Posted by tracey on:
So one of the really great things about working at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is that when a new show opens the staff has a walkthrough with the curator. Today's walkthrough was with curator Julie Joyce for the Stranger Than Fiction and Chasing Moby Dick exhibitions.
I happen to love works on paper. I like to see the marks made by the artist, the process, the starts and stops. A friend of mine once said that it was because I like to read, and works on paper are often like books. That seems very appropriate with the new SBMA exhibition as the works in the show deal with ideas of storytelling and narrative.
Two of the artworks in the show are drawings by Santa Barbara's Eric Beltz. Eric came to Santa Barbara to attend UCSB and has continued on, teaching classes and working on these incredible drawings. The detail is incredible and takes a long time to discover all of the layers, meaning and connections. I have the good fortune to be one of Eric's Facebook friends and get to watch the progress of his work as he posts pictures of his daily work. Objects come and go, lines are erased and redrawn, text is added and deleted. The final drawing done entirely in graphite is elegant and profane.
I wanted to be sure and highlight the work "Drunk Jesus Calendar" which was just added to the permanent collection of the museum. It is to the curators' credit that there are many local artists represented in the museum's collections and that they are often shown in context with their peers from all over the world. "Drunk Jesus Calendar" inspired by the local wine country and culture is a great addition.
Below is Eric's description of the work. If you want to see more his site is http://www.ericbeltz.com/ and if you're in NYC he shows at Morgan Lehman Gallery. Eric will give a talk at SBMA on Sunday, November 7 at 2:30pm. (and it's free!) The rest of the show is great too, check it out before January.
Drunk Jesus Calendar
Jesus in a deep alcoholic, meditative bliss. Drunk on wine. A visionarycalendar emerges showing the various events throughout the year on the vineyard and in the winery: the wine-maker¹s calendar. The phases of the moon surround the calendar, from new moon to the full moon behind his head.The moons are also grayscale ³eyes² of concentric rings that have the same four-step grayscale as the rainbows that emerge from the black sun in the center of the calendar and diamond pattern border. This, to me, is an attempt to show the power of the grayscale, my devotion to it as an artist, and that it is an important part to understanding my work.
The crosses throughout the image are raptor perches used by growers to attract predatory birds who kill the small creatures like gophers and other rodents that threaten the growing vines and ripening fruit the bird on the upper left cross is a kestrel. The starling on the post with the barbed-wire is a sign that the fruit is ripe because they show up when the fruit is sweet. The text emanating from his heart gives a name to those stages of grape-growing and wine-making. They are listed in sequential, cyclical order as they occur around the year. "Rest" is pointing up at his head because he is resting.The text behind Jesus is from Meister Eckhart (13th century German mystic) but is here meant to refer to wine as the holy "spirit".
As with all of my drawings, I am interested in the origin of symbols, myths, beliefs, etc. The effects of alcohol (in this case, psychedelics in others) combined within a belief system that uses altered states of consciousness can confirm those beliefs: Drink this and you will feel the spirit possess you. This is the awakening and the beginning of the transformation of the mundane world into the sacred. A raptor perch becomes a holy cross. The sheep used to mow the grass between vines become personifications of a deity. The hope that fruit is born from labor becomes submerged in gospel.
This drawing came about through a variety of accidental encounters. The robe Jesus is wearing was a gift, a blanket that a former student's mother made and that he gave to me. The cross perches I saw at a vineyard in Ballard and who make wine called La Croce. Some of the elements in the background and the calendar vignettes are from photographs I took while traveling and visiting vineyards and wineries, others are from books on wine. The datura in the lower left corner appears in many of my drawing and is a reminder of the native psychoactive weeds and it¹s importance to me.