By Mo McFadden


Larry R. Rankin has been a sculptor in Santa Barbara and Buellton since 1977, yet Corridan Gallery owner Bill Fedderson calls him “Santa Barbara’s best-kept secret.”

However, his work is found in private homes, galleries and corporate headquarters all over the world, and his studio in Buellton will be part of the 17th annual Santa Barbara Studio Artists Open Studios Tour on Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-3.

The prolific artist’s work comes to life in carved wood, cast bronze, and stone; it ranges in size from hand-held at six inches to seven and a half feet tall.

“My sculptures, abstract or non-objective, are built upon a towering of shapes and forms,” Rankin said. “They reflect the collaboration of my life’s experiences and the way I perceive the world through my eyes … my works symbolizes the birth of a new form, not only physical form, but mentally as well.

“After I came back from serving in Vietnam, art gave me the opportunity to express things. Art was my savior,” he said in a 2007 interview with the Santa Barbara Independent’s arts writer, Heather Jeno.

“Rankin’s impulse to express himself through his art yields works as varied as they are emotionally evocative,” she noted. “His breadth of personal human experience, his attention to form and detail, and his intense zest for living fully, all find their residence in his sculptures.”

At the internationally recognized Las Vegas Art Expo, Rankin was awarded “Best in Show” out of 300 artists representing 16 countries in 2007. This was a major breakthrough, and more awards and commissions followed.

His work shows influences from Picasso, Henry Moore and cubist sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, but Rankin said, “My biggest inspiration is the natural world. Through my understanding of art and ability to see patterns, I am able to turn the shapes of nature into an abstract expression of life and emotion.”

In 1977, shortly after graduation from Northern Arizona University, he moved to Santa Barbara and in 1979 opened a studio with a friend on Cabrillo Boulevard. Since then, he’s never stopped working.

He had a studio in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone for 30 years, but in 2009 he moved to the Santa Ynez Valley to find a home he could afford with a separate space for a studio.

“It was nice finding a house that I could live in and have a separate studio,” he said.

During the Open Studios Tour on Labor Day weekend, more than 30 artists will have their workshops open to the public on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Sept. 1-3.

At an artists’ reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday at 10 West Gallery in Santa Barbara, patrons can meet most of the artists, purchase tour passes for the weekend, and see a representative piece from each artist. Tickets can also be purchased at the individual studios on the tour.

For more information, go to or call 805-280-9178.

To see Rankin’s work, go to