Native landscape enchants Canadian artist
Libby Holland is so enchanted with her new life in Santa Barbara that she compares it to Brigadoon, the mythical Scottish village that is idyllic, unaffected by time and remote from reality.
“I am blown away by Santa Barbara. It is still so small. It has preserved its identity. I see so much beauty in the native landscape, the flora and fauna,” said Ms. Holland, a contemporary artist with a vibrant, bold style whose larger-than-life paintings of flowers and native plants have been compared to famed artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
“I am struck by the color, resiliency and architecture of plants, and I see their varied contours as sculptures created by nature.”
Until she moved to Santa Barbara from Palo Alto last September, the self-taught artist, who was born in Toronto, painted large-scale abstracts.
“Living in Santa Barbara and absorbing all its beauty has inspired my evolution in painting and enlarged my definition of native flowers and plants,” said Ms. Holland, who was particularly impressed by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, which displays California native plants in natural settings.
While painting closeups of local succulents in acrylic on canvas in her home studio, she sent a proposal to Heidi Whitman, director of development and communications at the Botanic Garden, offering to do some of her work in the garden while interacting with visitors.
“I thought it would be interesting for them to see a painting unfold and give them a different perspective about the way I see nature and how I experience the Botanic Garden,” Ms. Holland said during a phone interview from her home in the San Roque area, where she lives with her son, Theo, 3, and partner, Marshall Pagaling.
“I also thought it would be a welcome diversion after the isolation of the pandemic and for me as a painter, which is an isolating experience.”
Her proposal resulted in Ms. Holland being named the first Artist-in-
Residence at the Botanic Garden. Since April 21 and through June 27, she can be found from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays near the Gift Shop painting native plants from the garden.
“I plan to do 12 of them, which will be presented in a show and sale from Sept. 24 through 26 that will include prints and posters of the originals. It will be a celebration of the garden and what nature has meant to us all the past year,” said Ms. Holland, who earned her bachelor’s degree from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
So far, she has painted the Coastal California Poppy, Dudleya, Matilija Poppy and Claremont Flowering Currant.
“I’m working on the Island Snapdragon,” said Ms. Holland, who paints from photographs of the plants. “It’s a joy for me to interact with people as I paint. I have found that people are hungry for art events like this. Some have said that I have inspired them to paint themselves.”