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GOINGS ON : SANTA BARBARA : Chalking It Up : Santa Barbara's Italian Street Painting Festival brings 200 artists and children to their knees.

May 24, 1990|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What would you do with $2,000 worth of colored chalk?

What else? You'd pass it out to a couple hundred of your favorite artists and let them draw all over the sidewalk.

Well that's what Kathy Koury is doing. She's the director of the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival in Santa Barbara on May 26-28. For the third year about 200 artists and children will decorate a 20,000-square-foot piece of pavement in front of Mission Santa Barbara from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

Featured artist Jay Fisher has already begun working on his section, at the base of the mission steps, and plans to work five to ten hours a day so he can complete it on Sunday.

The drawing "is going to be based on a fantasy archeological find with fragments of stone sculpture and pieces of columns," he said. "There will be an excavated area where a small courtyard and other things are dug up."

Fisher, who makes background art for movies, including "Blaze" and "Bull Durham," said he loves the idea of drawing on the ground.

"On a really ordinary place on the ground you can create a startling illusion," he said.

The surface also makes it a lot different from working on canvas.

"The surface is real coarse, you're wrestling against the elements. And you work on your knees," he said. "It's hot and uncomfortable. I wear knee pads, and a big hat and sunglasses to keep the glare and the heat away."

And then there's the angle of the surface.

"You constantly have to compensate for the viewers' point of view. It's always going to be an oblique angle," he said. "You have to distort things so they can be seen standing up."

Organizers expect at least 20,000 people to drop by during the three days to watch the artists and to sample some of the Italian food and music that will be featured. The event is a fund-raiser for the Children's Creative Project, a program of the Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools office, which sponsors fine arts programs in the schools.

Darrell Jonsson paid attention to his grandparents when they taught him about 12th-Century Icelandic poetry. He liked what he heard and went on to study it and other forms of epic poetry.

Then the third-generation immigrant Icelander, a former resident of Ojai now living in Humboldt County, took what he learned, threw in some electronics, African instruments, films and slides and created his own, modern-day version.

His trio will be one of the 36 acts performing May 26 at Santa Barbara's "Day of Music" sponsored by the Society of Jazz and World Music.

"I'd call it experimental poetry," he said. "My attraction to these forms of poetry is that they weren't read, so much as they were sung. They were free-flowing. They had a unique sound for each singer."

Like the ancient poetry, Jonsson's work involves a lot of improvisation. "I've been looking for an equivalent to jazz improvisation, but verbal," he said. "I experiment with a different combination of words, sounds, and sometimes phrases."

Jonsson has since performed in Spain and Holland, but his early performances were in Newport Beach, at a punk-rock establishment. "People would yell at me on stage. But it got me out of the mold of just reading poetry. It helped shape my work quite a bit and bring the imagery out of a European mythological mode into an urban California mode."

Costa Mesa resident David Poyourow and his band will be another of the acts. And even Poyourow has a hard time describing his music. It consists of what he calls micro-sounds, sounds too quiet for an average microphone to pick up.

"I use various transducers to convert the sounds from physical energy to electrical energy and then I amplify them," he said. It's equivalent to using a microscope."

Poyourow built all of the instruments he uses, one of which is a rack of gongs.

"There are a number of pieces of metal, steel, or brass plates, rods and twisted forms," he said. "I will strike them, bow them, rub them, dip them in water . . . ...whatever extraordinary means I can to excite them and get noise out of them. Usually I tell people to listen for the science fiction cartoon in their head. I find that people go into a fairly elaborate fantasy adventure."

In other words, don't expect to waltz to this music.

The "Day of Music" will offer a wide mix of musical styles at four locations--Mission Santa Barbara (European folk music), the Faulkner Gallery (modern classical), the Museum of Art (avant-garde), City Broiler (West Coast Jazz) and the Presidio Chapel ("other and world music").

Acts will be on one stage or another from noon to 2 a.m. Tickets are $1.99 before 5 p.m. and $4.99 after. Call 962-3575 for more information.

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