Brad Nack's "Milky Planet People"

Brad Nack's "Milky Planet People"

New Art by Peg Grady, Raphael Perea de la Cabada, and More

Art Seen Checks out Solo and Group Shows Across the County

ANYBODY HOME? It’s one of the first things we learn to draw in school: the inverted triangle of a pitched roof, the square of walls and floor, a door and window, maybe a chimney emitting a happy tuft of smoke. There’s no symbol that speaks more directly to a sense of belonging, and of safety, than a house. Funny, then, that Peg Grady’s current show at The C Gallery (466 Bell St., Los Alamos) unsettles our cozy notions of home. The show is called A Sense of Place, and every one of Grady’s canvasses and collages is dedicated to the house, in one guise or another. But these are not the idealized domiciles of childhood reverie. Some occupy desolate plains; others perch at the edge of cliffs. There are houses that disappear in the mist, and houses that defy the laws of gravity, floating high above the horizon. Ghostly white and slashes of black dominate Grady’s works; sunset orange and sky blue complete the palette. The darkest works—a series of four collages incorporating newspaper clippings and smudges of charcoal—are the stuff of nightmares. Paths meander into darkness, rooflines tilt, and blackness threatens to swallow the whole tangled mess. Yet in other works, houses are things of whimsy. One such work is aptly titled, “Sometimes the Houses Seem to Dance with Happiness.” A Sense of Place runs through Wednesday, September 7.

Dug Uyesaka's "Where to Begin"
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Dug Uyesaka’s “Where to Begin”

THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES: What do the Earth and its inhabitants look like from a distant perspective? To answer this question, S.B. artist Brad Nack (of reindeer fame) showed artists a 1968 photograph of planet Earth taken from the Moon and asked them to create work inspired by the image. The resulting show, Earth from Space, is on view at MichaelKate Interiors (132 Santa Barbara St.) now through Sunday, August 14. Among the 40 interpretations is cartoonist Molly Hahn’s “The Tourist,” a pudgy green papier-mâché alien who clutches a map of downtown Santa Barbara in his tentacles. Marina DeBris salvages barnacle-crusted bouncy balls from the beach, repurposing them as tiny planets where prospectors in hard hats dig and survey. On the conceptual end, there’s Dug Uyesaka’s “Where to Begin” assemblage, which incorporates corrugated aluminum with upside-down motel signs reading “VACANCY” and “FULL,” and Dan Levin’s “We Are Here,” consisting of a blue-and-green rubber ball suspended all alone in front of a star-studded canvass. Nack himself offers a lighthearted painting—“Milky Planet People”—in which two antennaed types ogle each other, their mouths forming Os of surprise. More serious but equally entertaining is Marlene Struss’s digital collage, “Burden of the Yellow Brick Road.” Here, human figures stagger and bend under the weight of their worldly goods: trucks and sofas, fountains and Tiffany lamps, even entire houses. It’s a startling portrait of life on Earth, and a daring one to hang in an upscale furniture store.

Spaces We Touch - Espacios Que Tocamos III” by Raphael Perea de la Cabada
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Spaces We Touch - Espacios Que Tocamos III” by Raphael Perea de la Cabada

MAKING CONTACT: Two human figures stand less than an arm’s length apart, facing each other and reaching into the black space between them. They are humanoid yet monstrous; each gazes at the other through a single enormous eye, and where they touch, their arms morph into snakes. In Raphael Perea de la Cabada’s current show on view at the Architectural Foundation (229 E. Victoria St.), these two figures appear in numerous frames. As in cave painting or early iconography, repetition establishes their significance. The show is called Spaces We Touch/Espacios Que Tocamos, and in the series of the same name, lightning bolts, blobs, and squiggles spring from the figures’ heads. Is it a form of language, or simply a representation of feeling?

There are echoes here of Pre-Columbian art, as there are in the more abstract works—homemade paper printed with the dense texture of basket weave, bearing symbolic marks and Nahuatl words—all symbolizing traces of human exchange.

The artist will hold a reception at the gallery tonight, Thursday, August 4, from 5-8 p.m. The show runs through Wednesday, August 24.

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