Hank Pitcher, "East Beach & Butterfly" (1985) | Credit: Courtesy

The delightful stretch of road known as Santa Claus Lane in Carpinteria has a new Christmas gift in the form of an elegant art gallery with the charming if unlikely name of Lobster Town U.S.A. Proprietor Maire Radis has assembled an impressive collection of works by four excellent artists, several of whom will be well known to those who follow the Santa Barbara art scene. There’s excellent work on display by Hillary Hauser, John Randall Nelson, Wesley Anderegg, and Brad Nack. The setting is the former site of Porch. Before that, in the 1950s, it was a seafood restaurant and lobster processing facility called — you guessed it — Lobster Town U.S.A.

Hillary Hauser is a distinguished author, underwater photographer, and environmentalist. She’s currently the executive director of Heal the Ocean, the citizen’s action group she cofounded in 1998 that has since gone on to advocate for regional water quality at the state, federal, and international levels. As if photography and activism were not enough to keep one diver busy, Hauser has branched out into painting, and Lobster Town is currently showing several canvases from her striking series Fantastic Fishes.

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Wesley Anderegg’s ebullient ceramic sculptures rank among the most evocative such work being produced anywhere in the world. Eclectic, idiosyncratic, and instantly recognizable, they draw on folk art traditions while exhibiting features of surrealism and dream states. John Randall Nelson paints with insouciance and verve in an idiom that recalls the dry surface palette of Jasper Johns and the wit of Francis Picabia. Brad Nack delivers a robust set of large paintings, including some of his finest recent work, reinforcing his claim to the title as “the Jean Dubuffet of Arroyo Burro.” 

Speaking of beaches, the latest addition to the Lobster Town roster is an unexpected guest of genuinely epic proportions. In 1985, Carine Degli Esposti opened a men’s clothing store on Coast Village Road called East Beach & Butterfly. Seeking to decorate the space with an impressive work of art, she commissioned Hank Pitcher, then a young art instructor at UCSB, to paint a grand beachscape. The resulting picture, named for the shop, is a massive land and seascape, 9′ by 16.5′, depicting the view from East Beach south toward Butterfly Beach and the Coral Casino.

The painting remained on display in the store until Esposti pivoted to selling lingerie under the name Intimo. At that point, the picture was sealed behind a wall — until now. When Carine’s husband, Rino Degli Esposti, died last year, his stepchildren found the work, carefully stored for nearly 40 years. Protection from sunlight has preserved the work’s vibrant colors to a remarkable degree. It can now be seen on the wall in Lobster Town U.S.A., a breathtaking reminder of the enduring majesty of our coast and the prodigious talent of Santa Barbara’s greatest living painter.

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