While driving home one evening, Santa Barbara artist Linda Mutti couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stop and capture Hendry’s Beach (aka Arroyo Burro Beach) just before sunset, near the peak of golden hour. Mutti had already passed the beach before deciding to turn around, she explained.
“I made a U-turn and headed straight for the beach. And boy, it did not disappoint. I love the golden light of late day,” said Mutti, while discussing the origin of her pastel landscape, Arroyo Burro Gold. “I grew up going to this beach, so it holds many special memories for me. It is a place that I go back to over and over again.”
Stunning scenery aside, Hendry’s Beach is also known for spoiling visitors with sightings of dolphins and whales, said the local pastelist, who described the area as a wonderful place to explore. It’s no surprise that the beach is often frequented by the NatureTrack Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating cost-free outdoor activities and field trips for students throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Mutti recently participated in the Oak Group’s online exhibition and fundraiser to benefit NatureTrack, in which she submitted Arroyo Burro Gold. Mutti’s piece has already been sold, but the ongoing exhibit features artworks from more than 20 contributors and will remain online through the end of December.
“The theme of the show is to paint NatureTrack field trip locations for school kids, who would otherwise have been unable to have these educational experiences in nature with teachers and volunteers,” participating artist and Oak Group member Chris Chapman told the Sun.
The subjects of Chapman’s watercolor landscapes in the show include the Arroyo Hondo Preserve, the Sedgwick Reserve, the Salt Marsh Reserve, and other natural areas. Chapman has been a member of the Oak Group since 1996. The group originally planned to hold its NatureTrack benefit exhibit at the Santa Barbara Central Library prior to the COVID-19 closures, Chapman explained.
“When the library had to close its doors to the public, we decided to go forward with a virtual show, as several other organizations have done with their art fundraising efforts,” Chapman said.
Inspired by a quote from Leo Tolstoy—“One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between man and nature shall not be broken”—the show is titled The Link Between Man and Nature and marks the Oak Group’s inaugural virtual exhibition. The online gallery (available to view on oakgroup.org and naturetrack.org) launched on Nov. 1.
While all paintings in the show depict areas where NatureTrack has hosted free field trips, some of the paintings directly illustrate moments from those excursions. Participating artist Ray Hunter, for example, based his painting The Explorer off a photograph he took while accompanying the NatureTrack Foundation on a field trip to El Capitan State Beach in Santa Barbara.
“I remember Ray photographing the student exploring the tide pools. It was a terrific field trip, and Ray captured what NatureTrack is all about,” Sue Eisaguirre, NatureTrack founder and executive director, told the Sun.
While NatureTrack strives to “create stewards of our natural resources” through free, educational programming for school-aged children, the foundation’s goals align with the Oak Group’s 34-year tradition of supporting the preservation of open spaces in the natural world through art, Eisaguirre explained.
“The Oak Group also connects people to nature, maybe not physically, but by the beauty of their art, which allows viewers to enjoy and appreciate locations they may never be able to see otherwise,” Eisaguirre said. “They too are creating stewards of the natural world, not only through their generous donations, but by their talent to bring nature to life in their artwork.”
Send your favorite golden hour stories to Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood at [email protected].