It is a wide world from which Santa Barbara photographer Birgitte Aarestrup draws inspiration, as evidenced in her eclectic exhibition now showing at Montecito Frame and Gallery. In the space of just four walls, the photographer travels from the Lapland Province of Sweden to the plains of North America before returning back home to Santa Barbara in the midst of Fiesta celebrations. Whether her subject is as remote as a group of reindeer wandering the artic circle or as close to home as decorated horses on State Street, Aarestrup’s images convey her ability to find meaning and beauty in many places.
Among the landscapes Aarestrup explores in this show are those of the high arctic, where light and shadow play over craggy canvases of rock and snow. Weathered peaks and icy lakes stretch out beneath brooding skies. These are scenes of beauty and of desolation, enhanced by the photographer’s use of traditional methods: black-and-white film and silver gelatin prints.
The next wall finds Aarestrup on another continent, investigating the high plains of South Dakota. A house nestles between rolling hills, lit by the glow of a full moon. A vast night sky unfolds above it, imparting a sense of timelessness to the scene.
And then, leaving behind these wide-open spaces, Aarestrup comes home to Santa Barbara, where Fiesta is in full swing. In her image of a coy, camera-toting boy replete in full Fiesta costume, Aarestrup captures the celebration’s more poetic details. Pleats, tassels, and bridles stand as elegant symbols of tradition. In another image, an impassioned female singer is armed with an acoustic guitar and a full supply of enthusiasm, inviting the viewer to join in the revelry.
Hanging as they do alongside scenes so far removed from our most familiar surroundings, these lyrical, enchanting photographs of Santa Barbara bring the viewer back home again to scenes both comforting and festive. While the images that form this exhibition are drawn from her journeys around the world, these are works that seem to reside closest to the photographer’s heart.