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“Pacific Oil” (detail) by Laura Lynch (2001).

“Pacific Oil” (detail) by Laura Lynch (2001).


Lost, Found, Assembled

A Look at Assemblage Art


MESSAGES IN DRIFTWOOD: For many years, assemblage artist Laura Lynch lived near the Miramar Hotel. Every morning she walked her dog along the beach, and each time she came home with a new find: a rusty crab trap, a barnacle-crusted porthole, a piece of frayed rope. “For a long time, I didn’t know what I was going to do with all of it,” she said recently. Today, her Westside studio is filled with sculptural works that incorporate the treasures she salvaged from the sea. An oil-coated panel from a boat’s hull has been cut in thirds and made into a triptych storyboard. In one segment, a black-and-white photograph of an oil rig emerges from the dark stickiness. Nearby, Lynch has collaged a cormorant and a lifesaver against an image of the Santa Barbara coastline.

Lynch thinks of these pieces collectively as her Pacific Series, and each work in the series carries its own message about the environment. One piece incorporates bits of surfboards, float, and buoys, and colorful plastic shells from ammunition—Lynch’s response to the culling of feral pigs on Santa Cruz Island. Another, “Fair Game,” includes deer antlers, rifles, and gun club emblems in a commentary on the killing of deer in Point Reyes, California.

In many of these works, Lynch juxtaposes the past and the present, reflecting on where we have come and hinting at where we might be going. A charred menu from Moby Dick restaurant salvaged after the Santa Barbara wharf burned finds a new home alongside cartoon images of Captain Ahab and photos of modern Japanese whalers and harpoon ships.

Portholes and windows give views into new worlds, while rusty signs deliver cryptic warnings. “Danger: Men Working,” reads one. Through a hatch, we see a hazy image of men leaning against the railing of a ship.

In every work, the artist strikes a balance between aesthetics demands and larger messages, letting the raw materials guide the composition and tell the story. “I am trying to educate and inform people,” Lynch acknowledged. “By putting things together in a new way, I’d like to get people to see things differently.”

To learn more about the Pacific Series, call 687-7435 or visit artistlauralynch.com. The studio at 908 West Islay Street is open every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., or by appointment.

COLLECTIONS OF LOVE: The materials used in assemblage need not be washed ashore to qualify as found art. In the case of Susan Tibbles’s current show at the Tennis Club of Santa Barbara (2375 Foothill Rd.), up through March 9, nostalgic mementos including antique dolls, aged photographs, and doilies nestle alongside more prosaic items like guitar strings and feathers. Each of these miniature works is a unique love letter. Some are sweetly romantic, others are more mysterious. In “Sonata Bon Bon,” a gilt frame encloses a tiny heart-shaped box filled with animal fur. A beady glass eye gazes from its center. Still others veer into the dark end of the spectrum. “Love, Dummy” features a voodoo doll made of age-speckled linen, held down by a strip of copper and clamped to a metal chain that ends in a bulls-eye target. Love, in this case, seems more like a threat than an offer.

Filling out the collection are Rococo valentines replete with cherubim and ornate gold keys, and even a Western-inspired piece with a tiny toy gun and a sheriff’s badge. Tibbles’s playful compilations may not carry political messages, but they bring fresh interpretations to the jumble of knickknacks from which they are composed.

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