‘Open’ for Business

By Steven Libowitz   |   September 7, 2021
Cynthia Martin

After canceling due to the coronavirus pandemic last Labor Day weekend, the Santa Barbara Studio Artists’ Open Studios Tour is back for its 20th annual event with nearly 30 local painters, sculptors, mixed-media, and other artists throwing open the doors to the spaces where they create their works. Once again, art lovers will have the opportunity to drop in on the artists in the self-guided driving tour that stretches from Summerland to Goleta, spanning everything from efficient downtown live-in lofts to expansive detached spaces in the Montecito and Santa Barbara foothills. 

Along with a preview/artist reception evening on Friday night — this year located in the largely open-air Community Arts Workshop downtown in a concession to continuing COVID concerns, but also allowing for large-scale works to be displayed — an illustrated guide provides not only a map to the studios but also a preview of each artist’s work so visitors can make plans to drop in on their favorites over the three-day event that takes place September 4-6. And just as the artists’ work varies in approach, media, and style, so too did their reaction to the pandemic, with some producing prolifically while others withdrew, said Francis Scorzelli, SBSA board president. 

“Some artists had a hard time creating because of what was going on. They were upset and weren’t really working,” he said. “But I work from home, so I spent all my time in the studio, so it didn’t really affect me at all. I just kept doing what I do and used the time to work on some big pieces.”

SBSA painter Cynthia Martin, who also works in abstracts, took an opposite approach in reacting to the COVID crisis. The near-50-year resident of Montecito who graduated from UCSB in the early 1960s and basically never left town has focused on the landscape and the vanishing natural world in her life and art ever since childhood.   

“I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and around when I was coming up here to go to college, I saw things beginning to change,” said Martin.

“Smog was coming in, the developers were cutting down the trees where my friend and I rode horses and painted… Now, with each piece and series, I’m trying to make a point, usually about the environment and the political message. It’s about expressing a thought or a concept or maybe anger.”

Lately, rising tides in coastal cities due to climate change has been on her mind — and her canvases — while COVID and the politicizing of health protocols also caused her to create some new works. 

“I am very interested in the intersection of the pandemic with politics and my environmental concerns,” she said. “When my mother was dying, I sat in her room for two weeks just looking at the monitor by her bed, and that really imprinted on my brain.”


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