State’s history, mythology inspire local artists
Many local residents divide their time between Santa Barbara and their second homes in other cities strewn across the continent. As summer turns to fall, they begin to think about returning to the warmer weather and slower pace of life that Santa Barbara offers.
“California on My Mind,” the current exhibition at Sullivan Goss: An American Gallery, calls them to do just that.
Historic and contemporary paintings, drawings and prints by artists from Southern California highlight the region’s history and mythology.
The artists are Meredith Brooks Abbott, Colin Campbell Cooper, Lockwood de Forest, Henry Chapman Ford, Holli Harmon, Frank Kirk, Mary-Austin Klein, Julika Lackner, Dave Lefner, Susan McDonnell, John Nava, R. Nelson Parrish, Hank Pitcher and John Sykes.
Jeremy Tessmer, gallery director who curated the exhibition, which ends Nov. 22, discussed the works on display.
“Historic items by artists like Mr. Ford (1828-1894), Mr. Sykes (1859-1934), Mr. de Forest (1850-1932) and Mr. Cooper (1856-1937) ground the exhibit. Mr. Ford made his way to Santa Barbara from Chicago in April 1875, becoming the city’s first important resident artist of the American period,” said Mr. Tessmer.
“Mr. Sykes came here from England in about 1890, Mr. De Forest started wintering in the area in 1902, and Mr. Cooper made his way here from New York in 1921, joining the growing ranks of important artists to call the city home.
“Each artist found something to love and an audience who shared their love. For Mr. Ford and Mr. Sykes, it was the Santa Barbara Mission — and indeed, the whole mission chain that fired their imagination. For Mr. De Forest and Cooper, it was the possibility of painting outdoors all year round.
“We get the big dramatic view of the whole coastline in Ms. Lackner’s ‘Twilight 70’ and a certain strange and seductive idea of a Santa Barbara dream home in ‘Sun Bather’ by Mr. Kirk,” said Mr. Tessmer.
Dave Lefner’s neon sign, called “Star Lite, Star Brite,” is an allusion to both stargazing and the celebrities who call the area home, and R. Nelson Parrish’s blue racing stripes radiate California cool.
Mary-Austin Klein and Hank Pitcher paint stylistically distinctive views of the beaches that they return to ritualistically.
“For Mr. Pitcher, it is a daily commitment to Coal Oil Point — the beach closest to UCSB , where he teaches. For Ms. Klein, it is the beach at More Mesa, where she and her husband walk their dog when they are in town,” Mr.Tessmer said.
Seals lazing on the beach are shown in Susan McDonnell’s tonal drawing.
“Some will see mythology, while others will see clear-eyed realism,” according to Mr. Tessmer.
Mr. Nava’s painting of a young woman in a black bikini recalls an ancient Greek sculpture of the Goddess of Love known as the Aphrodite of Rhodes, while Ms. Harmon presents a layered fantasy of the relationship between people and California grizzly bears before the area was colonized by the Spanish.
“The exhibition is finished with the last of the summer blooms by Meredith Brooks Abbott whose painterly vision of wild roses adds a sweet poignancy to the changing of the seasons,” said Mr. Tessmer.