Artistic couple capture past, present scenes of Solvang
“Widening Circles: Landscape Portraits of Solvang,” a new gallery exhibition with works by Santa Ynez Valley artists Chris Chapman and John Iwerks, is on view through Jan. 9 at the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art in Solvang.
“The circle is a basic element in life as well as art. Each of us creates an expanding circle with the passing of time. In 1911, Solvang’s three founders created a community of dreamers that widened their circles from Denmark to the American Midwest and finally to the Santa Ynez Valley,” said Esther Jacobsen Bates, the museum’s executive director and exhibition curator.
“The works by Chris and John focus on the sites and structures located on the original Solvang lands that now encircle the town. Some images are very much present tense — like farming and Old Mission Santa Inés — while other sites, such as dairy farms, no longer exist.
“The natural environment shown in the art celebrates the views the early settlers enjoyed and the town they built which has become known across the world.”
Ms. Chapman told the News-Press that “the pandemic postponed the exhibit opening, allowing us more time to explore unique locations and make art. Beautiful open landscapes, barns, mills, fields, the town and the river inspired us to paint them with the storied presence of layers of time.”
Also included are tributes to habitat in the form of small works depicting native plants and wildlife.
Ms. Chapman and Mr. Iwerks — husband, wife and best friends — have been making art together for more than 25 years.
Mr. Iwerks primarily works with watercolors and oils; his wife uses pastels, watercolors and oils.
“I seem to keep adding mediums as I go,” Ms. Chapman said. “First oils, then watercolors, then pastels, and now I have added gouache and have new excitement for oils. Certain subjects seem to ask for a certain medium.”
“I don’t have a preferred medium, but work in oils, watercolor, acrylic, stone and clay sculpture,” said Mr. Iwerks. “I’m inspired by landscape, especially focusing on geologic processes (uplift, erosion, etc.).”
Most of their work begins outdoors and finishes in the studio.
“We enjoy painting adventures and the sensory aliveness of working outdoors. The studio offers a more meditative approach without racing the light and provides perks like music and comfort,” Mr. Iwerks said.
Demonstrations by the artists will be presented in the gallery on fall Saturdays. Ms. Chapman will present “Painting With Pastels” from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Oct. 30 and “Watermedia Studies” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 30, and Mr. Iwerks will present “Reflections in Watercolor” from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Nov.13.
“Originally, I had envisioned going further afield in the Santa Ynez Valley for this show, but the Elverhøj had just published ‘The Spirit of Solvang,’ a labor of love by co-authors Ann Dittmer and Ms. Bates. This year marks Solvang’s 110th anniversary, and Esther was influential in wisely guiding us toward a theme focusing on the nearly 9,000 acres settled by the Danes in 1911 that encircled the town,” said Ms. Chapman.
She and Mr. Iwerks met at Gallery 113 in Santa Barbara in 1991 when he was business manager, and she was a featured artist.
“I had asked him to help me hang my show, and he brought homemade cookies,” said Ms. Chapman.
“I think we first painted together on the Mesa in Santa Barbara, then numerous trips on East and West Camino Cielo Road, Highway 33’s Sespe River area and Carrizo Plain, painting the backcountry together,” said Mr. Iwerks, whose interest in art began with cartooning at a young age.
“I was immersed in MAD magazine, and my father’s side of the family was connected with the Disney Studio, so art was a part of my upbringing.”