The idea for “Visionaries,” Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum’s new show opening tomorrow night, came from the various trips Miki Garcia and Valerie Velazquez have taken as part of their job. Not trips far afield or to other museums, but ventures closer to home, to the houses of the board members of CAF. While discussing business or making social calls, the two couldn’t help but witness the collections on display and how the members supported not just CAF, but the artists in the gallery and contemporary art as a whole.
“Seeing how people incorporate these pieces in their home is an art in itself,” Velazquez says.
“Visionaries” offers a chance to see selections from over 16 local art collectors. Not all are board members, and many of the 28 artists on show have not been part of CAF history. But the exhibition demonstrates just how many serious collectors live in Santa Barbara.
“Some people really want to live with these pieces, so they buy them,” says Velasquez. “But others are interim dealers, people who have a huge collection, but if you walk in their house, everything is for sale.”
The roster of artists in “Visionaries” includes Barry Berkus, Martin Eder, Arturo Herrera, Cindy Sherman, Ed Ruscha, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Louise Bourgeois, among others. There’s an eclectic variety at work here.
The Bourgeois piece (on the cover), for example, is of a human head, its eyes and mouth in a sort of half-scream, half-exhale, made out of some odd, knitted material. It comes from the collection of Tim Walsh and Mike Healey.
“We had the Louise Bourgeois in the middle of our living room,” says Walsh, a 25-year resident of Santa Barbara. “And I would walk by it 15 to 20 times a day. The big painting by Martin Eder was in my TV room.”
Jacqueline Klein-Brown, a recent addition to the CAF board, has a Herrera hanging in her hall.
“Every time I walk by it, I have to stop and look,” she says. “And the meaning changes. A lot depends on how you’re feeling each day. It can be an angry thing or it can be a soothing thing.”
All these works are personal parts of the collectors’ homes, and by donating them for this exhibit, many are now pondering big empty walls.
But collecting art doesn’t just mean accumulating works to hang in the living room. Installation work and video art is also a popular medium. Klein-Brown owns a Jacco Olivier video piece that plays on a small TV built into the living room wall. Walsh’s video art collection often plays in the background at parties, amazing the guests.
Geoff and Laura Wyatt have been collecting for 20 years — his first piece was a Roy Lichtenstein — and they are loaning a very large photograph by Richard Misrach that had pride of place in their living room. Geoff saw the work in his brother-in-law’s Los Angeles gallery and fell in love with it.
“It’ll be fun to see it at CAF,” says Geof. “You may say ‘wow’ or you may say ‘yawn.’ It’s exciting to see what people will get out of it.”
“Visionaries” reveals collectors that do not hoard works. Of course they want to help the artists’ careers, but they also want to share their tastes with the public.
Klein-Brown, who is donating a Ruscha and a Herrera to the show, comes from a collector family.
“I learned to share anything that I own from my dad,” she says. “He was always happy to open his home to show the work or to lend it to a museum. I have this work, but it’s not really mine. I’m lucky to live with it, but I hope that somebody else comes away changed from looking at it.”
‘VISIONARIES: CONTEMPORARY ART FROM SANTA BARBARA’S PRIVATE COLLECTIONS’
When: Saturday through July 18. Opening night reception 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Contemporary Arts Forum, Paseo Nuevo (upstairs)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday
Information: (805) 966-5373, www.sbcaf.org