The Arts Fund Gallery continues to mount impressive shows that demonstrate how active the contemporary art scene in our city really is. In the case of Stone Soup, the new group exhibition curated by and featuring the artists of Can(n)on Studios, that city is … Goleta. Since 2010, Can(n)on’s open-plan workspace for artists located in Old Town has been a powerful source of new work and new ideas, with husband-and-wife team Kimberly Hahn and James Van Arsdale leading the way.
Stone Soup is actually the second show for the Can(n)on Studios artists as a group, although the roster of artists has changed since they were last featured at SBCC’s Atkinson Gallery. This installation, which was done by the artists with help and inspiration from Arts Fund boardmember Nancy Gifford, makes brilliant use of the former fish store in the Funk Zone.
On the wall immediately across from the gallery entrance, UCSB’s Elizabeth Folk has installed two of her characteristically provocative, mind-bending pieces, each with a story to tell. “You’ll Never Work in This Town Again” (2016) is an abstract version of a pillory, that medieval punishment device which held wrongdoers by the neck and both wrists so that passersby could ridicule and abuse them. In Folk’s 21st-century aestheticized version, the heavy wooden structure has the clean white surfaces and geometric anonymity of a modernist object, but with one unsettling exception — a thin strand of birdseed marking the line where the upper and lower bars of the pillory meet. It’s an interesting variation on the familiar format of the triptych, and it invites viewers to imagine what it might be like to wear the device’s collar and cuffs. Next to the pillory on the wall, the artist has placed a second triptych, this time with three small video screens set inside a broad frame covered in tiny strips of decoupaged shredded newsprint. “Slooot” (2015/16) examines many of the same ideas present in the pillory next to it — public shaming, the need to disappear, and the use of force in capturing people’s attention.