Three Ways Santa Barbara Artists Are Putting the “Art” Back in “Heart”

Betsy Gallery's "Peace & Love"

How do I love thee?” The visual responses of several regional artists to this burning, age-old question are a far cry from the overly sentimental expressions proffered by Hallmark. Provocative, sensual, dark, and humorous variations on the themes of love and romance are on view at Valentine-themed exhibitions downtown throughout February. From the ancient art of mosaic to the quirky charms of assemblage, these imaginative and calorie-free confections offer a romantic means of setting the mood and honoring St. Valentine. And what’s not to love about that?

1) Love’s Labors: A Valentine Mosaic, featuring Betsy Gallery’s intricate, painstakingly handcrafted mosaics, explores both the joys and the dark side of love and desire. Gallery’s art is infused with gentle, and sometimes sly, humor. Under her saw blade, found items ranging from vintage china to tacky Teleflora ceramics become rose petals, flames, and borders, incorporated into mosaics of ceramic tile, dichroic glass, gold Italian and iridescent Mexican smalti, and even fragments of tinted auto glass. The black heart taking flight on gilded wings in “Roses Are No Longer Red” sends an unmistakable message to a former sweetheart, with a verbal twist on the classic love poem. Love’s Labors is on view at Gallery 113, Number 8, La Arcada Court, 1114 State Street, through Saturday, March 1. Call 965-6611 or visit sbartassoc.org.

2) Aphrodite’s Dilemma: Annette Matrisciano’s newest body of artwork (on view at Grayphics) offers oils, acrylics, drawings, mixed media, and poetry inspired by the timeless topic of romance. Aphrodite’s dilemma is being in love, a wild ride that, despite the exhilaration, has never been easy-not even for gods and goddesses. Matrisciano’s romantic musings are rendered in spectrums of lush reds and purples, a fitting palette for her blush-worthy subject matter. Aphrodite’s Dilemma is on view at Grayphics, Number 7, La Arcada Court, through February 29. Call 899-2387 or visit grayphics.com.

3) Love, Tibbles: This selection of tiny assemblage valentines on view at Gallery Ocho for five days during Valentine’s week offers an intimate exhibition in an intimate setting on that most intimate of subjects. Susan Tibbles will share more than 75 whimsical, wry, and provocative mixed-media treasures, crafted of miniature artist mannequins, hearts, and found objects. With an artist’s reception on Thursday, February 14, love at first sight just might happen on Valentine’s Day. Love, Tibbles is on view February 12-16 at Gallery Ocho, Number 8, Victoria Court, 1221 State Street. Call 965-3054 or visit galleryocho.com.

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