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.


Cocktail Corner: Wine & Art Come Together to Support SlingShot Gallery

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

Wine and art are both close to my heart, so when the two of them come together to support a local nonprofit, it’s sure to be a magical evening!

In this case, Wine & Art, a fundraiser for SlingShot Art Forum, an Alpha Resource of Santa Barbara project, takes place on November 11, from 6-8:30 p.m. at the SlingShot Gallery, 220 W. Cannon Perdido St.

Hosted by acclaimed wine writer and TV personality Gabe Saglie, the event features delicious catering by Scott Wallace of SB Wine Dine Build and wine tasting from Grassini Family VineyardsThe Ojai Vineyard and Windrun Wines, as well as exclusive tastings from Willson Family Vineyard.

Willson Wine bottles of pinot noir, with labels by Slingshot Artists, available at the Wine & Art Fundraiser, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Willson Wine bottles of pinot noir, with labels by Slingshot Artists, available at the Wine & Art Fundraiser, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Based in Carpinteria, the pinots produced by the Willson Family are bottled with special labels from SlingShot artists—and all of the proceeds benefit the SlingShot art program. 

The Willson’s daughter Mylie was born with Down syndrome and received services from Alpha Resource of Santa Barbara, thus inspiring the family to produce their wines so generously, says Sue Dumm, Artist Representative/Community Liaison for SlingShot. In addition to being available for tasting and purchase at the Wine & Art fundraiser,  SlingShot is now part of First Thursday festivities in downtown Santa Barbara, where each month the public can come see and buy art on the walls, as well as taste and purchase Willson pinot, says Dumm.

Dumm gave me my first tour of the gallery for this story, but it definitely won’t be my last visit!

Another Willson Wine bottle of pinot noir, with label by a Slingshot Artist, available at the Wine & Art Fundraiser, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Another Willson Wine bottle of pinot noir, with label by a Slingshot Artist, available at the Wine & Art Fundraiser, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Just a few steps a way from our office at Santa Barbara SeasonsSlingShot is a working art studio and gallery which supports 34 different Santa Barbara artists. Since 1980, Alpha Resource Center has promoted artists with developmental disabilities through participation in gallery and juried art shows, and this gallery is an expansion of the art studio program.  Many of the artists are recognized for their talent and have developed dedicated collectors. SlingShot gives the artists greater visibility and access to the rich local art world. It also gives our community better access to their work. As a working studio, visitors are able to meet the artists and view the art as it is created.

According to the Mission Statement, “Alpha Resource Center is a multi-faceted service center providing support and information for families of children with developmental disabilities of all ages, teen and adult recreation, and life skills training for adults. Today Alpha serves over 2,200 families. Alpha also owns and operates three thrift stores which support our services.”

Tickets for the event are $50, can be purchased online at: http://alphasb.org/events/.

I hope to see you there! Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 20, 2017.