You may have already seen the paper versions of these clever postcards around town. Iconic beach town images get the graffiti, mustache-on-the-“Mona Lisa” treatment. But it’s the virtual versions of these images currently displayed on the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau Web site that really say it all. Through the miracle of modern digital animation, we see these wholesome images go cutting-edge as the animated overlay appears and spreads before our eyes: a 1940s-era sunbather appears and is then covered in tattoos. A clean-cut Gidget-era surfer sprouts a Mohawk and stylized licks of flame. The images were designed to promote Off-Axis, the big new contemporary art festival coming to town this month, and the caption for all of them reads the same: “Edgy. Progressive. Mind-blowing. Not the adjectives you’d necessarily expect from Santa Barbara.” Exactly.
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After a brief rain in Santa Fe Springs, the black remains of oil previously splattered across asphalt gather to form perfectly concentric circles. Shigemi Uyeda, a Japanese-American photographer, takes notice, but the lighting is not right. He waits, and checks back the next morning, hoping the arrangement has not been destroyed. With a stroke of luck and the help of the sun, the circles are still there, looking up and nearly glowing. The image is so perfect that it seems prearranged. It is abstract enough as a photo that the viewer may even wonder what the subject is. Click.
Somewhere not far from the heart of Old Town Goleta is a young man working minutely in film, most days mostly alone. He’s a night person and he’s an animator. And for a young man, he is very old school.
He works on a genormous electric machine called an animation stand – one of the last left in the country – built in the 1930s, on which, legend holds, the Peanuts cartoons were made. (It’s also rumored that the feature film FernGully was, too, but the young man is happy to disbelieve that one.) His machine’s about five feet across, with a roller for panning effects; the camera and upright zooming column tops six feet high.