New displays to show the connection between art and nature

Staff Report

The Wildling Museum of Art and Nature is pleased to announce its 2021 reopening, featuring two new exhibitions: “Bio/Mass: Contemporary Meditations on Nature,” on view through Sept. 5, and “Art from the Trail: Exploring the Natural Beauty of Santa Barbara County,” on view through Oct. 3.

The public is invited to visit during walk-in hours, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Current museum members may also visit by appointment Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. by contacting Julie Mock at or calling 805-688-1082. Museum hours will be expanded over time, check prior to your visit for current hours and COVID-19 procedures. 

Visitors to the Wildling Museum will find a visual feast in the galleries with distinct work by contemporary artists utilizing a diverse range of media – including sculpture, found natural materials, ceramic, encaustic, mixed media and painting. On the first floor, “Bio/Mass: Contemporary Meditations on Nature” invites viewers to engage with art through the eyes of the artists as observers and interpreters of the world around them. 

In this exhibition, co-curators Holli Harmon and Nicole Strasburg selected 11 contemporary artists who create work in series, exploring some element of nature. 

“This show speaks to a labor of love,” Harmon said. “These artists have invested countless hours and creative reflection from their explorations and recordings of nature, and in doing so, they help us stop time and look more closely and thoughtfully at our natural world.” 

“This collected group of artists are amassed to reveal a diverse commentary on nature through meditative repetition,” Strasburg said. “Despite the quarantine, creativity bubbles forth just as nature finds a way to survive and thrive.”

Photo by Lauren Sharp This is a detail view of artist Libby Smith’s ceramic bird sculptures, on view in the “Bio/Mass: Contemporary Meditations on Nature” exhibit at Wildling Museum.

Whether examining natural patterns, studying the same location over a long period of time, or combining and recombining singular elements that accumulate into a revealing larger work, these artists have translated their deep observation and fascination with their individual environments into works that beckon viewers to find beauty in the details of our world, celebrating both quiet and dramatic moments in nature.

“Bio/Mass: Contemporary Meditations on Nature” features artists Scott Chatenever, Lynn Hanson, Dorothy Churchill-Johnson, Karen Kitchel, Maria Rendón, John Robertson, Sommer Roman, Carol Saindon, Catherine Eaton Skinner, Libby Smith and Nicole Strasburg.

Accompanying the new first floor exhibition is “Art from the Trail: Exploring the Natural Beauty of Santa Barbara County,” which celebrates the outdoor treasures of the Central Coast with 38 artworks created by 27 local artists. 

Member artists of the Oak Group, SLOPE (San Luis Outdoor Painters for the Environment) and SCAPE (Southern California Artists Painting for the Environment) were invited by the Wildling to participate in this juried invitational exhibition showcasing the trail systems in Santa Barbara County. A key goal of the exhibition, in partnership with Healthy People Healthy Trails and the Santa Barbara County Trails Council, is to raise awareness of the wealth of trails located in Santa Barbara County and to inspire visitors and community members to explore them, while encouraging a healthier lifestyle. 

Trails highlighted in the show range from the South Coast, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley and Lompoc Valley regions, including trails located at Carpinteria Bluffs, Goleta’s Lake Los Carneros and Ellwood Mesa, to La Purisima State Historic Park, Cachuma Lake, and many more.

“Igniting an interest in our environment through art is at the heart of the Wildling Museum’s mission,” says Stacey Otte-Demangate, executive director at the Wildling Museum. “We’re excited to be partnering with Healthy People Healthy Trails to energize our community to take advantage of the beautiful outdoor resources we have available to us here in Santa Barbara County.” 

“Through the pandemic, I think we’ve all begun to look for new ways to explore our own backyard,” says Lauren Sharp, assistant director at the Wildling Museum. “Seeing these trails through the eyes of our talented community of artists is an inspiring reminder to get outside and up close with the rich nature surrounding us.”

“Art from the Trail: Exploring the Natural Beauty of Santa Barbara County” features artists Liz Alvarez, Anne Anderson, Neil W. Andersson, Rebecca Arguello, Susan Belloni, Deborah Breedon, Chris Chapman, Dennis Curry, Rick Drake, Karen Fedderson, Jan French, Britt Friedman, Kevin Gleason, Sandi Heller, Holly Hungett, Jane Hurd, John Iwerks, Daniel Jones, Bernie Kurtz, Anne Laddon, Manny Lopez, Jerry Martin, Ann Sanders, Rosanne Seitz, Laurel Sherrie, Libby Smith and Nina Warner