I cannot imagine a more pleasant treasure hunt than wandering through Santa Barbara and Goleta in search of art in unconventional spaces. My ongoing investigation of the region’s shops, restaurants, and coffee houses has convinced me that good art can do more than heighten the sensory experience of these locales; it can provide the frisson of finding a thing of beauty in an unexpected spot. Here are a few examples of the artistic treasures that await the artistic explorer this month, sometimes in surprising places.
Big, Bold, and Beautiful
Taking a cue from the fashion world’s current revival of 1980s-style bright colors and bold prints, the art world is following suit with an influx of Keith Haring and Kenny Sharf-inspired paintings. Goleta’s Dish Cafe currently features the work of Jaybird from Moloaa, an artist whose paintings feature giant slashes of color frenetically crisscrossing the canvas. “Large-scale” is an understatement for Jaybird’s work, which nearly covers the entire square footage of Dish’s cozy space. The nature-inspired paintings of Roz Lord, the unofficial resident artist at Elements Restaurant and Bar, offer a more subtle take on abstraction. Lord uses an oversized stippling effect to produce shadowy images of trees. Their pared down softness, matched with ambient lighting (and killer cocktails), enhances Elements’ inviting atmosphere. The Casa Magazineoffice proves that a place of business can be just as aesthetically appealing. Casa has been a 1st Thursday partner since the ArtWalk’s inception, and the work of its featured artist this month, Judith Turner Kunda, is decidedly worth a peek. Her abstract, colorist paintings rival Jaybird’s in terms of scale, but exhibit a particularly refined sense of composition and maturity.
The Photographic Eye
It’s an art lover’s dream when office buildings full of lawyers and accountants become prime real estate for exhibiting the works of area artists. A fine example of this delightful Santa Barbara trend is the Balboa Building in the heart of downtown, whose second floor currently features the photographs of Natalie Browning Clark. Clark turns her lens on subject matter ranging in location from Midland, Missouri, to Athens, Greece, and her simple, straightforward travelogue style is the perfect foil to the potentially weighty business going on behind office doors. While the Goleta Coffee Company is a more traditional setting in which to stumble upon artwork, its offerings are usually diverse and occasionally eclectic. En route to your next caffeine fix, check out the underwater photography of Santa Barbara physicist and artist Steven Trainoff, whose sea-life portraits represent the marine fauna of Catalina and Santa Cruz islands.
In case you hadn’t noticed, many of the commercial establishments that feature artwork as a complement to their goods are developing a mastery of matchmaking. Take Intermezzo, for example: The hipper, younger sister of Wine Cask currently has a built-in gallery of exceptional works by pop art heroes James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol surrounding its diners. These artistic gems-loans from the gallery of Intermezzo’s new owner Bernard Rosenson-are museum-worthy pieces that rival the exquisite food. Some of the trendier diners at Intermezzo may have purchased their threads just around the corner at chic boutique Bryan Lee, where David J. Diamant’s work is featured this month. Instead of his cool, urban paintings that recently matched the vibe at Quantum Restaurant, some of Diamant’s graphic-inspired work has been chosen to reflect the store’s diverse and stylish patron base.
Steven Trainoff (web.mac.com/gbeckert)
At Goleta Coffee Company (177 S. Turnpike Rd.) through December 31.
Natalie Browning Clark
At the Balboa Building (735 State St., 2nd Floor).
Jaybird from Moloaa (jaybirdfrommoloaa.com)
At Dish Cafe (5722 Calle Real) through December 31.
Judith Turner Kunda
At Casa Magazine (928 Carpinteria St.) through November 30.
James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol
At Intermezzo (813 Anacapa St.).
David J. Diamant (davidjdiamant.com)
At Bryan Lee (802 State St.).