Westmont Museum Raises Big $ With Small Artworks

 Large crowds flocked to the 5×5 exhibition in 2014, photo courtesy Westmont College.Large crowds flocked to the 5×5 exhibition in 2014, photo courtesy Westmont College.

An update from Westmont College : Small works of art from several hundred artists from around the country will be auctioned during “5X5: Celebrating Westmont College’s 80th Anniversary” at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art. The online auction will begin Thursday, Jan. 11, at westmontmuseum.org and last until Jan. 26 at 5 p.m. However, due to the destruction in the local community from mudslides, an opening reception will be delayed until Thursday, Jan. 18, from 4-6 p.m. The opening reception, which includes coffee and cake, is free and open to the public. This is the largest fundraiser of the year for the museum.

Several hundred small works of art from artists from around the country will be auctioned during “5X5: Celebrating Westmont College’s 80th Anniversary” at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art from Jan. 11-26.

The online auction kicks off with an opening reception on Thursday, Jan. 11, from 4-6 p.m., and bidding will continue until  Jan. 26 at 5 p.m. The opening reception, which includes refreshments, is free and open to the public.  (Event delayed due to flooding) All proceeds from the event will go towards the museum.Artists were invited to create a unique work of art on a five-inch square piece of paper which they received and returned to the museum by mail.

The exhibition features renowned artists Christo, Charles Arnoldi and Chris Raschka along with local luminaries Tony Askew, Mary Heebner, Penelope Gottlieb, Dane Goodman, Richard Aber and author T.C. Boyle.

In the past, the auction has raised upwards of $20,000 for the museum.

“We have been looking forward to bringing the 5×5 exhibition back and Westmont’s 80th Anniversary is the perfect way to celebrate,” says Judy Larson, R. Anthony Askew professor of art history and museum director. “It’s a great opportunity to support the museum’s programs, meet new artists and connect with old friends.”

For more information, visit westmontmuseum.org or contact the museum at 805/565-6162. Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art is located at 955 La Paz Rd. It is free and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed Sundays and college holidays.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 11, 2018.

Local Lowdown: Flock Soars into Lotusland

Put a Bird on It!

This spring, the otherworldly dreaminess of Lotusland transforms into a real-world call for awareness as FLOCK: Birds on the Brink comes to the garden. 

Story by Leslie Dinaberg

Inspired by the interdependency of bird species to plant species, and to the human race, this contemporary art exhibit celebrates the daily presence of birds in our gardens and communities while illustrating the critical impact of wild bird populations on our ecosystems and our own well-being. Guest curator Nancy Gifford (the same talented dynamo who brought the buzz-worthy bee-themed SWARM to the venue in 2013 and GONE in 2012) and the Lotusland team gathered artworks and commissioned installations from more than 30 local and international artists, which are displayed in the pavilion and—for the first time—throughout the garden.

“It should be quite a provocative and visceral experience,” says Gifford, who hopes to inspire action from all those who encounter FLOCK. “This year, we are covering the issues about birds…it’s about the interrelatedness of species and how important birds are.” She continues, “Plus there’s a tremendous amount of great artists worldwide who work with birds and the bird theme. It’s amazing.”

The exhibit, which opened on February 28 and runs through May 23, is amazing. Approaching the Pavilion Gallery, visitors duck beneath a courtyard “ceiling” of empty black cages titled Silent Spring, their doors open in wait for the return of songbirds long extinct. Upon entering, one quickly encounters the foreboding David Hochbaum blackbird Murmuration installation hovering over Laurie Hogin’s splashy Darwinian landscapes, Robyn Geddes’s moody color field birds, a burning crow by local artist Keith Puccinelli and embellished taxidermy specimens from New Zealand artist Karley Feaver.

Then there are various mechanical devices by Jane Edden, Juan Fontanive and Norman Reed, as well as a “chick bar” diorama by Michael Long. Next is the “nest” room full of surprises by Esther Traugot, Gayle Stevens, Philip Koplin, Liza Myers, Maria Rendon and the mesmerizing video Bobe’s Legend by Macedonian artist Robert Gligorov. Visitors then go through the pavilion into the main gallery, which features large-scale haunting bird works by Fatemeh Burnes. A robotic wing chair by Alan Macy flaps to the beat of a “bird dance” video by Robin Bisio that encircles an aviary centerpiece installation full of musical and avian surprises.

FLOCK also expands beyond the Pavilion Gallery to include six outdoor installations hidden throughout the gardens. Expect to encounter a Murder of Crows in the newly restored blue garden, Gary Smith’s human-scale nests, R.T. Livingston’s camouflaged Sitting Ducks: Hiding in Plain Sight by the lotus pool, a larger-than-life caged topiary peacock by Joe Shelton and a birdbath sound machine by Carlos Padilla and Pod Nest by Luis Velazquez in the pavilion courtyard. Other participating artists include Sharon Beals, Penelope Gottlieb, James Hodgson, Nathan Huff, Pamela Larsson-Toscher, Anne Luther, Kaoru Mansour, Cheryl Medow, Tom Mielko and Susan Tibbles.

FLOCK: Birds on the Brink is on view at Lotusland from Saturday, February 28 through Saturday, May 23. Visitors may see the exhibit as part of a docent-guided tour offered at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Reservations are required. For reservations, call 805/969-9990 or visit lotusland.org for more information.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Spring 2015.