Haven of the arts

Kaleb Martinez, Staff Writer

On the corner of State St. and E. Anapamu St. is the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, a gemstone of Santa Barbara and a sanctuary of the arts for the patrons of the town. The museum acts as a time capsule of sorts — a place following different eras of history throughout a series of regions such as America, Europe and Asia. From ancient history to the modern era this museum explores the human condition throughout times of prosperity and turmoil.

The museum organizes different pieces of art in uniquely correspondent sections that each have their own theme or period of time. The Preston Morton Gallery features American Art, the Campbell Gallery and Sterling Morton Gallery present Asain Art and finally the Ridley-Tree Gallery contains 19th-century European and American art pieces. The woman after whom the aforementioned gallery is named is Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, which may sound familiar as the art museum here at Westmont college is named after her as well.

Within these galleries there were many unique pieces of art each with its own story, but here are a few that caught my eye during my visit. First, two wooden carvings called the “Heads of Ni-õ” which were protectors in the Japanese Buddhist society. I chose to include these because of my fascination with religious monuments. There were stories and beliefs behind the wooden carvings. They in fact were the embodiment of powerful religious icons for an entire sect of people. 

Then there was the “Mountain Man” by Fredric Remington, a figure made of metal depicting a fur trader from the 1830s and 1840s. Remington chose this era of history as a topic for his art since his early years. His art really encapsulates the struggles for fame and fortune in a new world seen in this period of history. The fur trader in this art piece is riding his horse down the steepest of slopes, showing the lengths these traders would go through to make it big in the new world.

Next was a piece by the name of “View of Yosemite Valley” by Thomas Hill, which was a painting capturing the swooping depths of the valleys and soaring heights of the mountains found in Yosemite. This painting stuck out to me because of how well it captured the intrinsic beauty of nature with the piece. The sights of Yosemite are truly breathtaking, acting as an embodiment of the Earth’s power and prestige. While the painting is not even close to the experience of being in Yosemite, it represents the essence of how it feels to be there. 

Lastly was my favorite piece in the museum titled “Frankenstein” by Kerry James Marshall which was a naked black silhouette of a man upon a purely black background. At a glance, the painting can be eerie, as you slightly make out a figure blanketed in darkness on the canvas. The closer you approach, however, the more you can make out that it is simply a man, naked and exposed, who while he is one with the darkness may not be so voluntarily. It mirrors the struggles Mary Shelly imposed upon Frankenstein’s monster within a single canvas.

These selected examples are just a small snippet of what the Santa Barbara Art Museums offer. And truthfully, what better time than now to visit, especially when college students get in free with an ID. For those who visit soon, there are ofrendas throughout the museums to celebrate the Day of the Dead topped with messages from local schools. So make sure to get in on the action!

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