“The Oak Group: In Wildness” exhibit celebrates forest’s beauty


Alejandro Gonzalez Valle

Matt Kay and his son Wren Kay look at artwork displayed during the Oak Group’s exhibition ‘In Wildness’ on Jan. 25, 2018, at City College’s Atkinson Gallery in Santa Barbara, Calif. The gallery featured landscape paintings by members of the Oak Group.

Sarah Maninger, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Local artists and art lovers alike gathered in City College’s Atkinson Art Gallery Friday night to celebrate the opening of its first exhibit of 2019, “The Oak Group: In Wildness.”

The Atkinson Gallery, located in City College’s Humanities building, has been the host of a number of exhibits. From displays of works created by art students, to paintings and photos by some of the area’s best artists, the gallery is uniquely dynamic.

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the San Rafael Wilderness area, the works of art showcased in the gallery illustrated the magnitude of one of California’s largest wooded areas, the Los Padres National Forest.

The earth-toned artwork of the vast San Rafael wildlife that filled the compact Atkinson Gallery served as a reminder of the breath-taking nature that college students sometimes overlook in the hustle and bustle of academia.

The Oak Group, Los Padres Forest Watch, and the Atkinson Gallery collaborated to showcase the variety of paintings including pastel, watercolor, oil and acrylic mediums in addition to color photographs.

The exhibit is a distinct force of beauty that gives us the chance to marvel at the nature in our own backyard.

Inspired by nature itself and the scenery that Santa Barbara has to offer, the same collection of local artists responsible for this exhibit founded The Oak Group in 1985.

Kevin Gleason, an Oak Group artist, has two paintings currently hanging in the Atkinson Gallery.

“The Oak Group’s mission is to raise awareness for wild spaces,” he said.

With 26 active members, the artists of The Oak Group accurately portray the San Rafael landscape by being in the environment they mirror onto their canvases.

“A lot of us love to get access to the backcountry,” said landscape painter Arturo Tello.

In addition to their outstanding portraits of the wilderness around Santa Barbara, The Oak Group also needed a foundation for their art to benefit as well as a place to display their work.

Founded in 2004, Los Padres Forest Watch works to reserve the wilderness and wildlife of the Central Coast. They are dedicated to the protection of forests, rivers, and grasslands from Ventura to Big Sur.

After joining forces with the Oak Group, the Los Padres Forest Watch became the beneficiary of proceeds from art sold over the next two months in the Atkinson Gallery.

Rebecca August, public lands advocate for the forest watch, reached out last year to Sarah Cunningham, curator of the Atkinson Art Gallery. Cunningham said she saw a connection between “In Wildness” and the educational opportunities that could stem from the exhibit.

“We thought a landscape show is a wonderful educational opportunity,” Cunningham said.

Along with showing breathtaking depictions of Santa Barbara’s local wilderness, Cunningham noted that this exhibit is showing “a remarkable group of local artists.”

“They’re all really skilled but they have such different styles,” said Gleason of his fellow artists.

The exhibit is open five days a week from 12:30- 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m on Fridays. It will be up until March 22.