Intelligent Design

Art Seen Scopes Everything from Architecture to Art Lofts

FRESH PRODUCE: Wrinkled gourds, tight-skinned pears, papery purple onions, and red-and-yellow heirloom tomatoes, striped with deep furrows—it sounds like a Saturday morning at the Farmers Market. Ginny Speirs’s oil paintings, currently on display at the Architectural Foundation Gallery (229 E. Victoria St.), celebrate the beauty of these organic forms, imbuing them with something close to iconic power. Most of her subjects are edible—fennel, artichoke, beet, and melon—a veritable pantheon of vegetable gods. On one large panel, the central stalks of a radicchio rise pale and turgid, sending their veins into the fleshy leaves. Evidence of human interference is rare, though “Underneath it All” depicts the sliced off top of a pineapple: a mouthwatering sunburst of yellow, framed by bluish green. Speirs’s show runs through April 9; check out her work at

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Two blocks away at the County Administration Building’s Channing Peake Gallery (105 E. Anapamu St.), the Architectural Foundation presents Design Matters, an exhibition of the winning entries from the American Institute of Architects’ 2009 Design Awards. These are the freshest, greenest, most innovative and aesthetically pleasing new buildings and renovations in the region. Among them you’ll find some familiar facades like the Granada Theatre and the Santa Barbara Bowl, as well as slightly less prominent buildings like the Crane Country Day School library, Roblar Winery, and the downtown affordable housing unit Casas las Granadas. The show also includes residential properties characterized by clean lines, breathtaking vistas, and sustainable building materials—it’s a must-see for anyone currently building or renovating a property, as well as anyone who likes to daydream about their dream home. The show remains up through May 14, with related discussions taking place on April 1 and May 6 as part of 1st Thursday.

TREASURES IN THE LOFT: You’re heading down Haley Street toward Milpas when something on the right side of the road catches your eye: a colorful banner waving in the breeze, a cluster of whimsical sculptures made from recycled materials. Last week, curiosity won out: finding myself in this situation for the umpteenth time, I pulled over to nose around. My discovery was this: a treasure trove of found-object art, handmade quilts, jewelry, knitting projects, and friendly folks who call their compound The Loft (720 E. Haley St.).

Bill and Martha Adkins used to run a hardwood lumber mill on the property, but since retirement they’ve transformed the space into an artists’ studio extraordinaire. The ground floor is devoted to Martha’s fabric arts and jewelry projects, while the outdoor space and the eponymous loft are dedicated to Bill’s quirky creations.

One of Bill Adkins's latest creations.
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Art Adkins

One of Bill Adkins’s latest creations.

In his stained denim overalls and a knit cap from beneath which tufts of white hair sprout, Bill is a salty dog who’s seen Santa Barbara grow up over the course of more than 50 years. “I weld up junk,” he proffers before leading me on a personal tour of his gallery. The banister for a spiral staircase that didn’t come out quite right now serves as the spine of a giant hanging mobile. Discarded axes heads and old levels find new life as characters in sculptures with tongue-in-cheek titles like “Final Retirement,” while other works incorporate historic remnants of Santa Barbara institutions, including the old, knife-scarred chopping block from Joe’s. A fanciful penny farthing-style bicycle may not be destined to roll, but it sure is fun to look at. Some might call his collection clutter, but Bill’s not bothered. “I don’t take it too seriously,” he’ll tell you. “I like to play.”

If you’re lucky enough to catch them at play, Bill or Martha might just give you a personal tour.

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