The Santa Barbara Museum of Art was an unexpected gem tucked amongst the expected retail shops and restaurants and mildly surprising number of tattoo parlours and empty store fronts along State Street, which seemed to be the city’s main drag. It’s a Goldilocks sized museum – it felt like there was plenty to see, but everything could be looked at in depth without feeling overwhelmed. The main exhibit was a retrospective of Valeska Soares‘ work, there was also a selection of works from the museum’s permanent collection and an exhibit of Asian narrative paintings.
I found myself wondering about Soares’ process – how she decided on the objects to use in her installations and how she collected them – which came first… was it that she liked footstools and then realized they were at a critical mass to use in a piece, or did she have the idea first and then garage sale and thrift store in search of the stools? And how did she decide which pieces to put together in the various rooms? There seemed to be two main threads, one book related and the other furniture and household object related, but they all worked together. I was particularly surprised by the pillows, which, from afar I though “huh, there’s some pillows on the floor in that room.” (“just” pillows) – but, on closer inspection, they turned out to be carved of marble!
Anyway, being so busy thinking on the process on mechanics of them all I’m not sure I got much meaning out of any of it, but I did also enjoy the pieces from an aesthetic point of view. I particularly enjoyed For To, a collection of dedication pages from books that were neat to look at at several different levels – as patterns from afar as well as reading up close. Another fun piece was Vaga Lume, a grid of light bulbs with pull chains you could use to switch the bulbs on and off. I always enjoy having works I can interact with at an art museum, and walking through the hanging chains was an additional sensory experience that was mildly disconcerting and yet pleasurable. It was also fun watching other museum goers interact (or not) with the piece.