THE VIEW FROM HERE: When acclaimed fine-art photographer Joyce Tenneson decided to curate a new collection of images, she started with a simple request. “Send me a photograph that mirrors something in your inner life,” she asked a group of international artists, “and tell me what the image means to you.”
The result is The View Project, recently published in book form by Blurb and on view in Santa Barbara at the Brooks Institute’s Gallery 27 (27 E. Cota St.) now through April 30. The exhibition features more than 50 images, each one accompanied by a short statement from the artist.
What’s fascinating about this collection are the recurrent themes, both in subject matter and in the meaning the artists ascribe to the scenes they capture. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of stunning landscapes: a Kenyan sunrise, penguins waddling through Antarctic glaciers, a rural cottage in Ireland, Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal. Bodies of water, snow-covered hills, deserts, plains, and cityscapes abound. What comes as a revelation are the connections between apparently disparate images, as evidenced by the artists’ statements. Iva Peele writes of “the dance” of nature she detects in her pinhole camera image of a swamp in the Hudson River Valley, while Rick Chapman claims he did not notice the “dancing figure” at the center of his “Hayroll, Michigan” until he printed the image. And in Deborah Sandidge’s “Feather Count,” a young female egret preens her wing, her long neck bent in an elegant pose reminiscent of a Degas ballerina.
Desolation, decay, and loss recur, too. Sand ripples across the floor of an abandoned house in “Namibia,” a startling image that artist Stephen Starkman refers to as “a still life in slow motion.” It’s a similar story in Peter Ralston’s “Tumblehome,” where the ribs of a dwelling lie moldering on a desolate hillside. Ralston recognizes the voyeuristic nature of his position in this scene, calling the image “a portrait of those who are long gone and yet, still, very present.”
A photograph is by definition a momentary glimpse of the world, and Gerd Ludwig captures the sense of fleeting vision in “Trans-Siberian Railroad.” Through the center of an ice-crusted window, a stand of trees appears in a snowfield, and power lines cut across a flat, gray sky. It’s an utterly quotidian scene, and at the same time deeply evocative of loneliness, of longing, and of loss. In his statement, Ludwig describes a memory from childhood: “Oblivious to the poverty of the cramped space, I listen to the sad, soothing voice of my father as he conjures images of endless winter landscapes.” Like the scene they accompany, Ludwig’s words conjure a singular moment, its edges obfuscated in mystery.
A SENSE OF PLACE: The Santa Barbara Art Association enters its sixth decade this year and marks the occasion with a wide-ranging group show. Santa Barbara Art Roots: Celebrating 60 Years is on view through August 19 at the Channing Peake Gallery, inside the County Administration Building (105 E. Anapamu St.). Juror Hiroko Yoshimoto has chosen a varied collection—oil paintings and watercolors, sculptures and prints, abstracts and still lifes—and while they don’t all reference the region directly, most evoke a strong sense of place. Of course, there are familiar scenes, like the sweeping stretch of coast in Ann Shelton Beth’s lovely “Breakwater” and Warner Nienow’s brooding “Chapala Street Memories.” But there are also other works that speak subtly to Santa Barbara as a site, including “Fire Story,” Joyce Wilson’s small mixed-media work where streaks of gold and black burn deep red at the edges.
PRIME REAL ESTATE: Right in the heart of downtown, the Elizabeth Gordon Gallery (15 W. Gutierrez St.) showcases homegrown talent. Swing by the space before May 20 to check out the high-energy work of street artist GONE and his buddy Wallace Piatt. They’ve also got works at Reds (211 Helena Ave.), a short walk away in the Funk Zone.