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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 2:42 am | Fair and Breezy 54º


Artists Explore River’s Journey Over Course of a Year

In a new exhibit at the Wildling Museum, six local women artists explore the journey of the Santa Ynez River over one year — all 92 miles of it — along with its watershed, from Jameson Lake to Surf Beach.

The River’s Journey: One Year, Six Artists, Ninety-Two Miles opens in the museum's First Floor Gallery on Saturday, Feb. 17 and runs through July 9.

United by the lesser-known medium of gouache (an opaque watercolor pronounced gwash), and the name Rose-Compass, the artists tell the story of the beauty, many uses and challenges facing the community’s main source of water.

Connie Connally, Holli Harmon, Libby Smith, Nicole Strasburg, Nina Warner and Pamela Zwehl-Burke each contributed 20 small gouache paintings, plus one larger oil to the show, curated by Wildling executive director Stacey Otte-Demangate.

Two works have been contributed by Pennsylvania artist Thomas Paquette, whose gouaches of the Mississippi River inspired the show. All paintings are for sale, and proceeds benefit the Wildling Museum.

A ticketed preview party, 3:30-5:30 p.m., is the first of two opening events on Feb. 17. Only 125 tickets at $75 each will be sold for the event.

Preview attendees will get the first chance to buy artwork from the show. There will be wine poured by Flying Goat Cellars, appetizers, and live music. Guests will be able to meet the artists of the Rose-Compass, and Paquette will be there as well.

Each ticket includes a complimentary exhibit catalog and entry in a raffle to win one of six original exhibit paintings (one by each artist). Proceeds support the exhibition and catalog.

A $10 guest ticket is also available, but does not include a catalog or raffle entry.

An opening reception, which is free to the public, begins at 5:30 p.m. and includes refreshments.

Three members of Santa Ynez Poets — Steve Braff, Teresa McNeil MacLean and Dorothy Jardin — will read their original poems inspired by specific artworks in the exhibition.

Special events associated with the exhibit include a nature cruise on Cachuma Lake on Saturday, March 24, and an Artists Panel Discussion on closing weekend, at 3 p.m. Sunday, July 29.

A gouache workshop, children’s programs, and a water expert panel discussion are being planned. Visit www.wildlingmuseum.org for more information.

The Rose-Compass artists were inspired by Paquette's gouache works of the Mississippi River at the Wildling’s 2014 exhibit On Nature's Terms, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

The women came together to explore the medium of gouache and create a unique exhibit. Most of the images are quite small,  less than eight inches in length.

“One could argue that the Santa Ynez River and watershed are the most important natural features in our area, for obvious reasons,” said Otte-Demangate.

“It’s been a true privilege to work with these artists, who not only have painted scenes of the area for over a year during a time of exceptional drought, fire, and mudslides, but have intellectually engaged with it as well," she said.

"Their work and resulting catalog will be an amazing resource for our community for quite a while,” she said.

Beginning in August 2016, the artists explored the Santa Ynez watershed from Jameson Lake to Surf Beach, often trudging through steep and rugged terrain while carrying their painting equipment, the Wildling said.

To gain access to many locations, they coordinated with the local water departments, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, ranchers and other private land owners along the river’s course.

They captured the changes of the seasons, the impacts of a seven-year drought, and the devastation caused by the Rey Fire in August 2016, the Whittier Fire in July 2017, and the Thomas Fire in December 2017.

Warner recalls a visit to Jameson Lake to tour the dam and see a historic water plume:

“We sat and had lunch with our hosts from the Montecito Water District, in front of the cabin that served as the dam-keepers home. It was burned down in the (Thomas) fire,” she said.

Images include scenes of the river’s course, still pools, waterfalls, and rock-filled river banks. Animals live in the watershed aea are featured, including trout, mule deer, bear and coyotes.

Human use of the area is also explored, including ranching, agriculture, the structures built and recreation, the Wildling said.

“One of the best things about working with our Rose Compass group has been gaining access to places the public doesn’t get to experience,” said Connally

“I dipped my hand into the small cold stream where the first drops of water seeped from the mountain boulders and began their journey along the tributary feeding into the Santa Ynez River," she said.

"My painting explores the chaos of the wildness of the scene,” Connally said.

Smith was joined by artists Warner and Strasburg to search for two fish ladders along Salsipuedes Creek, near Jalama Road’s junction with Hwy. 1. Built years ago, the ladders help southern steelhead trout migrate up the fresh water creek to spawn.

“We found a peaceful, secluded world below the highway full of wildflowers, birds, pond turtles and hundreds of small fry fish. Some could be steelhead trout,” she said.

Visit www.rose-compass.com for blogs by the artists and an added perspective on the project.

For more information, to volunteer and/or join as a member to support the Wildling, visit www.wildlingmuseum.org.

— Katie Pearson for the Wildling Museum.


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