Hippies. Yuppies. Tree-huggers. This was your night. Last Saturday, a private Santa Barbara residence laid out the welcome mat for the “Unearthed” photo exhibit. Surrounded by a lush landscape and ambient music, the open reception was an idyllic peek into the future of contemporary art.

“Unearthed” is the collaborative effort of local photographers, Danielle Rubi and Graham Bury. The exhibit was an “unearthing” of inspiring subjects, all with unique visions of the world. The subjects are all regional visionaries who encompass a vivacity and passion for life. Their youthful nature and energy were evident, as was their contribution to society. Photographed with documentary-style preciseness, the detailed biographies further added to the honest nature of the images.

“These portraits are comprised of first reactions, from how the subjects behaved to how they felt at the time,” Danielle Rubi said. “While it may not fit the mold of a ‘classic portrait,’ we wanted the photos to be playful and true to their character.”

The photos were displayed out in the garden on what looked like clotheslines. Everything was very organic and earthy, as the photos waved about in the afternoon breeze. The photos were each 4 feet square, the largest Vandyke prints ever made. This process, dating back to 1842, involves the use of light for developing images. As a result, the photos were a beautiful sepia color, appearing both antique and crisp. Nature was the active element in the exhibit, as the photos provided commentary on today’s cultural and social issues.

In the photos, each subject seemed to be an intrinsic part of the natural world the exhibit was designed to celebrate. The exhibit was not only concerned with protecting the environment; it also depicted childlike innocence. And it seemed that everyone at the reception was taking this to heart. A little boy played harmonica while several young girls picked flowers out in the garden. During the reception, there was ample time to meet many of the honored subjects, as well as the featured photographers.

Featured subjects in the “Unearthed” photos include the Oak Group, Community Environmental Council and various other local environmentalist heroes, including our very own Alan Stephens of CCS. However, it was Dr. Robert Muller who really “stuck” out. Muller travels around the world placing vinyl stickers on benches. The sticker reads, “Bench of Dreams,” and he says he hopes that people will take the time to stop and contemplate their lives upon seeing his sticker.

Knowing Rubi’s background, I was curious about her connections with the bands Broken Social Scene and Kings of Convenience. Since Rubi spends much of her time shooting for various fashion and music magazines, most of her close friends are in the industry and have even slept over at her parent’s Hillcrest residence. One of her closest friends is the indie rock songstress Leslie Feist, who recently took Rubi’s twin sister out on tour as her opening act. While Rubi considers herself the “domestic diva” of her group of musical buddies, she is excited to make a dent in the local art scene.

“The Santa Barbara art scene was feeling very stagnant,” Rubi said. “With art venues closing down so early, it sometimes feels like there is an anti-fun law here. We want to remind young artists that underneath all the glossy conservatism, there is hope for contemporary art.”

After enjoying a cup of coffee with Rubi’s family, I started to contemplate the true meaning of “Unearthed.” Unlike other social images that merely critique the past, these idealistic photos portray a sense of optimism for the future – a future in which more local artists will hopefully allow their creativity to blossom as they unearth more innovative works of contemporary art.