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We are sometimes asked, “What’s going on in the art world these days?” The sheer multiplicity of answers makes responding succinctly almost impossible. Twenty years from now – or even better, forty – we’ll probably be able to organize some of what’s going on into trends or schools. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. At the present moment however, we can take our cues from that rare breed - the M.F.A.s; and we can count ourselves as fortunate that U.C.S.B. has such a vital program for giving these passionate makers a map of contemporary art’s most important discourses, honest feedback about their work, and campus exhibitions to sharpen their practice. These artists can give us important answers to “what’s going on?”

At the University of California, Santa Barbara, M.F.A.s are also offered campus studio space, which is, indeed, a privilege. Plus, these artists are expected to teach more often than not, which challenges them to articulate their ideas while also exposing them to the questions and insights of their even younger students. At U.C.S.B., they create a network with other bright, driven people who can provide encouragement and co-promotion. Curator Jeremy Tessmer learned this first-hand when he began communicating with artists who then recommended others that they had worked with and/or respected.

The resulting exhibition represents a modestly scaled core sample of impressive and wonderful works of art by recent U.C.S.B. M.F.A. graduates with gallery favorites Mary Heebner (M.F.A. 1977) and Ann Diener (M.F.A. 2005) added for context and continuity. 

What do we see? Painting lives on – driven by content and the ongoing search for relevant post-abstract representational techniques in the work of Cathy Ellis and by a conceptual approach to process in the work of Maria Rendón

Historicitymemory, and the problems and potentialities of immigration are also addressed in paintings by Yumiko Glover and Tom Pazderka

The importance of high-level craftsmanship and handmade craft itself is evident in the works of Nathan Hayden and Elisa Ortega Montilla who are also intent on using their materials in a particularly meaningful way. 

Works that imagine the border between nature and the built environment have been exactingly rendered by Eric Beltz and Ann Diener

Both Mary Heebner and R. Nelson Parrish, meanwhile, try to relate the importance of their own relationship to the natural world with metaphors that use many, many layers, whereas the works of Nathan Hayden explore that relationship in multiple dimensions.

Gender issues are explored by Madeleine Eve Ignon, but are also explored by Elisa Ortega Montilla and Yumiko Glover

There is a fair amount of overlap. Sorting these artists this way might open the door to useful comparison, but it unnecessarily divides these artists, too. The important takeaway is that while there is no singular issue that preoccupies the sophisticated art set, there are broadly shared concerns and critical frameworks. 

For some, this will be challenging material; but for others, the nowness of these works should be exciting and welcome. These artists have already seen institutional interest in their work. They are helping to define the present and we look forward to watching their work and careers develop in the future.

Part of the reason that the Gallery undertook this exhibition was to reinforce Santa Barbara as an important regional art center with a long history of meaningful contributions. This is part of a continuing series of exhibitions devoted to this theme.

ARTISTS INCLUDED:  Eric Beltz  |  Ann Diener  |  Cathy Ellis  |  Yumiko Glover  |  Nathan Hayden  |  Mary Heebner  |  Madeleine Eve Ignon  |  Elisa Ortega Montilla  |  R. Nelson Parrish  |  Tom Pazderka  |  Maria Rendón

ERIC BELTZ Eric Beltz was born in the City of Orange and now lives and works as a pencil artist in Santa Barbara. He teaches drawing at UC Santa Barbara where he also received his MFA in 2004. Beltz has shown extensively across the United States including at the Museum of Arts and Design (NY), the Mint Museum (NC), the Contemporary Arts Museum (TX), the Frye Museum (WA), and both the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Art, Design, and Architecture Museum at UCSB. His work has been reviewed by Art in America, the LA Times, the Village Voice, the New York Times, and other publications. Beltz has had numerous solo shows in Los Angeles and New York.

ANN DIENER Ann Diener’s drawing and installation practice traces the diverse elements that comprise the complicated history of place. Often large in scale, the works are multi-layered narratives that incorporate maps, charts and printed materials. Through references to land, culture, time and memory, these complex works explore how land and urban spaces are cultivated, manipulated, developed and controlled.

Diener received her B.F.A. from the U.C.L.A. and her M.F.A. from the U.C.S.B. She has exhibited internationally, including an exhibition at the Weatherspoon Museum in North Carolina; the Art, Design and Architecture Museum at U.C.S.B.; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the Torrance Museum; Otis College of Art and Design, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara; the Riverside Museum, Edward Cella Art and Architecture and Bank Gallery in L.A. and Hosfelt Gallery and Electric Works in San Francisco, as well as numerous art fairs in the U.S. and Europe. Today she works in Los Angeles.

CATHY ELLIS Cathy Ellis creates works based on the landscape of the California coast.  For her it’s a place of utopian beauty and optimism, also made unpredictable by natural disaster and climate change. At the core of these works is an interest in the potential of painting to convey emotion and the connection between personal experience and the sublime in landscape.  

Cathy Ellis received her MFA from UC Santa Barbara in 2014 and her BFA from Sonoma State University in 2010. In addition she has studied in Florence, Italy and at the Anderson Ranch Art Center. Ellis’s work has been exhibited nationally at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara, White Cube Art Space, Boulder, CO, 1821 Carpenter, Providence, RI, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Minan Gallery, Open Mind Art Space and Elephant Art Space Los Angeles. Awards and recognition include the Felix Hendrickson Scholarship in Painting, The Howard Fenton Award for Painting, the 2014 Teaching Fellowship in the College of Creative Studies, UCSB, and a nomination for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s SECA Award. 

YUMIKO GLOVER Yumiko Glover was born and raised in Hiroshima, Japan. She received her B.F.A. from the University of Hawai’i (2011) and completed her M.F.A. at U.C.S.B. (2017) where she was the post-graduate Artist-In-Residence (2017-2018). Glover has exhibited her artwork in solo exhibitions at: Brian Ohno Gallery (Seattle) and Silo118 Gallery (Santa Barbara, CA), as well as in group exhibitions at: PØST (Los Angeles), Left Field (San Luis Obispo), and Art, Design and Architecture Museum at U.C.S.B.  She has curated exhibitions at: Honolulu Museum of Art (Honolulu, HI), iBiennale MMXIX (Honolulu) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Glover currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA, where she is a lecturer in the department of Art at University of California, Santa Barbara.

​NATHAN HAYDEN Growing up in the woods of rural West Virginia in a log cabin built by his father without electricity or running water, Nathan Hayden developed an affinity for the patterns and structures found in nature. Today, Hayden dances to induce an ecstatic state wherein his observations of nature can reveal the underlying geometry of the universe. Constructing installations from handcrafted objects, Hayden creates immersive environments that suggest altered states of seeing and our own mystical relationship to the landscape.

Hayden received a BFA from Miami University (OH) in 2001 and an MFA from U.C.S.B. in 2009. He has exhibited nationally, including an exhibition at KMAC Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, CB1 Gallery and Marine Salon in L.A., Shelton Gallery in Houston, TX and site specific installations at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara and the Art, Design, and Architecture Museum at U.C.S.B. He currently lives and works in Santa Barbara, where he teaches at Santa Barbara City College.

MARY HEEBNER Mary Heebner earned her BFA in 1973 from College of Creative Studies studying with Paul Wonner, Charles Garabedian, Gerald Haggerty, and her MFA in 1978 from UCSB, where she was mentored by William Dole. She has distinguished herself as a collage artist, and also pairs her writing and images into fine art books, founding Simplemente Maria press in 1995. To date, she has produced twenty-one artist books (livres d'artiste). Acknowledging the power and presence of the anonymous ancients, the presences both human and earthen, of the strata of time and land, is integral to the creation of her paintings, collages, handmade-paper, photography, and fine art books. Fragments, both literal and metaphoric, are vital to her process.

Her work is held in numerous collections including the JP Getty Research Institute, The Library of Congress, The New Your Public Library, The National Gallery of Art, The British Museum, San Francisco and Santa Barbara Museums of Art,  Wesleyan University, Dartmouth College, Columbia University, Universities of California, The Gap.

MADELEINE EVE IGNON Madeleine Eve Ignon was born in Los Angeles and currently work as a multimedia artist and designer in Santa Barbara, California. She has been awarded residencies at Starry Night (Truth or Consequences, New Mexico), Vermont Studio Center (Johnston, VT), and Drop Forge & Tool (Hudson, NY), and has exhibited nationally. She graduated from Connecticut College with a BA in Art and earned her MFA from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently the 2019-2020 College of Creative Studies Teaching Fellow at UCSB.

ELISA ORTEGA MONTILLA Elisa Ortega Montilla was born in Spain and lives and works in Santa Barbara. A social worker with over a decade of experience, she has worked with groups as diverse as drug addicts; victims of domestic violence; the gypsy community in Spain; homeless LGBT youth and adults with intellectual disabilities in Los Angeles. She completed a M.F.A. at U.C.S.B. in 2019 and was chosen as the university's 2019-2020 Artist-in-Residence. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hyperallergic, KCRW, New Times (San Luis Obispo), VoyageLA Magazine, and the University of California's Women's Month. She has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in Spain, Guatemala, and California, including the Sur Biennial at the Torrance Art Museum, the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, the Art, Design, and Architecture Museum in Santa Barbara, and the Eduardo Chillida Cultural Center in Madrid. Most recently, she participated in the 2020 International QiPO Art Fair in Mexico City as well as Spring/Break Art Fair in Los Angeles. 

R. NELSON PARRISH Born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and educated at the University of Nevada, Reno before he got his M.F.A. from U.C.S.B., R. Nelson Parrish has built an international audience with works that use a variety of fine art and industrial processes. An avid athlete, he tries to translate heightened experiences that are lived in the body – where calm might exist inside chaos, where what is happening very fast outside can feel very slow inside. 

Parrish has had notable solo exhibitions at the BMW Welt, Munich, Germany; The Kimball Art Center, Park City, UT; Sheppard Gallery, Nevada, Reno; and Edward Cella Art+Architecture, Los Angeles, CA. Group exhibitions include Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Art & History, Lancaster, CA; Sense Fine Art, Menlo Park, CA; Anchorage Museum, Anchorage, Alaska; Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA; Museum of Art & History, Santa Cruz, CA; Galerie Nobel, Oslo, Norway; Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, Telluride, CO; Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA; Art, Design and Architecture Museum, U.C.S.B.; and Galerie Hegemann, Munich, Germany.

TOM PAZDERKA Tom Pazderka is painter, installation artist and writer who was born in the Czech Republic in 1981. He moved to the US at the age of twelve, shortly after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and lived in a tiny studio basement apartment in New York City with his parents before moving to the hot and humid lands of the deep South. Pazderka’s sentiments resulting from immigration, loss, and sense of place find resonance in his written work a well. His graduate research thesis Psychoanalysis of the Cabin navigates and synthesizes the disparate notions of nostalgia, ideology, nationalism, conspiracy theory, media and recreation. He holds an MFA from the University of California Santa Barbara where he was a Regents Fellow and was Artist in Residence. At UC Santa Barbara, Pazderka studied with internationally renowned theorist and cultural critic Dick Hebdige. 

Recent exhibitions include Bender Gallery (Asheville, NC), The Basic Premise (Ojai, CA), Sullivan Goss and Silo 118 (Santa Barbara, CA), Gallery 825 (Los Angeles), FA Museum (NC), Parasol Projects (NYC), Trafo Gallery (Prague, Czech Republic). Residencies include Trafacka and MeetFactory (Czech Republic) and Chateau Orquevaux (France). His work was published in LA Weekly, New American Paintings, Dark Mountain, Santa Barbara Literary Journal and Daily Serving among others. Pazderka is represented by Bender Gallery, The Basic Premise, and Silo 118.

MARIA RENDÓN Maria Rendón is a mixed media painter and former assemblage maker from Mexico City. She received a BFA from Universidad Anáhuac before earning her second BFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and completed her MFA at the University of California Santa Barbara in 2014. She has exhibited with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara, the Atkinson Gallery at Santa Barbara City College, the Art Design and Architecture Museum UCSB, California State Long Beach, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Her work is featured in New American Paintings #123, Graphis #355 and Taschen’s book, “Illustration Now!”

Maria Rendón’s paintings and installations explore themes of transformation, dualities, ritualistic experience and landscape. Infused with elements of control and chance, her paintings are inspired by the space between reality and perception, the present and the absent, the normal and the abnormal.


5:35  |  Jeremy Tessmer

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