Collaboration is key when it comes to bringing artistic talent to Santa Barbara’s unconventional spaces. In some combinations, the two make for strange bedfellows, but without exception these unions attest to the cooperative spirit of our arts community. This month, Off the Wall proves that creative collaboration keeps resulting in the successfully unconventional.
The Finer Things in Life
With such an abundance of wineries in north Santa Barbara County, it’s easy to forget that the city itself boasts an impressive selection of tasting rooms on the Eastside that feature other types of pairings besides wine and food. Oreana Winery at Cellar 205 is a prime example of a tasting room that prides itself on the quality of its event space as much as its wine. Among the eclectic selection of goods in the tasting room are works by UCSB art student Sierra Simpson-Dworschak, whose ink drawings provide a charming addition to the winery’s fares. Her meandering, looping line portraits speak of an Art Nouveau influence; their stylized, decorative quality is balanced by a satisfying sense of weight. Set among more traditional winery visuals (think embellished wine accessories and rustic home ware), these drawings lend the space an edgy, modern element.
Searching for that moment of Zen is really an endless pursuit, but Spa Medicus in downtown Santa Barbara lends a hand by displaying the works of photographer Lora Wereb in its meditative space. Now an official destination on the 1st Thursday map, Spa Medicus didn’t start out as your average art exhibition space, which just goes to show how being inventive with a few blank walls can pay off. Wereb has a reputation in town for her event photography, but her detailed, blown-out shots of calla lilies and sunflowers are the perfect complement to the serene, incense-infused spa.
A longtime fixture in the music/coffeehouse/bar scene, Muddy Waters is a veritable mecca of creativity in Santa Barbara. Proprietor Bill Lewis continuously has his finger on the city’s artistic pulse, and, in addition to booking an impressive roster of musicians, seeks out a diverse array of visual art to add to the spot’s creative capital. Currently, the cafe boasts a cornucopia of miniature exhibitions displayed across its funky, add-on space. On the “main stage” are graffiti-inspired colabs by TCO Dave and company, which were painted in the coffee house’s back parking lot. Combining a selection of stencils in the shapes of skulls with profiles of famous musicians (Kurt Cobain, among others), the paintings hang on raw material and effectively blend the politically charged medium with the equally provocative history of musicians as social commentators. In the lounge area, Lewis has hung the hyper-graphic giclee-on-canvas prints of Lionel Uhry. Uhry lures the viewer into a false sense of complacency by using a palette of soothing pastels, but as you examine the work more closely, its subversive strain and political undertones become more apparent.
Home Sweet Home
Granted, coffee shops are not the most unusual place to find art, but there are a few cafes in town that show exhibitions so consistently, they might as well moonlight as art galleries. Coffee Cat and Java Jones are two spots where you can get your caffeine with a quick art fix on the side. Currently at Coffee Cat, Larik Mezey’s Lord of the Rings-styled satirical paintings on canvas (think pyromaniac gnomes) hang alongside his smaller, edgier compositions painted on the backs of clipboards. At Java Jones, Steven Gilbar’s decoupage canvases emulate the work of Romare Bearden with collaged images of fauvist portraits against an abstract grid. Coffee always tastes better in a creative atmosphere.
Sierra Simpson-Dworschak At Oreana Winery (205 Anacapa St.) indefinitely.
Lora Wereb (werebphotography.com) At Spa Medicus (18 E. Canon Perdido St.) through April.
Lionel Uhry (lioneluhry.com) At Muddy Waters (508 E. Haley St.) through April.
Larik Mezey At Coffee Cat (1201 Anacapa St.) through April.
Steven Gilbar (stevengilbar.com) At Java Jones (728 State St.) through May 15.