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The Arts Fund of Santa Barbara is currently hosting an alluring exhibit titled “Drift and Fixation.” This is an all-Gaucho show, featuring undergraduate, graduate and staff artwork, which opened in the Funk Zone on April 12.

Curated by Arts Fund Director Kai Tepper and Assistant Director Marcello Ricci, “Drift and Fixation” is welcomingly open to interpretation. The show was inspired by a reflection on the human conception of nature in relation to Romanticism and Neo-Romantic ideologies of humanity’s place in the natural world.

As humans, we are part of nature and yet we often set ourselves apart through the use of technology, through our drifting thoughts and imaginings and, finally, through our fixations on civilization in a materialistic society. The core idea of this show involves the ways in which humans mediate the disparity between being integrated into nature while setting ourselves conceptually apart, leaving us with a lingering desire to “return” to nature.

A subject matter as ambiguous as nature could potentially lead to a random assortment of nature-themed pieces. (We cannot even agree on a definition of nature in the English language — the inherent essence of something, the organic and “natural” world, all of material reality.) But the narrative that the curators have painted through their selections has created quite a remarkable space and a striking artistic statement.

Each of the pieces exhibits an interesting perspective on these concepts. The pieces range from prints to paintings to sculptures. Many of the artists used reclaimed materials to create their pieces, many of which resemble organic qualities of the wilderness, with cello-tape light fixtures looking like stalactites and reclaimed metals like bones.

Others used natural materials to create new visions of organic art. When visiting the gallery, curator Kai Tepper was watering Velazquez’s piece, “Seed Pod” — hung from a piece of driftwood at the ceiling, it was a mossy jungle gym for a team of bugs that crawled and flew around it.

This tenacity and vibrancy that bubbles up throughout the exhibit gives the show another dimension of pleasantness and reflection, allowing this thought-provoking subject matter to be palatable and inviting.

The works of “Drift and Fixation” by artists Holly Avery, Patrick Gilbert, Adam Jahnke, Clare Little, Megan Mueller, Chelsea Padgett, Maria Rendon, Sommer Roman and Luis Alberto Velazquez compel us to ruminate on our bonds within and without nature. They also invite us to celebrate these up-and-coming artists and a Funk Zone that’s getting funky again.

The Arts Fund’s community gallery is located in the Funk Zone at 205C Santa Barbara Street and offers free admission to the public. The show will run until May 24.

Photo Courtesy of The Arts Fund.

A version of this story appeared on page 8 of Thursday, April 24, 2014′s print edition of the Daily Nexus.