Studio Sessions – Artist tour allows a look behind the curtain

From landscapes to abstracts, artwork has been at many times inspired by Santa Barbara and its environs, either as a subject or simply as a place to work. Painters, sculptors and multimedia artists live and work invisibly in plain sight. The woman at the farmer’s market buying a basket of vegetables for the week may be going home to finish a huge canvas. The windows looking out from the Riviera may be artist studios. For those who join the Santa Barbara Studio Artists Tour this weekend, all will be revealed. Secret locations will be open for exploring, and one may just catch the art bug.

Now in its ninth year, the weekend-long open house features over 40 artists who live and work in Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria. Some work downtown. Others work off in the wilds, or as wild as we get here.

At top, Barbara McIntyre holds one of her assemblage pieces tittled 'PINPRICKS AND POTIONS.''MUST FLY,' BARBARA MCINTYRE (center). 'DOMINOES AND DOTS,' BARBARA MCINTYRE (above)
At top, Barbara McIntyre holds one of her assemblage pieces tittled ‘PINPRICKS AND POTIONS.’
At top, 'EAGLE CANYON,' B.J. STAPEN. Above the studio isn't the only place you'll find B.J. Stapen plying her craft.
At top, ‘EAGLE CANYON,’ B.J. STAPEN. Above the studio isn’t the only place you’ll find B.J. Stapen plying her craft.
At top, Peggy Ferris works in her spacious studio. Above, 'GIRL,' PEGGY FERRIS
At top, Peggy Ferris works in her spacious studio. Above, ‘GIRL,’ PEGGY FERRIS
Take, for example, Barbara Baker McIntyre. Her house, located off the 192 near Padaro Lane, looks like the perfect place to be baking cupcakes, which is indeed what she is doing upon this writer’s visit. But in the back in a converted garage, McIntyre introduces her studio. Her charming, surreal assemblage pieces follow in the tradition of Joseph Cornell and Susan Tibbles, full of dolls, game pieces, found paper, beach and roadside detritus and more. The garage is the method to her madness, with drawers and drawers devoted to each type of object.

Hanging in the gallery, McIntyre’s work is both alien and familiar, but here in the studio, it almost seems like a logical conclusion to the collections all around.

A veteran of the studio tour, she preps for the visits with a handout answering some of the most-asked questions. Where does she get her material? How long does it take?

“Those are never one-word answers,” she laughs, although one answer is simpler than the rest.

“It’s not the two-and-a-half hours it takes to make, but the 30 years of experience leading up to it,” she says.

B.J. Stapen’s studio looks out upon Santa Barbara from her house on the Riviera, and this summer she has watched the marine layer set over much of downtown. It only makes the warm, blazing colors of her oil landscapes all the better.

“The light is so different here,” she says, mentioning her other years spent in Denver and Indiana, and one only needs to look at the rays spilling into this structure that once used to house a square-dancing studio to agree.

The Studio Artists Tour is a great way to meet people, she says, even though the surrounding parking can be a bit cramped. People manage to make it, though, and she says many visitors are interested in what materials she uses to make her oil paintings. Yupo paper — a sort of plastic-based material — proves equally fascinating. A viewer steps away from Stapen’s studio with the distinct impression that the paintings light the place like a miniature sun would.

Peggy Ferris’ studio is another converted building off her main house near Montecito. Because Ferris is a regular on this tour and because Scene also interviewed her in July of 2008, visitors can also see how an artist changes over time. Ferris’ work has already changed in two short years, but in subtle ways. Her abstracts are rougher, from the line work, which she now applies with a squeegee, to the actual paint application, which is liberal. She’s still fascinated by blacks, whites and grays; color is still a bold and delightful intrusion.

“It’s a lot of people in two days; it’s concentrated,” Ferris says of tours past. “People mostly seem to want to spend time with the painting and form a connection with the piece. If they do, then they want to know how it’s made or what my intention is. Then it’s like backup information to justify a purchase.”

And a purchase, of course, is what all the artists hope for, though there’s nothing wrong with just looking.

Other artists on the tour include Pamela Hill Enticknap, John Moses, Ruth Ellen Hoag, Larry Rankin, Anna Griffin, Wayne J. Hoffman, Joan Rosenberg-Dent, Nancy Gifford and more. Those who want to fit a viewing of everything into their visit may want to watch their watches for time, but others can pick and choose from the wide selection.

When: Opening reception 5 to 8 p.m. tonight; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Santa Barbara Frame Shop & Gallery, 1324 State St. (Arlington Plaza)
Cost: $20
Information: (805) 280-9178,

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