Deep in Red — CAF’s Valentine’s Auction one of the year’s biggest

All hail the Red, White and … Pink!

It’s time again for “La Vie en Rose,” Contemporary Arts Forum’s annual Valentine’s exhibition, benefit auction and fashion show. The exhibition side — featuring works from a slew of Santa Barbara artists like Stephanie Dotson, Warren Schultheis, Zacarias Paul, Mary Heebner and more — is already up, but Saturday night’s gala event is the time to really show the love.

“Art is really accessible now,” says CAF’s executive director Miki Garcia. “For the amount you would buy a poster print, you could buy an original work.”

Not only that, but many of the artists will be at the auction, many of them familiar faces from the last three years of CAF exhibitions. The artists are “working, collectible and accessible,” Garcia says. “We are here to demystify the idea that artists are lofty, crazy geniuses.”

Garcia hopes this 13th edition of “La Vie en Rose” will make a good alternative to the “bottle of wine/box of chocolates” options for many Valentine’s Days. It’s a singles and a couples event, and come prepared with your best flirty game. “It’s a great mix of traditional CAF supporters, and all the artists. It’s a lively, dynamic crowd. It’s not stuffy, or overtly saccharine. It’s really about having a fabulous, great time with undertones of love … and romance.”

The event, Garcia adds, also dissolves the line between fine art and couture fashion. Following discussions with Susan Pitcher of the boutique dressed/ready, Saturday night’s fashion show includes unique items from Halston, Yigal Azrou’l, Thakoon, A . L . C ., Caleen Cordero, Kimberly Ovitz, YSL, and more.

Also bridging the art and fashion worlds, Doug Wada will be hanging a selection of his own couture-inspired watercolors, first at Pitcher’s dressed/ready store in Montecito, but then moving over to CAF just in time for the event.

“The whole event has taken an elegant turn,” says Mary Beth Myers, who is conceptualizing the event

For the auction, CAF has gathered art and also lifestyle packages like private yoga lessons, tennis club memberships, film festival passes and dinners at fine restaurants. There’s also the impressive wine auction, from barrel tastings and magnums, to rarities and winery visits.

Myers is also carefully designing the mood of the evening, with lighting starting in whites and pale pinks, then changing to hot pink and deep reds by the end of the evening, when the fashion show has wrapped and the music, courtesy of DJ Fab of Sexxxytime, has started up.

“CAF is a large white space that allows us to go crazy,” Myers laughs.

The proceeds go to education and community outreach. As Garcia reminds, CAF is not only free, but brings in free monthly events as part of First Thursdays. Experimental artist Bruce McClure, for example, who usually charges for any of his events, performed here in December 2009 and forewent his usual fee. CAF remains challenging, but wants to extend the challenge to as many as possible. Their bumper sticker from a few years ago summed it up: “As a matter of fact we do call it art.”

“We really are the Museum of Modern Art of Santa Barbara, although we don’t call it that,” says Myers. “It adds a lot to Santa Barbara and to downtown.”

When: 8 p.m. til late Saturday, Feb. 6
Where: Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Paseo Nuevo Mall
Cost: $75 to $175
Information: and 966-5373

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