Studio Sessions – Artist tour allows a look behind the curtain

From landscapes to abstracts, artwork has been at many times inspired by Santa Barbara and its environs, either as a subject or simply as a place to work. Painters, sculptors and multimedia artists live and work invisibly in plain sight. The woman at the farmer’s market buying a basket of vegetables for the week may be going home to finish a huge canvas. The windows looking out from the Riviera may be artist studios. For those who join the Santa Barbara Studio Artists Tour this weekend, all will be revealed. Secret locations will be open for exploring, and one may just catch the art bug.

Now in its ninth year, the weekend-long open house features over 40 artists who live and work in Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria. Some work downtown. Others work off in the wilds, or as wild as we get here.

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Full Exposure – Artist James Gilbert knows our intimate details, whether he likes it or not

'DELICATE STANDARD'
‘DELICATE STANDARD’

Whether you have a Facebook account or a Twitter feed or nothing at all, the changing ideas of privacy affect us all. We let people know where we work, where we live, our beliefs and opinions, what we eat and drink and where we are this very minute. And the thing is, younger generations see no problem with it. Full transparency, they vote.

You could say that “transparency” is also the operative word in James Gilbert’s work, which comes to Contemporary Arts Forum this Thursday as part of First Thursdays. Instead of paintings or video or dance, viewers will encounter Gilbert himself right when they walk in, high above the desk, sewing underwear out of plastic, a material that leaves little to the imagination. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear it. But visitors will have an opportunity to hang their ‘wear all around the gallery. That’s a lot of tighty whiteys. The work is “accumulative sculpture,” he says.

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GUITAR WORK : Earning His Stripes – Local artist’s giant guitar graces the Sunset Strip

Local artist R. Nelson Parrish puts the finishing touches on his Sunset Strip-bound concept guitar. Parrish pulled 18-hour days to get it done. Instead of being in a gallery, the guitar will be out in the elements for a year, so one of Parrish's final coats was automobile clear-coat.
Local artist R. Nelson Parrish puts the finishing touches on his Sunset Strip-bound concept guitar. Parrish pulled 18-hour days to get it done. Instead of being in a gallery, the guitar will be out in the elements for a year, so one of Parrish’s final coats was automobile clear-coat.

Above the Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip, a giant Gibson guitar stands, beckoning the crowd below to enter and hear rock music as loud as the guitar is tall, which is very tall indeed, at 10 feet. It’s a new, crazy sight on a road that is famous for its odd architecture and famous billboards, and its creator lives here in Santa Barbara.

R. Nelson Parrish doesn’t usually go for things guitar-shaped in his artwork, despite coming from a family with a background in Gibson guitars (his grandfather and uncle both played and owned them). His art since his 2005 MFA at UCSB has been about “totems,” long, multicolored boards of resin, paint and wood that combine the minimal aesthetic of John McCracken’s planks with a SoCal lifestyle of surfboards and skis. (It was the vision of them pitched upright in sand or snow that revealed their totem-like potential.) The work looks both familiar — the colors come straight out of sporting gear — and strange.

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Our Town, Our Theater : To be sure, celebrating 20 Years at Center Stage was a fun, not solemn, occasion

From left to right: Kelly Ary, Dan Gunther and Peter McCorkle sing about the origin of Center Stage at the theater Saturday night. NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS
From left to right: Kelly Ary, Dan Gunther and Peter McCorkle sing about the origin of Center Stage at the theater Saturday night. NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS

Do we take the Center Stage Theater for granted? Board member Laurel Lyle put forth this question on Saturday night at the end of a short but very much appreciated celebration of 20 years of community theater. The black box at the top of the tiled stairs above the California Pizza Kitchen has been this reviewer’s destination several times a year, and to imagine Santa Barbara without it…well, it would be a pretty bleak existence for community arts. The evening — a reception, a comedic performance and a post-show champagne toast — was an affectionate tribute to a space that has been an essential part of the city’s downtown arts scene.

It could have been a formal affair, an evening that celebrated longevity and took it as a sign of cultural importance with a capital C.I. But this is Center Stage, and that means creativity comes first, stuffiness dead last. It says something when the actor in the closest thing approaching a business suit spends his moment in the performance doing a voice over.

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Bill Garlington to discuss the changing face of atheism

Shutterstock Photo
Shutterstock Photo

In the last decade, atheism has returned as a best-selling and controversial book subject, spearheaded by three authors writer Robert Weitzel dubbed “The Unholy Trinity.” Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith” (2004) and “Letter to a Christian Nation” (2006) were the opening volleys, and Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” (2006) and Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great” (2007) stormed the gates, with both authors receiving much face time and angry arguments on mainstream media.

Not only should religion be passively tolerated, they say, but it should be critiqued and exposed by rational argument. They see religion’s effects on society as superstitious and harmful, and that fundamentalism has gone mainstream.

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The Whole World – Director Jason Lehelís ‘Gaia’ is a cinematic high-wire act

Jason Lehel, right, discusses a scene with actor Michael C. Pierce, left, on set filming Gaia.
Jason Lehel, right, discusses a scene with actor Michael C. Pierce, left, on set filming Gaia.

How does one prepare to shoot a film with one trusting lead actress, a crew working for free, nothing but improvisation, a budget of $28,000 and no script to speak of, except a general idea of plot and location?

For Jason Lehel, director of “Gaia,” you work for 30 years.

“It took me all my experience and all my career to get to a place where I could create a film in such an extraordinary way,” he says.

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Sweat Box – Hot Hot Heat returns with a blistering fourth album and a Velvet Jones show

When Hot Hot Heat’s first album dropped in 2002, they were the Vancouver band who had made good. With “Make Up the Breakdown,” the band combined XTC-esque New Wave with punk smarts and pop hooks and looked all set to go big. But after signing to Warner Bros., the general consensus, even within the band, is that the members set off in the wrong direction, rounding too many corners.

Dropping their major label and signing to an indie (Dangerbird in the States, Dine Alone in Canada) they’ve shaken off the dust and come firing back with “Future Breeds,” a return to form and the sound of their first album. The band hits Velvet Jones tonight for a gig that promises to be as raucous as ever.

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Trattoria’s Grand Smash

Nik Blaskovich/News-Press
Nik Blaskovich/News-Press

Bartender Milo Wolf has an interesting résumé. He drives and pilots the Land Shark around Santa Barbara, he hosts trivia nights and, for over a decade, he has poured drinks at 30 E. Victoria Street. That address, of course, used to be Pascual’s, which was the kind of watering hole where the shutters would come up in the morning and customers were ready for a drink. It has been home to Trattoria Vittoria for three good years now, and Milo is still there, albeit one night a week. Good thing we came in to try some cocktails when we did.

The Italian restaurant has some new cocktails on the menu and, of course, some favorites; the guys we wound up next to were drinking gin straight over ice. But we like a mix with our -ology, so we got ambitious.

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A Black Box to Hold Them All – Center Stage Theater celebrates two decades of community theater

 In this file photo from March 25, 1990, the framework and scaffolding of the future Center Stage Theater can be seen in the upper left of the frame. Nine hundred productions and 20 years later, the building has proved its worth and durability. Rafael Maldonado/News-Press File

In this file photo from March 25, 1990, the framework and scaffolding of the future Center Stage Theater can be seen in the upper left of the frame. Nine hundred productions and 20 years later, the building has proved its worth and durability.
Rafael Maldonado/News-Press File

Was it really 20 years ago that Center Stage Theater opened its doors in the second-story area of Paseo Nuevo? Even Rod Lathim, one of the theater’s founders, finds the length of time hard to believe.

“Teri (Ball, executive director) called me to tell me, and I said, ‘No, that can’t be right. It must be 15.'”

But indeed, it’s true. To celebrate Santa Barbara’s longest running black box theater, the Center Stage Theater is holding a blowout anniversary party on Saturday, with a specially written and performed journey back through its history, along with a celebratory champagne toast and other surprises.

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We all gotta go sometime : Karen Jones helps you prep for the inevitable in new book.

The naturally biodegradable Ecopod coffin decomposes along with you. Highly suitable for Earth-friendly green burials. COURTESY ARKA ECOPOD LIMITED
The naturally biodegradable Ecopod coffin decomposes along with you. Highly suitable for Earth-friendly green burials.
COURTESY ARKA ECOPOD LIMITED

Karen Jones is quite cheerful for someone who has just spent a year or two of her life writing a book about death and funerals. An author of a romance novel and a marketing manual, she has a high, chirpy, sunny voice full of giggles, a lilting Virginia accent, and it’s not too surprising to find that she has a background in television and music, a job she was offered when somebody told her she had a great face. It was when the younger sister of a co-worker died that she saw what happens when grieving families must make costly decisions during one of the most stressful times in life. So Ms. Jones set out to write a short, easy-to-read guide to preparing for death and funerals, “Death for Beginners” (Quill Driver Books, $12.95). Ms. Jones, who will discuss the new book and sign copies of it at 7 p.m. Aug. 26 at Chaucer’s Books, 3321 State St., recently talked to the News-Press about everything from building your own coffin (!) to “green” deaths.

Q: Is this a book someone in their 20s or 30s should pick up? Is that too young to be thinking about a funeral?

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