Matt Moore's "White Owl Surf Shop, Summerland 1962."

THE HEART OF REPRESENTATION: On a wet, gray morning last week, I ducked under an awning out of the spitting rain and found myself face-to-face with a curious character. A halo of gray hair framed her wide, rosy face; her mouth was a smear of fuchsia lipstick. Her high-necked sweater was forest green, while on her feet she wore floppy black shoes, like a circus clown. In one hand she held a pair of knitting needles, and at her feet sat a smiling dog. This, I was soon to discover, was “Mimi,” as painted by five-year-old Aidan Carlander.

Aidan Carlander's "Mimi."

Now through June 15, you’ll find “Mimi” and a host of other characters populating one wall at Elizabeth Gordon Gallery (15 W. Gutierrez St.). The show of portraits by Montessori School students is the second in the gallery’s Art Is Vital series, a children’s artwork program launched by gallery owner Heidi Ferguson and fellow mothers Sue Young and Mindy Thomas. Last month, the gallery displayed three-dimensional mandalas from Washington School; later in June, they’ll be showing installation art by students at Open Alternative.

For now, it’s bright, eye-catching family portraits on display. Some are accompanied by straightforward titles, such as Antoine Macquet’s “My Dad Playing Soccer,” while others have been given descriptions that are as colorful as the paintings themselves. (My favorite: “My mom is dancing in the grass with toenail polish on her big feet.”) Some featured mothers are wearing Ugg boots while pumping iron; others are off to work in blouses and high heels. Every one of these works is a celebration of family and of the joy of artistic creation. Stop by the gallery on your way to breakfast at D’Angelo’s, or join the artists and their families for a reception on Thursday, June 3, 5-8 p.m.

Oh, and for the record, “Mimi” goes down among the most beguiling portraits I’ve ever seen.

SUN, SEA, AND SURF: Rincon, Jalama, Point Conception, Refugio: they’re names that evoke our region’s spectacular beaches. They’re also the subjects of Matt Moore’s paintings. Moore is the owner of Carpinteria-based Rincon Designs surf shop. He’s been surfing and shaping boards since he was a kid and has more recently taken up plein aire oil painting. Now through Monday, June 28, at 33 Jewels (814 State St.), you’ll find nearly 30 of Moore’s works, almost all of which depict the coastal landscape he knows and loves.

From tiny works like the six-by-nine-inch “East Beach Moonrise” to much larger, sweeping vistas like “Gold Coast,” Moore shows an intimate familiarity with the colors and textures of ocean and sky. In the latter, purple mountains ripple down into creased foothills before dipping their toes into the sea. Farther south, a set rolls in. Other works are studies of tidal action: “Jelly Bowl Rocks” captures the ocean’s surge and froth with a loose, impressionistic touch; the sky above is tinged with pink.

In a nod to his board shaping roots, Moore includes a single surfboard in the show—though one that’s unlikely ever to receive a saltwater christening. It’s called “Suku,” after the Chumash people who once populated the Rincon area, and it stands sentinel on the landing of the stairs that lead to the shop’s upper level. Its rails are graced with gold leaf, its sleek black epoxy surface is inlaid with iridescent abalone shell, and Moore has painted an energetic seascape across its deck.

There’s one painting that stands apart from the others: “White Owl Surf Shop, Summerland 1962.” In this scene, taken from an old photograph and embellished by Moore’s childhood memory, a classic 1950s Ford with tail fins is parked out front, and a group of boys gather at the shop door as if waiting impatiently for it to open. Like all the works in this show, it’s an homage to the Central Coast and its surf culture.


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