Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the Santa Barbara arts scene is its seemingly endless capacity for surprise. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes someone with an idea that sets the whole thing on its ear once again. Such has been the impact of Claudia Borfiga and Matt Head, a married couple from the U.K. who will be in residence this week at the Arts Fund.
They moved to Santa Barbara just over two years ago so that Head could take a position as design director at Hoka One One, the division of Deckers responsible for creating some of the coolest, most technically innovative footwear in running. Both Head and Borfiga are graduates of Loughborough University, an innovative public research institution in the East Midlands that combines art training with a wide variety of technical specialties, including a significant emphasis on the science of sport. The current Chancellor of Loughborough is Sebastian Coe, an Olympic gold medalist in middle-distance running.
Since arriving in Santa Barbara, Claudia Borfiga has become active in the area arts scene as a printmaker, forming with Bay Hallowell and others an organization called Print Power that’s dedicated to bringing the basics of screen printing to ordinary people and to putting art in the service of various types of social good. In April 2018, Borfiga and Hallowell ran a monthlong workshop in screen printing at the Community Arts Workshop on Garden Street designed for survivors of sexual assault. After training with advocacy groups Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (formerly the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center) and Campus Advocacy, Resources, and Education (CARE) at UCSB, they succeeded in helping approximately 50 people to use printmaking to validate their experience and express their feelings.
On Friday, May 10, Borfiga and Head will fling open the doors of the Arts Fund gallery on Santa Barbara Street in the Funk Zone for three days of My Friend Is Sad, a pop-up show dedicated to the idea that sadness, unlike its neighbor depression, is not a treatable medical condition but rather a basic emotion of human life. Through prints, drawings, and other materials in part generated by an online survey about coping mechanisms, the artists will deliver a thoughtful experience intended to make sadness less stigmatized. Developmental psychologists have long known that in settings where being sad is “not allowed,” people develop undesirable symptoms such as mania. In talking about their own experiences of sadness, the couple has learned a lot about how “saddos” think, and about how individuals’ feelings of sadness differ from one another.
As anyone familiar with the work of either of these artists will know, there’s going to be plenty to be happy about in their exhibit, which is vibrant, imaginative, and full of brilliant ideas. What’s special about this show is that there will also be space for the other side of things, and sympathy, kindness, and curiosity as well.
4•1•1 | My Friend Is Sad opens at the Arts Fund on Friday, May 10, 5-9 p.m., and runs Saturday, May 11, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, May 12, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.