WELCOME TO THE DLG: The monthly art even 1st Thursday has caught on so well that one can travel through three or more worlds of art without leaving De la Guerra Street. Once an anchor of the early years of 1st Thursday in her second-floor State and DLG location, Erika Carter has joined with eight other women to form a collective and open a new gallery called The Project, which is right on De la Guerra Plaza (740 State Street, Suite 1). The Project features the work of Erika Carter, Ashley Dart, Theresa Carter, Donna Ayscough, Virginia McCracken, Lisa Pedersen, Susan Tibbles, Lloyd Dallett, and Liz Brady. Their 1st Thursday events involve live music and wine, and they attract the cream of the fine-art-zone-society crop. Thanks to the generosity of their landlord, Gene Montesano, this nonprofit operation is also in a position to donate 20 percent of its sales to Girls Inc.
The work on display reflects the grounded lives and sophisticated sensibilities of the women who make it. Organic forms and layered surfaces abound, as does the influence of folk art objects, such as Mexican ex-votos and retablos. The subtlety of Tibbles’s and McCracken’s assemblage would bring a smile to Joseph Cornell himself, were he to somehow appear at one of these soirées. Brady inflects her observations of natural forms, like hogweed, magnolia, and sycamore, with jazzy harmonies of palette and geometry. Pedersen paints California’s trees with a distinctive touch—equal parts fine draftsmanship and misty luminosity. The effect of The Project as a whole, especially on a festive 1st Thursday evening, is enchanting, conjuring a Santa Barbara full of beautiful and intelligent people that’s straight out of a Nancy Meyers film.
Across the way at Casa de la Guerra (9. E. De la Guerra St.), the intrepid plein air artist and man about town Chris Potter presided over a plein air painting competition—a contest from which he very tactfully excluded himself, even though he participated. Entrants were given just two hours in which to complete an entire canvas, and the results were hung on portable pegboards in the center of the casa’s courtyard for evaluation. I was one of the judges, along with Kendall Pata of the S.B. Museum of Art, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event, from the excitement and enthusiasm of the artists and the audience to the challenge of making an informed critical decision about the pictures, many of which were excellent. In the judging process, lists were compiled, comparisons both direct and indirect were made, and, I have to admit, there was even some name-calling. (I seem to remember being labeled a “Kinkade lover,” or something of that sort.) In the end, all was forgiven, and we were able to agree on Charmaine Jacobs’s “Flag,” which received the first prize of $100. Jacobs, who was on hand to receive the good news, proclaimed her delight, made the obligatory gestures toward never having won anything before, and then revealed that “to a mother of four children, two hours is actually a lot of time.”
Over at the Contemporary Arts Forum, which is on the second floor of the Paseo Nuevo, but also clearly on De la Guerra, the anarchy that is CAF’s Forum Lounge was in full swing until after 8 p.m. The series, curated by Heather Jeno Silva, brings all kinds of offbeat art and media performances to town, and this week’s offering, by Extreme Animals (David Wightman and Jacob Ciocci), mashed up video with live and recorded music accompanied by impromptu announcements and a general attitude of absorbing irreverence. These guys really know their LOLcats, and their cartoon programs, and their ’80s dance videos, and all kinds of other neat stuff that looks great together, especially sped up, processed, and glitched together with some fat beats.