Nature’s beauty has been inspiring artists for thousands of years, so it’s not surprising that much of the artwork popping up in unconventional spaces in Santa Barbara is nature-themed. The fact that we live in one of the most beautiful and biologically diverse regions of the world gives area artists extra inspiration. And there’s no shortage of subject matter; from the vast expanse of sea to the smallest detail of a leaf, there’s plenty of nature to go around for everyone.
There are very few businesses in Santa Barbara that are dedicated to the preservation of the natural world more than the Lotus Boutique. The tiny space boasts a tremendous selection of organic, sustainable, and green items for the home, health, and self, including clothing and jewelry. Among these items you’ll also find paintings by regional artist Jeff Campbell, a man who is seemingly obsessed with capturing the perfect wave on canvas. Lotus Boutique owner and jewelry designer Erica Forbes rotates works by Campbell, whose calming landscapes in rich tones of orange, gray, and brown feature variations of peeling, picture-perfect waves.
Across town, tucked away in the corridor of Geissinger Winery’s tasting rooms at East Beach, artist Jill Ashley Hummel is similarly single-minded in her pursuit of the ideal portrait of nature. Her canvases of giant, oversized floral arrangements adorn the tasting room’s walls in bursts of vibrant color. There is a natural sense of movement and energy in her abstracted, overlaid compositions. Her “Solar Power,” evokes a veritable Garden of Eden with flora and fauna competing for space on the canvas.
On the other end of the scale, Kristen Spalding’s pint-sized works at Reds Cafe reveal nature in its quietest moments. Her intimate drawings of leaves and other forest-floor detritus are quietly embedded in soft, pastel palettes. Their faint outlines peeking through the waxy, textured surface remind us of the ephemeral state of the natural world.
Among the many new businesses taking up shop in renovated homes, loop & leaf, a yarn shop and tea store fusion, recently caught my eye. The soothing, homey space boasts a surprising variety of yarns and knitting goods, ample space for trying out new patterns, and sessions with owner Celeste Varner, who will help any level of knitter with her most perplexing questions.
Around the corner, in an adjacent room, Varner has set up a small sitting area with a selection of teas and an equally inspiring collection of drawings by her sister, Alexis Terry BouÂ-chard. BouÂ-chard’s mixed-media works on paper combine gouache, graphite, and colored pencil for seamlessly composed abstract pieces. This particular series was created in Bouchard’s nesting period, during which she prepared for the arrival of her first child and explored the wonderful world of French gastronomy. The results are whimsical but substantial works featuring metaphorical towers of cakes and swirling patterns of frosting color.
Across the room, Varner has displayed the glasswork of Bouchard’s husband, Bradford, whose architecturally inspired patterns are the perfect complement to her layered, complex compositions.
Area artist Carlos Cuellar is well-known to many in our community for his photography, graphic design, and incredible murals, but fewer will know the selection of his expressionist work now on display at Cielo Spa Boutique. Owner Roxanne Zbinden knew Cuellar through a previous job and commissioned him to create paintings for her newly opened space depicting emblematic images of our regional treasures, including Mission Santa Barbara, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, and La Pur-sima in Lompoc. His portraits, bathed in a sunset-inspired color palette, give the Spanish architecture a monumentality worthy of their historical significance.
Ongoing Art Exhibits
Jeff Campbell At Lotus Boutique (637 Chapala St.) indefinitely.
Jill Ashley Hummel (jillashleyart.com) At Geissinger Winery Tasting Rooms (210 State St.) indefinitely.
Kristen Spalding At Reds Cafe (211 Helena Ave.) through June 3.
Alexis Terry & Bradford Bouchard At loop & leaf (536 Brinkerhoff Ave.) indefinitely.
Carlos Cuellar At Cielo Spa Boutique (1725 State St., #C) indefinitely.