A pen-and-ink drawing of Wallace Stevens by Mac Oliver.

The creation and appreciation of art and poetry are often considered, perhaps with some truth, to be not quite as much fun as grabbing a beer and playing a game of pool. Elsie’s, one of Santa Barbara’s favorite watering holes, has cleverly figured out how to combine all four-and getting your dose of culture has never been so easy.

Elsie’s is known both for its interesting decor and ambiance and for the intimate atmosphere enjoyed by its patrons. Enhancing both of these fine attributes through the end of April are the pen-and-ink drawings of Mac Oliver, a poet, artist, and Elsie’s regular.

It is poetry that has absorbed Oliver in recent years, but in the process of reading and writing copious quantities he began to draw portraits of some of those poets whose work he has most enjoyed. The more than 45 pen-and-ink drawings-and several paintings-that comprise the show are the product of the past year’s work, and many use poets as their subjects. His portrait of Wallace Stevens (pictured above) draws a great deal of its symbolic content from the author’s writings.

The snake at his feet is both an echo of Stevens’s works and of the placement of snakes at the feet of saints in Catholic art. The ocean is also featured in several of Stevens’s poems, and for Oliver it relates the drawing to Santa Barbara, as do the animals in the foreground-each of which represents species common to California.

Both visually and conceptually textured, the drawing is representative of Oliver’s work, which intriguingly captures the three-dimensional qualities of each of his subjects. Other poets represented in the show include T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound, with many more pieces portraying jazz musicians, Elsie’s employees, and political and historical figures. Oliver said he intends his work to be “visually engaging and potentially satirical,” and added that “this may be the opening shot before I do something more.”

It’s certainly to be hoped that he will, as the drawings shown this month offer a tantalizing glimpse of a unique talent. Pen Drawings by Mac Oliver will be on display at Elsie’s (117 W. De la Guerra St.; 21 and older) through the end of April. Call 963-4503 for details.


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