Burt Levitsky's 'Chelsea,' from Santa Cruz Art League's 'All Those Figures' exhibit.

Burt Levitsky's 'Chelsea,' from Santa Cruz Art League's 'All Those Figures' exhibit.

All Those Figures
Santa Cruz Art League
Through Sept. 15

Art is how humans reflect the world around us—and most of the time, we see each other. That’s why it’s no surprise that the human body has been the favorite subject of great masters, total hacks and every kind of artist in between.

And yet, the promise of “figures” in an art exhibit suggests something unbearably cold and clinical—like there will be diagrams involved. Luckily, that’s not the case with Santa Cruz Art League’s exhibit “All Those Figures,” which runs through Sept. 15 at the Broadway gallery. More than just a skin-deep examination of form, this collection beats with the warm heart of the subjects its artists have captured.

“All Those Figures” focuses on the true art, rather than the science, of the figure. In fact, the only thing that links these portraits is the way they all offer a radically different view of the human body. So, for instance,

Grandmother by Capitola’s Sheryl Barabba is a shadowy portrait in oil, a sparse and somber depiction that flips the notion of “golden years” on its head. Observers, on the other hand, by Richard Bennett of Santa Cruz, pops off the canvas with its vibrant color and almost comic-book style. Bill Dyer of Watsonville brings an impressionistic flair to his portrait of field workers, slyly titled Morning Traffic. Meanwhile, Ben Lomond photographer Frank

Leonard imbues Spider with a stark definition of form that somehow emphasizes rather than masks the gorgeous surrealism of the piece—it’s only one of a series of challenging and eminently rewarding nudes by Leonard in the exhibit.

Chelsea by Burt Levinsky of Santa Cruz is another piece that captures the mystery and allure of the human body, especially in the enigmatic smile of its subject. Ikebana Sensai by Susan Ashley of San Jose uses collage to bring a certain ambiguous spirituality to what would otherwise be a straightforward portrait.

In the exhibit’s most clever twist, Santa Cruz’s Ron Cook has sculpted a chess set that reminds us that artists’ shaping of figures extends out of the fine art world, into everyday life.

Cindy Liebenthal, administrative director of Santa Cruz Art League, says that to her, this approach of one concept from multiple angles represents the best of what the gallery can do.

“It’s when it’s kind of open-ended [that] you get a lot of different viewpoints, whatever the concept is,” says Liebenthal. “That’s what makes a good show.” (Steve Palopoli)
Santa Cruz Is in the Heart
Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History
Aug 30 – Nov 24

It takes a local to really get to the heart of Santa Cruz’s true nature. Geoffrey Dunn, Santa Cruz writer and historian did just that in his book Santa Cruz Is in the Heart, which tells tales of Santa Cruz’s unique history of bohemians, political activists and other distinct characters. Now, in conjunction with the release of its second edition, Santa Cruz Is in the Heart is the basis for this innovative exhibit at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Some of the people whose life stories will be showcased in the exhibit (as they were in the book) include Malio Stagnaro, a Santa Cruz-Italian fishing colony patriarch; Old Chepa, a 19th century Santa Cruz Indian beggar; Don Yee, operator of the famous Teacup bar in downtown Santa Cruz; Helen Weston, an African American activist; and several others. Dunn, of course, is one of the area’s most distinguished writers, and also wrote The Lies of Sarah Palin in 2011. (Aaron Carnes)
Sight Insight
Cabrillo College Gallery
Sept 3-Sept 27

As any culture vulture knows, the best part of the 4H tent at the county fair is seeing the work by young budding artists. There are the snapshots of cats napping in the sun, the snapshots of dogs napping in the sun, the, uh, snapshots of younger siblings napping in the sun. Okay, never mind, we want to see some work by qualified, grown-ass adult artists. That’s what Cabrillo Gallery will showcase for “Sight Insight,” in which the Art and Photography Department’s faculty and staff will present their own work in a survey exhibition. From Gallery Program Director Rose Sellery’s antique work boots fused with false teeth to Digital Photography Instructor Victoria May’s intriguing scavenged clipboards filled with found scientific notes, the exhibit is as thought-provoking as it is aesthetically pleasing. (Georgia Perry)
Formal Complexity
Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery
Sept. 18 –Oct. 19

American Realist painter Charles Griffin Farr was born in Birmingham, Ala. in 1908. But don’t write him off as a Confederate—by the time World War II ended, Farr had relocated to San Francisco, by way of New York City and the Academie Americaine in Paris. He lived and worked for most of his life on Potrero Hill, where he developed his particular style of painting, which draws inspiration from classical Renaissance and 17th-century European work while maintaining an unmistakably modernist aesthetic, sometimes using the techniques of Magical Realism. Farr’s work is a mixture of still-life scenes of everyday life, as well as portraits and figure drawings. He died in 1997, and willed his private collection of work to UCSC. As a result, students had the unique opportunity to help curate this showcase of his work. (GP)
Santa Cruz County Symphony
Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium & Mello Center
Oct 5 (Civic, 8pm) – Oct 6 (Mello, 2pm)

This should be an exciting season for the Santa Cruz County Symphony. They boast a brand new conductor, Daniel Stewart, who has previously worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony and the St. Louis Symphony. Stewart opens things up in October with “Celebration!” a collection of favorites by Strauss, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky, including Strauss’ overture to The Bat (Die Fledermaus), one of the best-known operetta overtures of all times. Guest pianist Jeffrey Kahane will play these two shows. Then on Nov. 16-17, Stewart brings “Fantasy and Fate” which will focus on the fairy tale side of classical music, including Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite. This show will also include Beethoven’s famous Fifth Symphony, arguably the greatest piece of music ever written, which he wrote as he was going deaf. The Santa Cruz County Symphony’s season will also continue into 2014 with concerts in January, March and May. (AC)
Shakespeare Unscripted
UCSC Theater Arts Mainstage
Oct 13, 3pm

With the shock of Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s plan to close up shop for good at the end of this year still fresh (see Briefs, page 8), it’s bittersweet to be reminded of what an incredible resource the organization has been for three decades now. Not only have they made Shakespeare’s body of work available and accessible to audiences in this area every summer, they’ve also brought events like “Shakespeare Unscripted” to local stages. This is exactly the kind of edgy Bard-related entertainment that always matched up so well to SSC. It’s performed by the Impro troupe, which has gotten rave reviews for its spontaneous Shakespeare productions—the cast takes a few suggestions from the audience and then builds an entire play around it on the spot, totally improvised, in Will’s unmistakable style. Go see it while we still have access to events like this. (SP)
Pacific Rim Film Festival
Oct. 17-23
Various locations, Santa Cruz

“We’ve got a lot of momentum going now,” says the Pacific Rim Film Festival’s Denise Vivar. It’s true, and you can see how Pac Rim brings a certain zeitgeist with it whenever it comes around in Downtown Santa Cruz. Like last year, when The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls—a documentary about yodeling, country-music-singing lesbian twins (no, silly, not Tegan & Sara in disguise)—played the festival and was the talk of the town. If that raised eyebrows, one of the festival selections this year just might singe them right off. Comrade Kim Goes Flying is a film from North Korea about a woman living there who wants to be an aerial gymnast, but is discouraged at every turn as she overcomes all obstacles to realize her dream. Despite the fact that this is the basic plot of every Pixar movie, the film is proving a lightning rod for controversy—apparently it’s okay to sell the dream if you’re backed by a first-world megacorporation, but not if you’re from a third-world dictatorship. Other films include Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, a Taiwanese film about a wife who discovers her husband is gay, and Linsanity, a documentary about the pop culture storm around NBA player Jeremy Lin. (SP)
Glow: A Festival of Fire
Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History
Oct. 18, 7-10pm

Fall means the beginning of crisp, chilly days, and the comforting rituals of fire. You know, like warming one’s hands by it, or juggling it, or making flaming sculptures out of it. Okay, those last two are mostly at the MAH this October, where the fire festival “Glow” will take over Cooper Street and Abbott Square on Oct. 18. Fire artists of all types will have the space, materials and proper permits to dazzle with their incendiary arts. The next night, Oct. 19, the digital art component of the festival will turn all three stories of the MAH into a blacklight paradise, the likes of which even stony Santa Cruz could not previously have imagined.  (SP)
Unfixed Itineraries: Film and Visual Culture from Arab Worlds
Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery
Oct 25 – Dec. 10

The Arab world is a huge, diverse place, and yet in the mind of a lot of Americans, it is a singular culture. In truth, there is as great a cultural diversity in Arab countries as there is in places like Europe, with people of all sorts of different lifestyles and identities. Unfixed Itineraries’ goal is to show this diversity through film and art. The content collected here aims to go beyond simply examining the religions and politics of this part of the world, and get into all aspects of life. The artists participating in this exhibit come from Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, Syria and the U.S. In addition to the standard ongoing exhibit from Oct. 25-Dec. 10, there will be a two-day symposium with the artists on Oct. 25-26. There will also be a series of films by Moroccan filmmaker Moumen Smihi that will be screened at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley between Oct. 10-27 in conjunction with Unfixed Itineraries. (AC)
The Normal Heart
UCSC Experimental Theater
Nov 1 – Nov 10, 7pm (Sundays 3pm)

It was a scary and confusing time in the early ’80s when gay men started dying of a mysterious illness. AIDS wasn’t even a term that existed to describe it yet. A lot of people in that community who were afflicted with the unknown disease felt that because they were homosexual, no one really took it seriously. This is the backdrop against which Larry Kramer’s iconic 1985 play The Normal Heart takes place. It is fierce, angry and highly autobiographical. Kramer, much like his lead character Ned Weeks, became an activist for gay rights and AIDS activism because of experiences he had in his own life that are very similar to what’s portrayed in the play. At the time, The Normal Heart was thought of as being “too political” for a lot of people, but now it’s considered trailblazing in the way Kramer tackled sensitive issues few others were willing to face head on. This UCSC Theater Arts Department staging is timely, as far from being dated, The Normal Heart is enjoying a renaissance, as production of a film adaptation is underway, with Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts and Alec Baldwin attached. (AC)
Santa Cruz Film Festival
Del Mar Theater
Nov 7 – 10

For over a decade, the Santa Cruz Film Festival has maintained its mission of giving local filmmakers a place to show their work, as well as providing Santa Cruz with films that reflect the city’s independent spirit and social consciousness. This year, the SCFF gets a makeover, courtesy of its new director Jeff Ross. The festival has moved from May to November, and is cutting down its previous 10-day run to a far more manageable four-day program. It has quite a legacy already—literally thousands of films have come and gone through the SCFF that might not have been shown to the public otherwise. The SCFF has never been afraid to take on social issues like environmentalism and social justice, and past films have explored corporate green movements, solar power, the climate crisis and more. This year, look for what organizers are calling a “more curated” selection of films, which may reduce the number of obscure gems to be found, but will undoubtedly improve the SCFF experience overall. They are still accepting submissions for this year’s festival, until Sept. 6. (AC)

  • Sheryl Barabba

    Thank you Steve for your perceptive comment on my painting, Grandmother, in the figure show piece. It was interesting to me that you saw through her big smile to the darker back-story of the painting. I wasn’t sure anyone would see that!