ALL TOGETHER NOW: From Gaviota to the Funk Zone, Coast Village Road to the Bacara Resort & Spa, groups small and large are coming together this spring to share art. Telling the tales of just three of these recent collaborations conveys some of the breadth and intensity of Santa Barbara’s art scene today. This month, it’s possible to traverse multiple worlds without leaving town, and to encounter the work of artists who are crossing boundaries and joining forces in both familiar and unfamiliar ways. When vested interests are set aside and creators step out of their comfort zones, interesting things begin to happen.
PHOTOS OKAY: Let’s start at the Bacara Resort, where the artists under the banner of SCAPE (or Southern California Artists Painting for the Environment) are having a two-day festival they’re calling Visions of the Gaviota Coast Friday-Saturday, April 18-19. More than 100 paintings will be on display in a show that was juried by John Iwerks, and they will be available for purchase on Friday through a silent auction. For this exhibition, the SCAPE artists have decided to take a step that’s very much out of character for the organization: They’re including photography alongside predominantly plein air painting. Photographer and longtime eco-activist Reeve Woolpert, who will be the lone cameraman in this sea of paintbrushes and easels, gets that special privilege because of the quality of his work, which is wonderful, but also because of another special collaboration, which is Woolpert’s history of working effectively with Bacara General Manager Kathleen Cochran on setting up these annual shows. When I spoke with Woolpert recently, he expressed the desire that the Visions of Gaviota exhibit become the point of departure for even more unprecedented steps, saying that his “audience has the inclination but needs to be pushed over the edge into activism.” Like the artists of SCAPE, Woolpert sees the Bacara Resort as both a potential partner in the preservation of Gaviota and as a potential foe in the ongoing legal battles over such developments as the nearby Paradiso del Mare. Woolpert’s photos record his love for the original state of the land, and they reflect a passionate engagement with the community’s decision-making processes regarding future development. When he’s not busy advocating for the preservation of beach-access trails and the like, Woolpert can be found traveling lightly along the Gaviota coast with his camera, recording the vanishing beauty that lies just off the beaten track.
DISCOVERING SCULPTURE: Poet and philanthropist Robert Emmons got started making sculptures through the encouragement and guidance of one of his closest friends, the Montecito-based artist Aristides Demetrios. Demetrios has had a long and distinguished artistic career, working for both public institutions and private clients in prominent locations all over the world. Santa Barbarans don’t need to go far to see his work — there’s a great example on the beautiful expanse of lawn leading from SBCC’s Garvin Theatre down toward West Beach. When Emmons took his first lessons in sculpture from Demetrios, both men were fast approaching their eighties, and neither knew where it would lead. Now, two years and several trips to Florence, Italy, later, Emmons has a show at Alex Mertens Fine Art on Coast Village Road in which he is paired with his neighbor Tom Mielko, who is exhibiting his highly detailed drawings of some of the animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo. “To be able to express yourself in bronze really is something,” says art dealer Mertens of Emmons’s work, which has proven to be an unexpected hit with the art-buying public. “Bob’s conversation with the bronze is just getting started,” he observed as we wandered from one striking figure to another. While clearly owing a great deal to such high Modernist icons as Alberto Giacometti, with this show, up through May 4, Emmons puts his own hand-crafted mark on the genre.
FUNKY FREE-FOR-ALL: Close by in actual space, but miles away in feeling, there’s a collaborative group show at Reds Bar & Tapas right now involving four artists, three of whom are perhaps best known for their street art. David J. Diamant, Martin Diaz, Philip Koplin, and Skye Gwilliam agreed on the show’s subject, which is women, and on the title, which is One Track Mind, and then, at least if Diamant’s version of the process is to be believed, the rumble began. Using stencils and pasteups as collective points of departure, the artists in One Track Mind freely exchanged ideas and actual works to be further marked and elaborated by one another. The result is a show that’s buzzing with masculine energy, at least part of which was conjured out of rivalry and friendly disagreement. “When we face off to do something like this, it’s almost like a rap battle,” Diamant told me on Saturday, as music resounded off the walls of Reds in the early evening. The show is on view until May 4.