John Nava helps turn a Courthouse painting into a large tapestry

A combination of modern technology, classic painting and contemporary art combined on Wednesday to create a brand new look.

The Public Defender’s Office at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse welcomed a tapestry version of “The Landing of Cabrillo,” the 1924 painting by Daniel Sayre Groesbeck (1879-1950) that hangs outside the second floor Mural Room in the same building.

The tapestry was designed and fashioned by artist John Nava of Ojai, who discovered and championed the technology that creates complicated tapestries from photo sources.

The tapestry was a joint venture between the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission and the County Art in Public Places Committee, and organized by the commission’s Rita Ferri.

The choice of the Groesbeck painting, Ms. Ferri said, made sense not just because of the history of the work, but because it was “The Landing of Cabrillo” that earned Groesbeck a much larger commission: the entire mural room itself.

It also solved a physical problem in the lobby: bare walls creating so much echo that the people who work behind the desk and its thick glass partition couldn’t hear people talk clearly.

Already there’s a big improvement in the area, with the heavy tapestry, roughly 8-by-11 feet, dampening the sound, Ms. Ferri said.

When she was first asked to look into finding a tapestry for the area, there were problems.

“Unfortunately, older tapestries did not usually survive in good condition but their request led to a creative solution,” Ms. Ferri said.

She called on Mr. Nava, who paints in a classical realist style but in 1999 started working in tapestries.

Through modern computer-based looms, Mr. Nava can send a scan of an artwork, reduce

the millions of color variations down to around 160, and have a sort of “tapestry printer” recreate the work.

The main home for this multi-million dollar machine is at Flanders Tapestries in Belgium. The business mass-produces tapestries and fabrics for large corporations, but they also took on Mr. Nava’s work.

One of his first tapestries now hangs at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, and that was the commission that got him into this side work.

Mr. Nava laughs at the irony that his one piece of work hanging publicly is actually by another painter.

He took a large scan of the painting, “gigabytes and gigabytes size” he said, and not only decided on the palette to be used to recreate the colors, but also decided on the three-dimensionality of the piece. Some sections are raised while others are flat. Threads in the warp and weft combine to make different colors.

Mr. Nava then made tests

and had them shipped from Belgium to check. “You don’t really know the final colors until you see.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Nava was on hand to say a few words at the opening, but he believes the Groesbeck work speaks for itself. It now hangs at a level that invites careful study, unlike the original painting that is hung high above the floor and is dark due to age.

The idea of computer-based looms is an old one, actually. The Jacquard Loom, from the late 1700s, used a digital-like punchcard to program the machine to make patterns.

Mr. Nava said the choice of Groesbeck was a good one.

“He made these bravura, Cecil B. DeMille-like paintings with bold brush strokes, and that translated really well into the weaving.”

The tapestry is permanently on view in the Public Defender Lobby at the Courthouse, 1100 Anacapa St.

For more information on John Nava, check out: http://www.johnnavastudio.blogspot.com/

Faith and identity in turmoil: Out of the Box’s ‘Bare’ explores two gay teens in Catholic school

The cast of "Bare: A Rock Opera" as students of St. Cecilia's
The cast of “Bare: A Rock Opera” as students of St. Cecilia’s

I feel like we always say this, but this is the hardest show we’ve ever done!” says the always chipper Samantha Eve, the executive director of Out of the Box Theatre Company. She’s talking about the 15-plus cast members of “Bare: A Rock Opera” that opens at Center Stage Theater this Thursday. Ms. Eve has worked with large casts before, like Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” and the hippie collective of “Hair.” But this musical, a story of two Catholic boarding school boys who fall in love and question their faith and identity — with some surprising consequences — is calling on local high schoolers for the job.

“We’re dealing with a lot of scheduling conflicts,” Eve says. “But we’re lucky because they’re bringing a lot of great energy to the show. They’re extraordinarily talented.”

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Dance scene buzz: Sunday’s HIVE produces sweet dance honey

"Please, Please" with Curtis J. (vocalist), Jeremiah Tatum, Melvin Clark and Kenya Williams H. Wang photo
“Please, Please” with Curtis J. (vocalist), Jeremiah Tatum, Melvin Clark and Kenya Williams
H. Wang photo

Despite the amount of dance that passes through Santa Barbara, and the amount of schools and instructors in our town, there still is a dearth of opportunities for modern choreographers to have their works performed. Companies come and go, and find that locations and funding are a problem. According to Stephen Kelly, part of the collective called Hive, spearheaded by Maria Rendina Frantz of Motion Theatre Dance Company, the cost of rehearsal space in Santa Barbara is even higher now than New York City. The answer to that dilemma: form a collective, and focus on delivering a wide-ranging evening of dance, while turning a profit. They believe it can be done, and if the advance tickets to this Sunday’s show “Buzz” are any indication, they may be right. And dance fans will benefit.

“We’re hoping this will provide a model that is not just sustainable here, but elsewhere in the country,” Mr. Kelly says. He and his wife, choreographer Misa Kelly, have broadened the scope of their own organization ArtBark to encompass the East Coast and Eastern Europe, and Hive is another offshoot of their collective ideal.

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The enlightened mind Awakened Film Fest promises three full days of life-changing films

 "Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago" is an up-close look at the ancient spiritual pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James. Since the 9th century, millions have embarked on this pilgrimage across northern Spain.

“Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago” is an up-close look at the ancient spiritual pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James. Since the 9th century, millions have embarked on this pilgrimage across northern Spain.

Ten years ago, the documentary “What the Bleep Do We Know?” bundled together quantum physics and spirituality, brought in a slew of modern thinkers and went from an outsider documentary to a rousing success. Since then, the market for consciousness-raising films has expanded. So it makes sense that the Awakened World International Film Festival — a three-day combination film festival and conference — would honor the decade anniversary of this film. Executive director Barbara Fields also says our location also makes sense:

“We’ve done about 20 of these conferences in the same amount of years, all over the world,” she says. “But we picked Santa Barbara for this event because there’s an element here that somehow goes unappreciated, or is relegated to the ‘new age’, but this is a highly spiritual town.”

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Image consciousness: Cathryn Michon’s new comedy film promotes positive body image

 Melissa Peterman, left, and writer-director-actor Cathryn Michon star in "Muffin Top: A Love Story." Deraney PR

Melissa Peterman, left, and writer-director-actor Cathryn Michon star in “Muffin Top: A Love Story.”
Deraney PR

Do creators have to suffer for their art? Well, in the case of writer-director-actor Cathryn Michon, the indignities of a bad breakup and the levels to which she sunk to conform to ideals of beauty turned out to be a fertile ground for comedy. First a book and now a movie, “Muffin Top” is a “body image rom com” that takes a farcical look at a serious issue. The film gets its sneak preview this Monday, with a red carpet screening at Fiesta 5, with the select members of the cast and director in attendance.

“Muffin Top: A Love Story” is about Suzanne (Michon), whose husband dumps her for a younger, skinnier model. She’s helped by her best friend Elise, played by Ms. Michon’s real-life best friend, the Tony-winning (for “Hairspray”) Marissa Jaret Winokur. And the man Suzanne goes out of her way to woo is played by David Arquette. Other funny people in the cast include Maria Bamford, Dot-Marie Jones (“Glee”) and the recently passed and sorely missed Marcia Wallace.

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The full package: Singer-songwriter Griffin House returns to SOhO

Griffin House stops by SOhO this week. Courtesy photo
Griffin House stops by SOhO this week.
Courtesy photo

It takes a set of cojones for a singer-songwriter to name his latest album “Balls,” especially when that singer is Griffin House, who is best known for love songs and introspection and not joking around.

“Certain people have ideas about what a musician is and isn’t supposed to do,” he says. “If you want people to take you seriously, you’re supposed to create this intrigue, almost not be yourself. And there’s no title that could explain my personality or sense of humor other than ‘Balls.’ ” (Actually, the name comes from his childhood, in a story too convoluted for this article.)

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The fortune-ate daughter: SBCC Theatre Group produces ‘The heiress,’ an adaptation of a Henry James novel

SBCC Theatre Group
SBCC Theatre Group

Inheriting a fortune and then being besieged by suitors who claim to love you was just as much of a problem back in the days of novelist Henry James as it is now, hence the ongoing popularity of “The Heiress,” a James adaptation for the stage that opens this coming Wednesday as the second play of SBCC Theatre Group’s 2014-15 season.

Based on “Washington Square,” Augustus and Ruth Goetz adapted Mr. James’ 1880 novel into a play in 1947 and then into a 1949 film version starring Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift. It’s a play of ambiguous motives, abuse and bitter recriminations, just the kind of heady drama that actors and directors love to sink their teeth into. And this production boasts a strong crew.

Continue reading The fortune-ate daughter: SBCC Theatre Group produces ‘The heiress,’ an adaptation of a Henry James novel

Burnished love: Mary Chapin Carpenter brings her insightful songs to the Lobero

Mary Chapin Carpenter brings her seemingly never-ending tour to the Lobero Theatre. Courtesy photo
Mary Chapin Carpenter brings her seemingly never-ending tour to the Lobero Theatre.
Courtesy photo

This is the tour that never ends,” says singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter of her current tour supporting “Songs from the Movie,” her January 2014 album of greatest hits arranged for the singer and a full orchestra. Because it involves arranging a different orchestra for each city, whether it’s Los Angeles, Pensacola or Glasgow, Scotland, it’s not the usual round of bus and plane rides from city to city.

“I see the (orchestral tour) as having a life that goes on … past the horizon. It’s not timed to anything. It exists as long as orchestras invite us to come and present it.”

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Getting better with age: “Sideways” celebrates its 10th anniversary at the Arlington

A 10th anniversary screening of the movie "Sideways" was held at the Arlington Theater on Sunday. Attendees take in a question-and-answer session involving, from left, moderator Gabe Saglie, actress Virginia Madsen, director Alexander Payne, Hitching Post owner Frank Ostini and Kalyra Winery owner Martin Brown, also shown below. NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS
A 10th anniversary screening of the movie “Sideways” was held at the Arlington Theater on Sunday. Attendees take in a question-and-answer session involving, from left, moderator Gabe Saglie, actress Virginia Madsen, director Alexander Payne, Hitching Post owner Frank Ostini and Kalyra Winery owner Martin Brown, also shown below.
NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS

The motion picture “Sideways” celebrated its 10th anniversary Sunday with a special screening at the Arlington Theatre, which featured a post-film interview with director-writer Alexander Payne and star Virginia Madsen. It was a time to toast the cultural resonance of this humble character study, as its effects are still being felt in the Santa Ynez Valley and beyond.

Ten years ago, “Sideways” enlivened the entire county when Fox Searchlight announced it would be shooting among the many wineries that dot the area, but that was before it was released. After its premiere, and its run of film festivals, and its several Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, our county realized just how important this film was to the economy, and to this day, visitors can take a tour that takes in the wineries that its lead anti-hero Miles (Paul Giamatti) and his friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) seek out.

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The year of our Lorde, 2014: How a wise 17-year-old from New Zealand ruled pop music in just over 12 months

In just over a year, Lorde has taken over the pop world, primarily on the coattails of her chart-topping single "Royals." Brian Cassella photo
In just over a year, Lorde has taken over the pop world, primarily on the coattails of her chart-topping single “Royals.”
Brian Cassella photo

Just over a year ago, Ella Yelich-O’Connor, the 17-year-old New Zealander known as Lorde, dropped her first single, “Royals,” into the swirling maelstrom of pop culture. Maybe it was the song’s minimal aesthetic matched with its gospel-like chorus, maybe it was the critique of pop music itself contained in the lyrics, or maybe it was because it was so damn catchy — using the most basic of chord progressions — but overnight Lorde was everywhere, and she hasn’t really misstepped yet. She appears at the Santa Barbara Bowl this Thursday, and if audience videos of her tour are an indication, the scene will be one of teen hysteria. In lieu of that, let’s quickly examine how Lorde dominated the charts and pop culture in the short span of a little over a year, while hovering above the excesses of the Mileys, Iggys and the Nickis out there.

Her manager Scott Maclachlan discovered her at age 12, covering Duffy’s “Warwick Avenue” at a school talent show, and started to work with her on material. Four years later, this thoughtful, well-read goth team had produced “The Love Club EP,” a collection that came out fully formed, with no fumbling around trying to find an identity or in thrall to obvious influences.

Continue reading The year of our Lorde, 2014: How a wise 17-year-old from New Zealand ruled pop music in just over 12 months