor.

Noah Erenberg livens up the show with his lovely and lively primitive touch, moving down the coast a bit to Isla Vista Beach Park, which is more underappreciated and rarely painted by the area's plein air gang. Somehow, we've consigned that fine spread of beach to I.V. student follies, "Floatilla" and other activities off to the side of natural and artistic reverie.

A more popular site for artists is Arroyo Burro Beach (aka "Hendry's" for those in the local know), which is given an appealing twist in style and perspective in Carolyn Hubbs' "Arroyo Burro From Above," a spare, airy color patchwork in watercolor.

Photography takes varied turns in the show. Julie Harris shows intriguing images, including the study in blue and white, "Dune Ripples," from the famed Guadalupe Dunes. The dunes are a magical site, beloved by Cecil B. DeMille and Edward Weston, whose classic nude/dune shots are among fine art photography's greatest anagram-related works. Arroyo Burro Beach is envisioned in fog-enshrouded lyricism by Kate Connell, while Roe Anne White focuses on the visual poetry of reflective ocean surfaces.

In a distinctly different and more realistic direction, Hilda Kilpatrick's "Rincon Beach Seascape" is a large canvas, solid and evocative of the reddened, rocky and less-trodden area of the Rincon. And what's this? Across the lobby, we find Marcia Burtt's ruggedly beautiful paintings of the North County's Orcutt Ranch, a place I have yet to experience, but now feel compelled to seek out.

Such is the nature of inspired art about nature, implicitly promoting the places we ponder. Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran, whose art helped secure Yosemite and the U.S. National Parks system, knew the truism well, and the effect now prevails on a local level, as well.

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