Where Palate Meets Palette Artist — Christina LoCascio ‘01

Part of being an artist is bringing pieces of yourself into your work, but painter Christina LoCascio ‘01, whose work is featured in “Gauchos Gone Grape,” takes this connection to a new level. She is truly living her creative life among the vines, painting with wine as a medium and working exclusively with wines from her family’s Larner Winery in Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon, where LoCascio, her winemaker husband Michael Larner, and their children Steven (10) and Sienna (8) make their home. 

When LoCascio began experimenting with wine painting in 2002 she couldn’t find any information about how to do it. “That was before Instagram or Facebook. Now if you search the hashtag #wineart there’s a bunch of artists that are painting with wine, but I feel like what makes what I’m doing special is that it’s such a part of my life.” 

Double majoring in communication and art, LoCascio got her first real exposure to the world of wine in her junior year as an intern for Touring & Tasting Magazine. “It was my 21st birthday and they sent me home with a bottle of wine.” That job also had her researching and writing about wineries and grapes and very quickly she was hooked. 

After graduation she worked in the wine industry in Temecula for a short time, until 2002, when Sunstone Winery scion Bion Rice lured her back to Santa Barbara wine country with an offer to work at Artiste Winery, a new venture featuring art-inspired blends that perfectly combined LoCascio’s interests in wine and art. 

The idea for painting with wine grew out of classes she would host for wine club members at Artiste that used wine in a similar fashion to watercolor. 

Those first few paintings led to a group exhibition in Santa Barbara and then an offer to create wine labels for Artiste. “The exposure of working at the tasting room, having my art on display and then having my art on the wine bottles was great for me,” says LoCascio, who went on to have nine shows at Artiste. 

She continues to show her work at the tasting room gallery, although she stopped working there in 2008, when the family opened Larner Winery. They now have a tasting room in Los Olivos, where LoCascio’s art is on display. “From the very beginning, I was drawn to wine and all the wonderful things about it and how it combined art and science and history and so many things,” she says. 

Wine remains a consistent media for her work — the many shades of red comprise her color palette and she uses white wine to “lift” color in a similar way that watercolorists use water to soften their paint. And while wine is a frequent subject, she also delves into figurative art and architectural paintings. “I think that in the time that I’ve been painting with wine my art has evolved and it continues to change. I have gone through a lot of different types of things,” says LoCascio, who has recently begun experimenting with leaves as well as the fermentation process of the wine itself. Exploding wine bottles and incorporating spills into female forms are some of her other recent artistic explorations. 

Of course, when harvest calls, the paintbrush comes down and it’s all hands on deck for the family business. “We’re really busy, but I’ve come to realize that that’s all part of the process. So, when we’re bringing in grapes and doing the punch down and I’m helping with the wine, and watching the fermentations, it’s just kind of part of it and it all inspires me to think of different ideas,” she says. 

“I think the act of being in the winery making the wine is inspiring for the art, too.” 

UC Santa Barbara Magazine, Winter 2021

UC Santa Barbara Magazine, Winter 2021

Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of UC Santa Barbara Magazine. Cover illustration by Yumiko Glover. To see the story as it originally appeared click  here.

 

Elevated Reflections of Life — Artist Yumiko Glover MA ’17

Elevated Reflections of Life, UC Santa Barbara Magazine, Fall/Winter 2021.

Born and raised in Hiroshima, Japan, cover artist Yumiko Glover MA ‘17 took a circuitous route to finally following her passion. 

“When I was applying for college in Japan I didn’t have a mentor to support me,” Glover recalls. “I wanted to go to art school and of course, my parents worried that it was ‘non job promising.’ So, I gave up and I majored in something else.” But the desire stuck with her. She took as many art classes as she could while working in the import-export business for more than a decade before returning to school to follow her dreams of becoming an artist. She completed a bachelor of fine arts degree at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in 2011 and then came to UC Santa Barbara to complete her masters in fine arts in 2017. 

“I was not a good student in Japan in college because I was not really interested in the field. But when I went back to school, I was very serious,” laughs Glover, who is now a visiting lecturer in the UC Santa Barbara Department of Art, as well as a graphic designer and fine artist who has her work in collections at the Honolulu Museum of Art and on view at LAX, among other venues. 

Over the years her style has evolved, but current events continue to influence her art. 

Her “Unfold” series was inspired by President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in 2016. The first sitting president to visit the city destroyed by an American atomic bomb during World War II, Obama brought origami paper cranes that he folded himself. “Crane origami is a symbol for peace, wishing the best for others, and healing for challenging times,” says Glover. 

Working on the premise that with each fold they make in an origami crane, people are thinking about others’ wellness or sending them good wishes, Glover drew geometric forms and combined them in different ways to create elements. “I thought that matched well with what we are going through in the pandemic,” she says. 

Her ongoing series “Transience” also fits in thematically. “Living through the pandemic completely shifted everybody’s life, including myself, especially my perspective on approaching art,” says Glover. 

“Transience comes from the Japanese term, mono no aware, which means the transience of life that is the aesthetics of impermanence — nothing lasts forever but there is preciousness to it. I created new paintings during the pandemic; one inspired by the cherry blossom season. As you know the cherry blossom has an intense and precious life and death cycle, which is mirrored by the impermanence of our nature and material world that we took for granted for so long.” 

She continues, “During the pandemic, as everything that we thought would last forever became uncertain and our perspectives about life, including the subjects for the magazine — education, economy, mental health, work and environment — everything has changed and also affected me and the way I think, so when I received the concept of the magazine design, I could apply those ideas that I was going through during the pandemic to the design.”  

UC Santa Barbara Magazine, Winter 2021

UC Santa Barbara Magazine, Winter 2021

Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of UC Santa Barbara Magazine. Cover illustration by Yumiko Glover. To see the story as it originally appeared click  here.

 

A New Way to See UCSB — Introducing UC Santa Barbara Magazine

UC Santa Barbara Magazine, Winter 2021

UC Santa Barbara Magazine, Winter 2021

I am the managing editor of a brand new publication, UC Santa Barbara Magazine.  A  glossy print publication and website offering a birds-eye view of the spectacular seaside university. From the people, programs, scholarly pursuits and trends that make UC Santa Barbara a world-class institution, to the sports, arts and culture, natural environment and vibrant students and vital alumni communities that enrich our campus experiences, UC Santa Barbara Magazine offers insight into the rich complexity of the university and its impact on the larger world around it.

Read the entire magazine online here. In addition, here are links to some of the stories I wrote.

Wheels of Fun

The Short List: The Beat Goes On

Elevated Reflections of Life — Artist Yumiko Glover MA ’17

Bringing Diverse Perspectives to the White House

Shoe Designs That Step Up the Sustainability 

Where Palate Meets Palette — Artist Christina LoCascio ’01

sbmidmod Brings Mid-Centry Style to Santa Barbara

Owner of sbmidmod, Tracey Strobel. Photo by Erick Madrid for the Santa Barbara Independent.

Owner of sbmidmod, Tracey Strobel. Photo by Erick Madrid for the Santa Barbara Independent.

An appealing array of home furnishings and artful objects—featuring the mid-century modern motifs of clean lines, bright colors, organic and geometric shapes, bold patterns, mixed textures, and contrasting materials—are on display at sbmidmod, a new addition to the Funk Zone. Located on Anacapa Street next to the popular Mony’s Mexican restaurant, this eclectic retail space showcases the timeless appeal of the design style.

A self-described research geek with a degree in ancient history, owner Tracey Strobel has spent almost two decades collecting, studying, restoring, and selling mid-century pieces. She got started hunting down furnishings for her own home. “Then it became a situation where I had one or two too many pieces and I thought I could maybe sell them … and it
snowballed into a business rather rapidly after that … and 18 years later, ta-da,” she laughed.

A Richard Schulman print of actor Anthony Hopkins, sits in the corner of sbmidmod. Photo by Erick Madrid for the Santa Barbara Independent.

A Richard Schulman print of actor Anthony Hopkins, sits in the corner of sbmidmod. Photo by Erick Madrid for the Santa Barbara Independent.

Strobel began selling in the early days of eBay. “I’ve done the grunt work,” she said. “I worked estate sales, I’ve had spaces in antique malls—including a current space at the Antique Center Mall—and I’ve been incredibly grateful for those experiences because you
learn a lot from the people around you. One of the things I love the most about this job is that you’re constantly learning.”

She finds her inventory everywhere, from online searches to estate sales to tips from her network of antique dealers. As to what excites her about the mid-century modern aesthetic, Strobel said, “I love the minimal lines. I love the simplicity, and honestly, I view all of these pieces as functional art. It’s a lamp, yes, it gives you light, but it’s beautiful to look at and it inspires an emotional reaction for me. I can’t explain it better than that.”

Kitty corner, a tribute to cats in art form, at sbmidmod in the Funk Zone. Photo by Erick Madrid for the Santa Barbara Independent.

Kitty corner, a tribute to cats in art form, at sbmidmod in the Funk Zone. Photo by Erick Madrid for the Santa Barbara Independent.

The research geek that she is, Strobel added, “There is also the component of knowing who the designers are and having the opportunity to research and learn about someone new.” The other appeal of the era is the craftsmanship. “It’s so well-made,” she said. “When you take care of these pieces, they will last for generations. It’s also important to me—though it’s pretty simple and rather obvious—that antiquing and buying vintage/used furniture helps the planet.”

As to the risk of opening up a new retail space during the uncertain days of a pandemic, Strobel said it was really a matter of stumbling onto a building that spoke to her. She was out on a bike ride in February when she spotted the “For Lease” sign in the window of a gutted building. “All I could see was the brick and the studs,” she said. She quickly made an appointment for a walk through. “It just landed with me,” she said.

Strobel signed a lease two weeks later. The timing was good. “I was really ready to have a
place where people could come in and shop, but also where I could research and do my work,” she said. “This is essentially my office that people can come and shop in.”

“It’s definitely an obsession,” she laughed. “You’ve got to have a passion for this in order to make it last a long time. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work.”

Santa Barbara Independent, June 24, 2021.Originally published in the June 24, 2021 issue of the Santa Barbara Independent. To see the story as it originally appeared in print click here.

Home and Garden: Special Issue

HAPPY HOMES & GLORIOUS GARDENS

Architects, Antiquers, Nursery Pros, Chefs, and More Celebrate Indoors & Out in 2021

From private homes with public impact to public gardens offering private inspiration, our annual Home & Garden special issue for2021 celebrates the many design and decorating options for residential life in Santa Barbara. We hope you find something that works in your living situation, whether that’s a small tree to plant on your patio or a complete remodel of your mansion.

Here is the whole package of stories:

Sheltifying Santa Barbara

Tips From a Veteran Vintage Shopper

Exploring the Ambriz Kingdom of Plants

Confined to Quarters, Not to Canvas

Public Gardens for Private Inspiration

Seasons Star in Lush Life Cookbook

Bringing Brass Ring to Home Decor

Indian Pink Pillow Power

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021. To see the story as it originally appeared, click here.

Sheltifying Santa Barbara

Architect Jeff Shelton Delights in the Details, photo by Erick Madrid. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021.

Joy oozes through the walls of every Jeff Shelton project — the delight is in the details. From the Moroccan tile carpets of Pistachio House to the Escher-like staircase of El Jardin, the Suessian shapes of Ablitt House, and the quirky art-covered Vera Cruz building, touches of his fairy dust are sprinkled around town. The artistry and zest for life infused in Jeff Shelton’s buildings are hard to miss.

While there’s some debate about whether Pearl Chase, Bernhard Hoffmann, James Osborne Craig, and the other founding fellows of Santa Barbara’s aesthetic would be toasting Shelton’s evolution of the town’s traditional style or tearing out their hair out by its Spanish-Mediterranean-Moorish roots, there’s no doubt that this native son has made his mark on our town. After almost 30 years of “Sheltifying” Santa Barbara’s cityscape, he
shows no signs of slowing down.

Current projects in the works include residences in Mission Canyon, Carpinteria, and on
Cota Street, as well as the State Street undercrossing project (expect to see vibrantly tiled columns  and fancifully loopy iron fences guiding pedestrians from the beach to downtown), and a tequila bar at the corner of Ortega and State.

“I just try to find good clients,” said Shelton. “It’s no fun with clients that don’t understand the process. I’ve been pretty lucky. Clients are the ones who make it work. They pay for everything, but they also have to have faith in this crazy bunch of people they’re getting into working with.”

Mary Beth Myers, whose Tower House was the first to be rebuilt in Montecito after the 2018 mudslides, had nothing but raves about Shelton and his team. “Jeff’s just a peach — he’s so creative, he has such minimal ego, and is so cooperative,” she said. “After all is said and done, the building process was an absolute joy. They’re just like a group of happy elves.”

From “Sheltifying Santa Barbara,” photos by Erick Madrid and sketches by Jeff Shelton. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021.

Chief among the Shelton collaborative team — they call themselves a “guild” but have no
financial connection — is Dan Upton, the contractor who (with Leon Olson) offered Shelton a project at 1021 Laguna Street in 1994. They’ve worked together ever since.

“We are problem solvers,” said Upton. “Jeff comes up with these optimistic, fun ways of thinking and fun ways of building and … we are just happy to do the fun things. He sketches, and we say, ‘Make it as fun and interesting as you want, and we’ll figure out how to build it.’”

For a man who specializes in the curvy and colorful, Shelton’s a pretty straight shooter. He loves his town, his team, and his work—and it shows. As for his method of staying true to his artistic vision and navigating his way through Santa Barbara’s notoriously complicated approval process, “I just do what I think is best for each building and each lot,” he explained. “My palette is the code and the site and the city and the people around the
neighborhood. It’s an art, but ultimately nobody cares about all those details in the end. They just want to be able to have a glass of wine comfortably and happily in their house.”

A GUIDE TO THE GUILD
“First the tractors come in, and they grade the site,” explained Shelton of how one client
described the work of his guild, “and then this merry band of artisans show up, and they laugh and they enjoy the work, and it’s like that until they leave.”

It certainly sounds like a joyful process. The Upton Construction team has played a huge part in Shelton’s work, with Matt Metcalfe recently taking over the day-to-day business as founder Dan Upton is mostly retired.

Jeff’s brother’s architectural ironwork, lamps, and other elements from David Shelton Studios are an integral part of Jeff’s buildings. “I just say, ‘Dave, I’m going to do a balcony.’ I don’t even need to draw, and he knows what to do,” laughed Shelton.

Jeff’s wife, Karin Shelton, an accomplished fine artist in her own right, wields her brush on various architectural projects and also helps with the Shelton line of fabrics, tiles, and books. Their daughter Mattie Shelton is part of the team as well, working on the fabrics, tiles, and her own line of unique shelters called Shelton Huts. (Their other daughter, Elena Shelton, works as a doula.)

The “merry band” also includes sculptor/mason Andy Johnson; woodworker David Moseley; window and door specialist Royce Woodbury; lamp shades by Saul Alcaraz of
Santa Barbara Art Glass; ceramicist Linda Hail Godlis; California Pottery & Tile Works; Villa Lagoon TileSpecialty Team Plastering; and artists Richard Wilke, Court Johnson, Katie Upton, and Ben Ciccati, among others.

For about the past 15 years, the group has been meeting at the James Joyce on Tuesday afternoons. “Jeff keeps a really accurate tally of who shows up at James Joyce and when they come,” said Upton. “And at the end of the year, you get a medal if you were there the most frequently or least frequently.”

“I’m a big believer in pubs,” said Shelton. “They should be every half mile, like a community living room that’s a place where people of all ages can meet and hang out.”

Added Upton, “It’s been one of the great pleasures of my life to have this collaboration with Jeff to build the buildings that we have built.”

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021. To see the story as it originally appeared, click here.

Tips From a Veteran Vintage Shopper

Tips From a Veteran Vintage Shopper, photo by Erick Madrid. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021.

Unlike many of today’s cheaply manufactured products, antiques were built to last a lifetime. These high-quality items can be a chic, unique, and eco-conscious way to furnish your home. But you need to know what to look for.

Antiques dealer Anne Luther founded Raggedy Anneteques at age 14, selling her wares at flea markets and swap meets. She shared some tips during a recent walk through the Antique Center Mall on Hollister Avenue, where her collections are on display (she also has space at the Summerland Antique Collective).

DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER: “Don’t think because you see a rack of
Hawaiian shirts when you walk in that there won’t be anything in the store for you,” said
Luther. “Multi-dealer collectives often have a mix of dealers with a range of items to offer. Shopping at these kinds of places saves you time and helps you develop your own style.
Dealers will sometimes have to buy an entire estate or box at auction to get the items they really want. So make sure to look closely. That Asian art dealer may also have a small
box of English china in the corner. You never know.” This is also a good way to find bargains, she said.

LOOK CLOSELY: You may be surprised by what you spot. “Make sure to look both up and down when you’re in an antique collective,” she said. “Real estate is expensive, and dealers take advantage of every inch of space, hanging things from the ceiling and tucking them under tables.”

TOUCH THINGS: “You’re not in a museum,” said Luther. “Feel an item and its weight. The heavier the piece of furniture — specifically chairs — the more likely that it’s a period piece from the 18th century.” Her pro tip: If you reach your hand underneath the front of a chair,
you can feel the raw wood. If it’s smooth, it’s been machine-cut, and the chair was made after 1860. If it’s rough, then it’s hand-cut, and the piece is likely much older. For china, pottery, and glassware, she advised, “Check for chips and cracks with your fingers as well as your eyes. Run your finger over all of the edges.”

DISCRIMINATE, BUT DON’T HOARD: “It takes three of something to make a collection,”
said Luther. If you have tabletop items, like lion figurines for example, “when you display them at home, you want to put them on a tray to give them a little more presence and interest. And you don’t want to buy every single lion you ever see: This is how hoarders get started. Be discriminating, buy the best quality you can afford, signed pieces or pieces
manufactured by well-known names. Keep refining your collection, replacing inferior pieces with better quality ones.”

Antique Center Mall, 4434 Hollister Ave., (805) 967-5700, antiquecentermall.com; Summerland Antique Collective, 2192 Ortega Hill Rd., Summerland, (805) 565-3189, summerlandantiquecollective.com

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021. To see the story as it originally appeared, click here.

Exploring the Ambriz Kingdom of Plants

Exploring the Ambriz Kingdom of Plants, photos by Erick Madrid. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021.

There’s no signage outside his unassuming digs, but an urban rainforest’s worth of living treasures is tucked into Joe Ambriz’s Carpinteria greenhouses. Everything from orchids (he specializes in Laelia anceps and Cattleya) to air plants, as well as a tempting variety of succulents, flowering cacti, and caudiciforms lines the aisles of Ambriz Kingdom of
Plants, many of which have been raised from seed by the man himself.

“I have a love that spreads across the whole plant world,” says Ambriz, showing off a tableful of exotic pot arrangements, some of which he’s been cultivating for almost a decade. “I try to do as much as I can from seed because a lot of the oddball, rare stuff isn’t easy to find in abundance, so by seed I’m able to create a whole bunch of rare plants.”

Ambriz got his start with orchids — a friend gifted him with a cymbidium, and when it died a year later, he was determined to learn how to keep it alive. That sent him into a deep dive into the world of horticulture: first as a hobbyist — at the time he was working as the percussion director for Santa Barbara High, his alma mater — and then working for 7 Day Nursery, with a small area for cultivation at Island View Nursery. When that property sold,
his current spot became available, and he leaped at the opportunity for a kingdom of his own about five years ago.

Until the pandemic hit, Ambriz made the bulk of his sales exhibiting at orchid shows, including the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show, which was shut down for the past
two years. Since then, he’s pivoted his efforts toward retail sales, and that loss is a gain for local plant lovers. While there are certainly plenty of colorful orchids on hand, the oddball assortment of agaves, aloes, bromeliads, tillandsia, and multitudes more are all equally
exciting.

4998 Foothill Rd., Carpinteria, open by appointment, (805) 570-5792

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021. To see the story as it originally appeared, click here.

Confined to Quarters, Not to Canvas

Confined to Quarters, Not to Canvas, photos by Erick Madrid. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021.

When the pandemic stuck Maryvonne LaParlière in her new Solvang home last spring, the white walls and unfinished surfaces didn’t stand a chance against the artist’s love of color. The French-born, École des Beaux-Arts–educated artist has specialized in decorative art for decades but focused primarily on commissions—like the three vibrant murals that grace the walls of Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital—and work for sale in galleries.

“When COVID arrived, it was not even like fight or flight, because we didn’t know what to fight exactly and we couldn’t fly anywhere,” said LaParlière, who closed her gallery in Amherst, Virginia, with the shutdown. “I had to figure out what to do.”

She looked around the house and spotted two nightstands in the bedroom that “were good quality but kind of blah.” So she painted them to match the botanical design on her
bedspread. Then it was on to faux painting a frieze of tiles in trompe l’oeil style, inspired by antique Spanish/Portuguese ceramic tiles.

Staying with Mediterranean-inspired vernacular, she hand-painted her patio and did an entire outdoor barbecue area. “I decided to do the wall near my iron gate and a little
barbecue sink, which I did painted in blue and white in the azulejos Portuguese style,” says the artist, whose work can be found in the collections of celebrities such as Priscilla Presley, Larry Hagman, Fannie Flagg, Julia Roberts, and Susan Sarandon, as well as the Orient Express Hotels chain, University of Virginia, and Alliance Française of Washington, D.C. In 2010, after a solo exhibition at the French Embassy, she was even decorated by the French Ambassador as a Knight in the Order of the Palms in recognition of her talent and for bringing French culture to so many in America.

Painting her way through the pandemic kept LaParlière’s spirits high, as did living in such a beautiful place. She transformed the steps leading up to her house into a colorful entryway, painting images of the nearby mission and gathering inspiration from all the local flora and fauna; “boring furniture” pieces like chests, trunks, and tables were transformed
into colorful works of art; and borders around her windows became showcases for more
hand-painted tilework.

Now that things are starting to open up, she is eager to work with new clients, as well as in her own home—if she can find an empty surface. Said LaParlière, “I will never stop.”

See laparliere.com.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021. To see the story as it originally appeared, click here.

Indian Pink Pillow Power

Indian Pink Pillow Power, originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021.

A passion for exotic textiles and a yearning for travel—fed by her time as a flight attendant for American Airlines—propelled Montecito-based Tamara Cajuste into the world of home decor. Indian Pink Pillows, which Tamara and her husband, JP Cajuste, founded in 2007, specializes in vibrant, one-of-a-kind pillows and bolsters that incorporate vintage textiles from around the world.

“I think of pillows as the jewelry of the house, and they are such a great way to accessorize and accent your home,” said Tamara. “They tie everything together: They can tie a rug together with a painting or the rest of your furniture.”

These decorative pillows are also a simple way to switch up your decor. “You can change with the seasons with pillows—do a heavier fabric and tones in winter and then a fresh, lighter summer color,” said Tamara, who designs from textiles across Asia and Africa, while JP handles sales and operations. “There are so many different ways to use pillows to do an update.”

Indian Pink Pillows has a pop-up shop at Folly (3823 Santa Claus Ln., Carpinteria), and its pillows are also available at Rooms & Gardens (924 State St.). See indianpinkpillows.com.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021. To see the story as it originally appeared, click here.