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All is calm 

Escape the holidays' jingling bells and wassails with ARTS Obispo's peaceful retreat

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF ART SPACE OBISPO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF ART SPACE OBISPO

Between holiday to-do lists, budgets, and relatives, the one thing the holiday season seems to fall short on is peace. Nights aren’t so silent, and all is not calm. In a departure from more traditional art shows, ARTS Space Obispo’s gallery committee decided to gift the community with a therapeutic combination of light and space, available for viewing and interacting through Dec. 16. The installation is an experiment, undertaken by Marta Peluso, Melinda Forbes, Lorraine Conlen, Elizabeth Johnson, and Julie Frankel.

With a few spare weeks in December—not enough for a full show—and no Art After Dark, the team wanted to create something imaginative. The space, and ideas, have evolved over the course of the installation’s creation. Peluso considers it the kind of effort where the process takes precedence over the final result. The product of their effort is not unlike a cocoon—swaths of material barricading out the exterior world and lights gently glowing on the periphery.

“We started out with this idea of creating something with lighting,” she said. “Then we realized that we had this material. The light would change with the material. The materials would kind of make the light palpable. It would give it shape.”

ARTS Obispo board member Steve Bland donated the material, which is significant in quantity. The installation team was initially uncertain as to how they would incorporate the material into their vision for the space. As they worked, the gallery space served dually as a limitation and inspiration, shaping and defining their work in much the same way that the fabric provides a context for the lights. Armed with pins, thread, fabric, and wire, the days-long installation was a work of art in and of itself, requiring collaboration among people who appreciated and created art, but rarely have all that much to do with installations.

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF ART SPACE  OBISPO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF ART SPACE OBISPO
“That’s the exciting and scary thing about collaborations,” Forbes said. “You use what you have. There’s no telling how it’s going to turn out.”

 “I think, being an arts organization, you have to embrace experiments,” Peluso added.

Along with the lights and fabric, ARTS Obispo is issuing an invitation to the community: Come and rest for a while. There are very few public spaces where people can sit without being obligated to purchase something, even if it’s just a magazine or cup of coffee. Peluso even encourages guests to bring a yoga mat.

But first, the installation team required seating for guests. The Couch Potato, a furniture store on Marsh Street, stepped into the breach. Forbes and Johnson simply went to the store and asked for a couch. The owner said they could borrow whatever they liked. Originally, they intended to fit a white couch into the space, but the pair spotted a red loveseat and changed their minds.

“Money’s tight, but if businesses can support the arts, they’re willing to do that,” Forbes explained of the ease of acquiring the perfect couch with no budget. “Sharing resources is an important thing for building community.”

- GET SOME...LIGHT/ SPACE:  ART Space Obispo’s Light/Space installation will be on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday through Dec. 16. ART Space Obispo is located in the Creamery, in space 165. -
  • GET SOME...LIGHT/ SPACE: ART Space Obispo’s Light/Space installation will be on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday through Dec. 16. ART Space Obispo is located in the Creamery, in space 165.
The best time to experience the space, according to its creators, is the afternoon. As the day progresses, the light shifts and changes the space, playing off the fabric in different ways. ARTS Space Obispo’s last exhibit, a Dia de los Muertos celebration, was a pageant of culture and color. The transition to a softer, monochromatic space marks a complete shift of mood.

The space is very, very simple. And yet it suggests many things. Peluso hoped the effort would reflect the season. The lights, of course, suggest Christmas. But the swaths of white fabric also create the impression of a wintry wonderland.

“It’s a respite from the frenzy out there,” said Conlen, with a gesture in the direction of Higuera Street. “It’s reflective.”

Arts Editor Ashley Schwellenbach sits, reflects, ponders. Send think juice to aschwellenbach@newtimesslo.com.

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