On behalf of the Arts Fund and in honor of the 20th anniversary of its Individual Artists Awards, PhD and freelance curator Anette Kubitza has put together a blockbuster group show of major Santa Barbara creators. Each year since 1989, the Arts Fund has impaneled a set of judges and chosen to honor a group of artists from a range of media, including poetry and music. This exhibition focuses on the visual artists who received the award, and who make up the majority of its recipients. The statistics alone are impressive-129 artists honored, and more than $160,000 in stipends awarded in just two decades. Although the artists exhibited may have received their awards at any time during the last 20 years, the works chosen for this show are recent, rather than retrospective. The variety and quality testifies to the ongoing vitality of the honorees, and to the prescience of the Arts Fund judges. Genres and media range from pastel landscapes to corrugated steel sculptures, with the emphasis on crisp ideas, flawless execution, and idiosyncratic personal vision.
Ginny Brush has two digital prints that layer text over image in a way that’s reminiscent of postmodern photo-collage artists Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger, and yet all her own with regard to her wistful appropriation of words from success and self-help manuals. If Brush is making art that’s inspired by advertising, then Westmont professor Scott Anderson’s terrific oil illustrations are advertising that’s inspired by, and that succeeds as, art. His 2005 image for an article in Stocks & Commodities magazine, titled “Find Those Market Tops,” portrays a blond super-broker straining toward the sky like a latter-day Icarus approaching the heart of a fiery financial sun.
Nell Campbell’s photographs of the Tea Fire’s decidedly non-metaphorical devastation at Mount Calvary Church are a bittersweet study in contrasts. Bob DeBris’s photos of Civil War reenactors in Moorpark are funny and sad at the same time. Margaret Morrison contributes an amazing object, “Homage to Louise” (2009), which she terms a “reconnoitered frame.” What a great direction for this talented artist and designer. Dane Goodman’s wood-and-metal sculpture called “An Appeal” and matching monotype “Hemoglobin” depict enigmatic totem shapes. Philip Koplin, Ann Sanders, Tom Van Stein, Marie Schoeff, Marlene Struss, and Nicole Strasburg-the list of illustrious participants goes on and on. If there were ever any doubt about this city’s most prestigious art award, this exhibition settles it in favor of the IAA.