The painters at the Sunday Art Walk in Santa Barbara have adjusted themselves to my visits. I don’t know whether my criticism is of value to them, or whether they benefit commercially from the spectacle of a spirited discussion.
Of recent, I’ve been following three of the artists. I admire John Grandfield’s sagebrush landscapes, but I can’t afford the larger pieces that capture the spirit of the land. His combed acrylic landscapes are more affordable, and the first that I saw was perfect for the site header out at Love Returns. As well as suggesting the elements of the creation story from Genesis, the piece conveys my sense that the angels perceive through a veil – albeit an exquisite veil – the sensory experience of living creatures.
I’ve had rather longer conversations with Steve Richardson, whose oeuvre defies characterization. His original sensibilities appear to be present in his harmonious landscapes, reminiscent of the middle work of George Inness. He fights against that tenderness in landscapes that suggest the battle between fog, light and vegetation in the tidal sloughs around Santa Barbara. Steve also paints the local monuments with a painterly verve, the travels of the brush and palette knife laid bare for our examination.
I first resolved that I would purchase a piece from him when struck by a speckled oak tree. The effect was as though falling through the silhouette into spatter paint drops that could be both atoms and galaxies. I enthused that I had been wrestling with the idea that our material forms were metaphors for spiritual evolution. I left him to consider whether he could create the same effect in larger format, only to be told a month later that he was giving up the style for safety reasons (the drops are created by striking the brush, which can send paint into the eyes).
When I stopped by today, I knew immediately that I would buy the piece anchoring the corner of his exhibit. It has the sense of light from above trying to pierce an oppressive indigo, with the complex and truncated response from the humans in the boats below. This is very much my experience of reaching up to join my intentions with those of Jesus’s “Abba.”
I wish that the photo conveyed the subtlety of the patchy sails.
I’ve also been following the work of Avril (a pseudonym, although as you travel the Walk you’ll recognize her work), a very French woman whose introduction was an aggressive demand for philosophical clarification of the phrase on the back of my Love Returns t-shirt. Avril is one of the few artists on the Art Walk that focuses on the human form. Her most popular works may be her sisterhood cartoons (multigenerational women fishing naked on the pier). She displays a number of linotype nudes, and is particularly aggressive regarding her abstract and collage work.
What captivates me, however, are the acrylic nudes, sinuous spines and generous hips set against abstract pastel tapestries. The figures are not delineated, but ensconced in a penumbra that bespeaks yearning for a caress. Having sublimated the responsive male desire for most of my adult life, I recognize now that I will never know the flower of a woman’s sensuality, that first innocent expression of sexual joy moderated solely by the wisdom that shelters its root in procreation. But it is a power that I need to engage – it is the only power that can heal the world.
So I bought this piece, a piece that Avril warned me would “talk at night.” I countered that I already have women speaking to me in the middle of the night, and would rather wake to beauty than suffer their drama without reward.