Monday, October 8, 2007

Santa Barbara Beauty In The Eyes of This Beholder

O.K. - I recently cleansed my system by ranting about the ugly stuff, the butt-ugly stuff and the fugly stuff that pervades this otherwise beautiful city. It's way too easy to find good examples of really bad stuff, then rip a few hundred words on the keyboard. Now I'm not saying I feel any guilt about it, but I've challenged myself to find something nice to say, because there truly are some stunning plantings, buildings and garden artifacts to be grateful for.

So on the heels of the real Santa Barbara Beautiful Awards bestowed last week at the Lobero Theater, here is my version of what floats my boat. I laid out some simple ground rules: grab my trusty little Nikon CoolPics camera, leave for work on foot a few minutes early, and find those special places and things that just seem to get my endorphins pumping. Oddly, many of the same images that caught my eye have been featured at the Edhat website over the years. Guess that great artists think alike.

The Fountain at Micheltorena and State:

How fortunate are we to have such a prominent piece of private property preserved for the public? I don't know the history of this space, but the generosity of its original owner is, for me, like having our own Andrew Carnegie bestowing his philanthropy on the city. But in this case it's a glorious fountain, a graceful canopy of Coral Trees and the immaculate grounds below.

A few steps down the State Street and just being kissed by golden morning rays is one of my favorite facades.

There's something about the simplicity of the pattern on the diamond-shaped medallions that thrills me. It's the same restraint I often unsuccessfully seek in designing a garden - the willingness to totally commit to one simple idea and to state it boldly.

My favorite Agave sets down roots at the local mortuary parking lot--State and Sola.

Not quite sure who the designer was, but I know that local landscape contractor Debbie Shaw was involved in the installation a few years back. The plant combinations work very nicely, but the ultimate pairing is Agave vilmoriniana (Octopus Agave) and Sencecio mandraliscae (Blue Chalk Fingers). They kind of make me wonder if Georgia O'Keefe was also doing genetic engineering on desert succulents.

Three great finds in just a few blocks - then is was slim pickins until I hit the area around the main post office. But I knew where my next quarry lay. Down a lesser known alley (Presidio Avenue) is Jake's Fountain. At least that's what Lin (my spousal support unit) and I dubbed it years ago. Long story, but I had a structural engineering professor who loved all things pachydermian.

Nestled under spreading Tipu trees and flanked by stately Queen palms, the original grace of this fountain is now marred by some pretty fugly netting designed to keep hungry herons and egrets from chomping down the fish that swim in the main pool (not visible in this shot). This is like covering the Mona Lisa with razor wire to prevent it from being stolen, but blocking the beauty of the art. For my money, I'd adopt out the fish and restore the fountain to its unfettered glory.

Last on this list is a well-known architectural gem - the Meridian Studios, designed by none other than George Washington Smith and Carleton Winslow. This complex of offices and artist studio were added to the historic Lugo adobe in the mid-twenties.

The scale of the buildings and the distinctive coloration is a well-known landmark downtown. There's nothing like it that I've seen in my travels, and is just one of those places you bring out-of-town guests to show them how much cooler SB is than wherever they came from. I'll never pass up a chance to walk down this block of De la Guerra St. to take a quick peek at the narrow courtyard, worn bricks and brilliant wrought iron work.

Nuff for now...just wanted to show that I can be counted on to see not only the incredible absurdity of what some people do in the name of design, but also show proper respect for those special places that make Santa Barbara such a unique place to live.


allegro805 said...

Excellent! Thanks for focusing on the positive. We really do live in Paradise, so I get a bit tired of the whining about little things that seem to drag people down unnecessarily. Bravo!

mym said...

Congratulations! I recently undertook a similar project. Taking art photos of everyday objects, especcially eyesores, I focused, and sometimes delibertely unfocused, the frame on abstractions of the objects. Emphasizing line and texture resulted in fabulous images of a garden hose and its shadow, the brush head of a broom with a stray leaf that resembles a fish swimming among coral, the thrilling textures of ordinary walls and fences, and much more.
How wonderful to see beauty in the commonplace. It just makes life better.
M. in Santa Barbara.

Queen Whackamole said...

Thanks for the presentation to the Green Living Class last night... it's always good to see more examples of what works, and what doesn't, and why.

Garden Wise Guy said...

Queenie - Owen and I had a blast putting that little tidbit of a presentation together. We're contemplating expanding the content and making it a 1/2 day class for another audience. Whaddayathink?