Artist Delmar León infuses her paintings with the “love and light” of the world around us. They exhibit deep, rich hues of shades of blue, pink, green, black and yellow, some with a small “pop” of vibrant red. She urges a guest to touch the art to “feel” the paintings’ layers of texture.
“I’m just an instrument of the universe to create these paintings,” she said.
León’s paintings will anchor all printed and digital materials for this year’s Santa Barbara Vintners’ Foundation Auction and will be front and center at the November event.
León writes verse on the back of each painting, as well as a “certificate of authenticity,” and frequently also includes words amid the vibrant colors that comprise her art. She utilizes palettes — or knives — instead of brushes to craft paintings with waves of texture.
Before she paints, she covers each new canvas with gesso (pronounced “jesso”), a combination of paint pigment, chalk and a binder.
For a painting with grapevines, León dipped the bottom end of a wine bottle into thick paint, creating round “berry” edges one can feel.
León exudes the same vibrancy one finds in her artwork. She loves life, and counts on the peace and focus that her daily meditations provide.
Born and raised in Venezuela, and now a resident of Lompoc, León taught herself to paint at age 9. “Painting was like a constant in my life; it was always there.”
From Venezuela, León moved in 1999 to Louisville, Kentucky, where she met her then-husband. The couple resided there until 2004, and she bore their son, Edward Aguilar. When León and her husband divorced, she and Edward, just a young boy, relocated to Danville, California, which León chose for its “excellent” schools.
Raising Edward as a single mother inspired León to study another passion — architecture — and she earned an associates’ degree in the field, all the while continuing to divine life inspiration from her paintings.
She also trained in feng shui, eventually earning the title of master — though León prefers “practitioner” — and with two decades’ experience, has taught the ancient Chinese art across the United States and in South America, she said.
Meanwhile, Edward, now 18, is studying at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. In August 2020, during the early part of the pandemic, he and friends founded “Project Paralink” to deliver sorely needed PPE supplies to health care workers, schools and businesses. Media outlets such as Time, CNN, the New York Times and NPR interviewed Edward, at the time just 16 and still in high school. He also founded the organization “Students for Tomorrow,” according to LinkedIn.
During his Zoom interview with NPR, León, already in California, helped Edward with some English translation. “The interviewer saw my art in the background and asked about it,” she recalled.
Today, Aguilar is a student and writes speeches for a congressional candidate. “He can already see his impact in the world,” León notes, calling her son “my hero.”
The Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation (SBVF), the philanthropic arm of the Santa Barbara Vintners, was founded on the ethos “Grounded in Giving,” and the biennial Santa Barbara Wine Auction is the nonprofit’s key fundraising event.
This year’s event will take place held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11-12, at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Goleta. Grassini Family Vineyards is the 2022 Vintner Honoree.
The most recent dinner and auction took place in February 2020, just before the world shut down.
All funds raised at the November event will go to SBVF’s longtime philanthropic partners, Direct Relief, the Santa Barbara-based international humanitarian organization, and Community Health Centers, which provides medical services to Santa Barbara County’s farmworker community.
The 2022 Wine Auction will mark the SBVF’s 12th year of gathering together to support, strengthen and give back to its community.
Before a friend nominated her for the Vintners’ Foundation honor late in 2021, León recalled not knowing about the Vintners Foundation’s philanthropic goals. But early this year, the painter made the Foundation’s Top 10 selection, and then the nomination was between León and one other candidate.
Calling it “an honor to be selected as the artist” for the auction, León is especially pleased given Direct Relief’s work in her native Venezuela. “I thought, ‘how can I not help?’” she recalled.
The Foundation board selected León’s “Happy Canyon” painting as the art to be reproduced on the auction’s invitations and as labels for the wine bottles.
“Happy Canyon,” at 24 by 36 inches, is small compared to most of León’s paintings, but its size made the canvas portable, she said. As in, carry-in-the-car portable.
León’s muse for “Happy Canyon” came when she and her husband, Victor Gallegos, vice president/general manager/director of winemaking at Sea Smoke Cellars, pulled their car off the road to admire a “stunning” sunset amid the rolling hills of the Happy Canyon region.
The skies’ colors revealed “pure love” during what León recalled was a time of personal stress for couple, who had married mid-summer of 2020.
“When in the eye of the storm, there is (also) calm,” she said. The moment was serendipitous, and “an inspiration.”
For more information about the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation, and to buy tickets for the Santa Barbara event or special lunches that will take place on Friday, Nov. 11, visit https://sbwineauction.org/.