Artist Sarah Rosalena at the opening of her exhibition titled “Pointing Star.” | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

For those as-yet uninformed, the long-standing and culturally important MCASB (Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, formerly Contemporary Arts Forum) has been rebirthed, with a new energy and direction. Following an official demise last fall, due to struggles relating to management, money, and the pandemic, its death has, thankfully, been greatly exaggerated. A consortium of parties revived the venue earlier this year, keeping this vital contemporary art space on our radar and downtown real estate.

Sarah Rosalena: Pointing Star is on view at MCASB through July 30. | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

This more-than-welcome news on Santa Barbara’s art landscape moves steadily forward with the opening of Sarah Rosalena’s Pointing Star, a minimal, fascinating new exhibition with connections of local resonance and beyond — and into the beyond. Rosalena, a Los Angeles–born artist who works as an assistant professor of art at UCSB, is presenting her first Santa Barbara museum show, manifested as a harmoniously linked grouping of ceramics and elaborate and meditative textile wall pieces. Collectively, in Pointing Star, the varied pieces adhere to the anchoring motif of the eight-pointed star both cosmic and earth-grounded, from “Turtle Island” (an indigenous reference to the planet, or North America) to the celestial outer limits.

Rosalena’s lineage aligns her with the indigenous Wixárika people, from Mexico and the Sierra Madre range in the United States, better known to the outside world as the Huichol people. Ancient qualities of Wixárika culture and spirituality weave through Rosalena’s art, but the organic feel and textures of this art also slyly intersect with digital realities and technology. As a professor, Rosalena teaches Computational Craft and Haptic Media, and delves into dualities of computer systems and hand-crafted work, and other seeming dichotomies.

Her rich textile pieces, in fact, have been generated both by programming and hand-weaving: Digital means meet the loom in her artistic toolbox. Although the pieces evoke authentic Native American woven artists, additional patterns and imagery are sometimes embedded into the overall design, including palimpsest-like hints of the Milky Way as seen by the Hubble Telescope.

Similarly, the small “pointing star”–based ceramic sculptures in the gallery space — organic as they seem on first glance — were created both with software and fleshware, using 3D printing as well as the long pre-digital ceramicist methods of antiquity. With the eight-star theme treated in multiple ways, in conical “horn of plenty” enclosures or free-standing medallions, the sculptures take on a talismanic character, steeped in a spiritual yearning toward the universe from its earthly foundation.

In Pointing Star, the sum effect invites a layered, contemplative appreciation for the empathetic link of the pieces. But the individual pieces also reward the eye and senses. The textiles vary in palette and design elements, from piece to piece, and also in terms of the presence of frayed fringes. Some extend below, some from all sides, and, in one anomalous instance, dangling from the upper edge, bangs-style.

Rosalena’s easy-on-the-eyes and yet deeply nuanced exhibition makes for an ideal example of inclusive artistic curatorial vision put forth in the renewed — and still re-inventing — forum of the new MCASB. The dream cycle continues.

Sarah Rosalena: Pointing Star is on view at MCASB through July 30. The museum is located at 653 Paseo Nuevo and is open Tuesday–Sunday from 11 a.m.–6 p.m. with free admission thanks to generous donations. See

Visitors enjoy Sarah Rosalena: Pointing Star at MCASB | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom


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