“Scopic” by Ida Badal | Credit: Courtesy

An ecstatic vision of color and an introspective journey of shape, the Windward exhibit at My Pet Ram in the Funk Zone — curated by Marcello Ricci — features the work of Ida Badal and Ryan Nord Kitchen, two American artists whose respectively successful work comes together in conversation over sight and memory in the natural world. “Ida and Ryan both offer a fresh take on our relationship with nature that I thought art lovers in Santa Barbara would appreciate,” says Ricci. The intimacy of his gallery provides the ideal environment in which to consider art and uncover your own interpretations. These are some of mine.

Kitchen’s work is a reminder of landscapes, emphasizing the negative space of land rather than agonizing over specific geographic features. The lines within each piece are insinuations of these features, anchoring the eyes in vague yet familiar spaces. And the colors! Kitchen does not stray from bold palettes with lighter colors resting atop darker colors — in conversation with them — as if the air itself can be seen. Kitchen’s use of color is striking in the use of contrasting colors that interrupt the muted or vivid palette that consumes a piece. 

“NM15 (Wind)” contains a light blue laid upon red and brown shades conveying a blustery evening in which no reason can be derived for the wind’s direction. A circle in the top left corner evokes the full moon over this scene of color and spontaneous play. “NM14 (Sandia)” features a hot sun blazing over mountains and valleys of an American desert. In the lower center is a shock of blue, contrasting with the hot tones throughout the piece and perhaps suggesting a mirage of water amid the desert scene: a reminder of my time riding through the New Mexican desert, where Kitchen currently resides, and pondering the seemingly endless stretches of red earth. These pieces, and others within the Windward exhibit, work to subvert the traditions of landscape painting, opting for fragmentation and unspoken observations.

NM 4 (Red Dirt),” 2023, by Ryan Nord Kitchen | Credit: Courtesy

Badal’s work reminds me of my home river in Sonoma County. “Gathering” transports me to summers plunging into deep parts of the water and seeing light glint in bubbles as I, briefly suspended, opened my eyes before rising to the surface. According to Ricci, the dots and rounded shapes found across Badal’s work in the Windward exhibit “investigate the depth of field held in traditional painting while visually referring to photographic bokeh and electronic microscopy.” Badal’s use of striking frames of red and white encourage this perception in the way it forces the eye to un-focus from the center of image, blurring yet seeing more clearly. As is the case in “Scopic,” whose marbled earth tones read like an evening viewing of river water, getting as close as you could get your face to it without touching — like a child exploring. Badal’s work encourages viewers to look softly in order to perceive the worlds that roundness can communicate.

I stood in the gallery for some time, trying to understand the work of these artists, and when I finally wrapped my head around what I was seeing and feeling, I felt as though I had tapped into the part of myself begging to be heard: the part that needed to slow down, blur the lines, and give attention to intuition. Both artists conjure déjà vu, their work respectively acting as meditations on perception and nostalgia. They blur what is taken for granted, allowing the viewer to focus on the unheroic yet essential details available to sight, perhaps of life. In doing so, these details become grand, truly embodying worlds. I call on art fans to experience this exhibit while it lasts. 

Windward is on view at My Pet Ram (16 Helena Ave.) until Sunday, June 25. Gallery hours are Friday-Sunday from noon-6 p.m. and by appointment. For more information about this exhibition, visit mypetram.com or email info@mypetram.com.


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