Thomas Van Stein and Wyllis Heaton, ‘Urban Scenes and Architecture’
By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent
Gazing with longing and with eye-to-canvas connectivity at the beauty around the place we call home is a special providence of Santa Barbara’s plein air painters, and at best, they invite us to reexamine and re-appreciate where we live. For the Santa Barbara- based painters Thomas Van Stein and Wyllis Heaton, that fundamental instinct translates into a special insight about places and structures, some of which we might take for granted if not reminded in an art-charged, roundabout way to the everyday splendor of Santa Barbara. Each artist comes from a different perspective in style and palette, but they are compatible gallery mates, energized by their differences and brought together in the exhibition with the deceptively factual- sounding and utilitarian show title, “Urban Scenes and Architecture.” Their paintings are mixed, matched and blithely mismatched on the walls of the Santa Barbara Architectural Foundation gallery, fittingly enough.
Mr. Van Stein has long been a well-known figure on the plein air painting scene here, a teacher and a painter with a particular sense of poetics in the specialized and enigmatic world of nocturnal painting. Mr. Heaton is a more recent artist in our midst, a Pasadenian who studied at UCSB and at the Pasadena-based Art Center, living in Santa Barbara since 2007. Away from his painting pursuits, he is a landscape designer, which seems to connect with the notion of a more festive, floral and brighter-hued palette than the crepuscular night crawler impulses of Mr. Van Stein. Brushwork tendencies delineate the varied approaches as well. Mr. Heaton’s paintings are more daubed with a broad-brush pointillist effect, taking heed of the optical buzz of reflections on water in “Daybreak, Stearn’s Wharf” and the inner harbor view of “Old Guard.” He captures the amiable bustle of the “I Madonnari” festival at the Mission with vibrant colors and bubbly brushwork. Part of the charm of this two-person, two-vantage-point show is the result of the intrigue and instructive aspect of contrast in terms of treating like subjects. Mr. Heaton’s “Mission Festival” has a gregarious personality, while Mr. Van Stein’s “Morning Mist, Santa Barbara Mission” follows a more muted, impressionistic and atmosphere-centric program of expression. He taps into his acumen in the nocturnal painting field with the large, yet calmingly mysterious “Rose Moon, Santa Barbara Courthouse.”
In that same classic and fabled Santa Barbara locale with its innate allure to painters and photographers, Mr. Heaton extends his giddier visions to the paintings “Sunken Gardens” and “Fiesta Arch.” Moving down State Street, Mr. Heaton’s view of a different and more recentdown State Street, Mr. Heaton’s view of a different and more recent vintage example of Santa Barbara architecture, the Spanish revival- style shopping compound that is “Paseo Nuevo,” comes across like an ode to civic goodness, commercial energy and light. By the inherent rule of contrast, a natural byproduct of a two-person show such as this, Mr. Van Stein captures a moodiness of being with his painting of another older landmark, “Rainy Day, Santa Barbara Train Station,” as well as the ambience-sensitive air of “Morning Light on the Presidio.” That same Van Stein-ian enigmatic elegance also shines its understated, yet carefully observed attentions on another very different, kitschy-but-verifiable piece of an architectural landmark in the region — the beach-close burger joint in Carpinteria, “World Famous ‘Spot’ Burgers.” The painter brings an unexpected, but deserved seriousness and dignity to the task of capturing the essence of this classic, proudly locally owned-and-operated eatery. Mr. Van Stein’s glowing, graceful view of a local burger sanctuary implicitly supports a point made through this exhibition: architectural icons in a community come in many sizes, vintages and flavors, and the meaning varies according to the sensibility of the observing party, observing as in seeing, painting, seeing paintings thereof, engaging in the buildings’ business.
Combining elements of color field painting with calligraphic brushstrokes and an energetic line quality, Tom Post creates sublime compositions that incorporate diverse influences and life experiences. Printmaking, photography, the traditional calligraphy of Buddhist monks, Norse mythology and bonsai cultivation collectively inform the creation of his expressive, abstract oil paintings. In the artist’s words, “My paintings… explore the idea of change and the evolution of images…
The “Dream Cycle” concept arose from the artist’s remembrances of classic international films that feature indelible landscapes. Adams has created a unique series of original works on paper that portray cinematic landscapes with memorable visual eloquence. Interpreting these landscape moments with freehand drawings, Adams captures fresh insights from the film settings. Influences from the great directors, cinematographers and production designers from the cinematic heritage of the United States, France, Italy and Sweden have provided inspiration for these new compositions.
Bay Hallowell will present a series of twenty colorful monoprints inspired by the chakras. Each monoprint is a unique, layered composition of vibrant colors and shapes. According to medieval texts from India, the chakras are seven energy centers located at various points on the spine, each associated with a particular color and sound. As visual equivalents of their invisible, shifting energies, some monoprints focus on one or two chakras, while others combine as many as six or seven. As a longtime student of yoga, meditating and musing on the chakras was a starting point for Hallowell’s explorations of shape, color, symmetry and asymmetry.
Patrick Turner captures softly illuminated landscapes and seascapes that reveal sculpted trees, rock formations and architectural elements in slightly mysterious, dream like sequences. Turner explores the natural world with a thoughtful appreciation for silence and persistence in his black and white photographs. The artist observes that humanity… “came alive on the flat plains, the jagged peaks of rocky mountains, amongst the tangle of forests and along the gentle sweep of rolling hills.”