Adam de Boer’s oil paintings prove art is more than a craft. They prove that the artist is an intellectual and that he can take a step back from reality and see the patterns of culture. A senior creative studies art major, de Boer opened his first art exhibition on Jan. 27 at the Arts Fund Gallery. The show, aptly titled, “All Is Well,” consists of a five-canvas collection of scenes of Isla Vista life, incorporating images of cell phones, keg stands, beer box helmets and street fights. The large canvases bring I.V. society to greater Santa Barbara. While neither condemning nor glorifying the acts in question, the paintings juxtapose the gorgeous natural scenery of conservative Santa Barbara with the outgoing youth stigma of I.V.
“His work is an anthropology of college life,” Arts Fund Executive Director Cody Hartley said. “College is four years of freedom, of young minds developing. It’s exciting, scary, and Adam is trying to capture those experiences. He is documenting it and that is intriguing.”
De Boer earned the opportunity to showcase his “All Is Well” exhibit by winning the Art Fund’s annual Individual Artist Award for “Best Work in Oil” in Santa Barbara County. According to Hartley, de Boer is the youngest artist to ever win the award, praising him as a “thinking artist” who not only excels technically, but also possesses art history knowledge.
De Boer’s naturalism shows through in his use of actual UCSB students as the subjects of his paintings; the Goya-esque figures are de Boer’s friends posing in satires of common Isla Vista occurrences. While the college party culture saturates his work, his extensive art history awareness adds elements of Italian Renaissance, Dutch and Spanish techniques.
Particularly interesting is “Dorm Life,” which is based on an impromptu party scene photo from his freshman year. When the piece was first unveiled, the image of the central female sparked some controversy. In the piece, an Eve-like figure touches herself, unashamed as she rests on a Byzantine-inspired cloth.
“I was not there, but the snapshots inspired me,” de Boer said. “It’s a new kind of girl, a sexually proud and confident woman. Recalling Byzantine icons, she is like a contemporary icon.”
“But Do Not Touch” features a double panel, split between two girls fighting and a group of five watching the action. The witnesses do not interact with the wrestlers, but instead stand content, emotionally and physically detached from the scene. In “Blushed & Blushing,” the four friends seem oblivious to the brunette vomiting over a Del Playa Drive balcony, sick from the keg stands in the background. The canvas cleverly sets a grotesque action against a stunning moonlit sky and shadowed palm trees.
Currently, de Boer paints four hours a day at his College of Creative Studies studio, expanding his body of work with new canvases, which include self-portraits. The scenes loosely follow the popular artistic theme of the prodigal son found in Old Testament literature. The canvases mark de Boer’s first attempts at life-size figures, with those of himself, his parents and his girlfriend.
“All is Well” runs at the Arts Fund Gallery, 205 Santa Barbara St., until March 10. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 12 to 5 p.m. Call (805) 965-7321 or check www.artsfundsb.org for more information.