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Paintings Celebrate Rural Charms


Scenes of country living and open spaces await visitors to the Ventura County Museum of History and Art, along with a sobering subtext. Welcome home, Ventura County-ites, to the Santa Clara Valley, a last refuge of relatively undeveloped life in Southern California and a controversial hotspot for potential mega-development. Blink and you may miss it.

Artists in the area have long relished the rural aspects of the landscape, treasuring its natural scenery and small-town charms. The stance of this exhibition is pointedly preservationist, a common issue for Ellen Easton, who runs the idyllic Easton Gallery in Montecito and has published several art books, including a handsome volume on this work. Easton's sensibility leans toward landscape work, especially that which implicitly celebrates and pleads for the conservation of the nature on view.

The terrain binds these artists more than style concerns. Rolling clouds over ridged brown masses of hills give Kevin Turcotte's "Clouds Near County Line" its celestial air, while Richard Schloss' painterly dramatics are more sweeping in nature, taking in a broad view in "Orcutt Palms and South Mountain" and "Santa Paula Creek."

Patricia Chidlaw, Santa Barbara's cheerier descendant of the Edward Hopper style, is famously fond of long light and unpopulated streets. She brings that eye to scenes of Santa Paula, from the lazy, shadowed simplicity of "Sunday Morning" to the iconic ode to a fruit truck, "Sunkist, Fillmore." In her characteristic way, Meredith Brooks Abbott pays fond tribute to meaningful old structures, with "Botke Studio, Wheeler Canyon" and "Bunk House, Sespe Ranch."

Glenna Hartmann's pastel work "Spring Afternoon, Piru" takes in the springtime greenery, craggy rock formations and a mere smattering of human presence below. Another scene from that neighborhood, Gail Pidduck's "Becera's Market, Piru" gives due attention to a humble landmark, as does Michael Enriquez's "Bardsdale Methodist Church," a lovely accounting of a hidden architectural jewel in the county.

Meanwhile, Arturo Teller has his sights on the perceived enemy of the unspoiled scenery in "Timber Canyon Builder," a bulldozer painting as seen from a literally tilted, clearly biased angle. It's hard not to side with the anti-development case, given the visual evidence provided by a show such as this. Whether it has any effect in abating growth remains to be seen. For now, the artists have championed a happy reality just a short drive away on California 126.

* "Painting the Santa Clara Valley," Ventura County Museum of History and Art, 100 E. Main St., Ventura. Ends Sept. 1. Tue.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (805) 653-0323.


Neo-Woodstock on Wheels: The Vans Warped Tour is more than a concert extravaganza; it's a mobile lifestyle channel in real time, coming Friday to a fairgrounds near you. Extreme sports meets post-punk bands and other raucous sounds, in a controlled environment equal parts circus, post-Woodstock rock fest and shopping mall.

On multiple stages at Seaside Park, the Vans Warped Tour returns to Ventura with a lineup that includes Bad Religion, NOFX, Something Corporate, Reel Big Fish, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Lagwagon, Flogging Molly, No Use for a Name and countless more. Athletic sideshows include skateboarding, skaters, BMXers, in-liners, motocrossers and mountain bikers doing their thing, and other extra-musical diversions to make for a full multi-tasking day/night.

* Vans Warped Tour, Seaside Park, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura, starting at noon Friday. $25. (805) 583-8700.


Young Classics: Saturday night at Thousand Oaks High School, the Conejo Concerto Orchestra presents its fourth concert, "Opus 4." Founded by music educator Edward Francis, the professional orchestra, conducted by Thomas Osborn, gives performance opportunities to adolescent musicians. This program includes the music of Chopin, Liszt, Sarasate, Beethoven, Shostakovich and others.

* Conejo Concerto Orchestra, Thousand Oaks High School Performing Arts Center, 2323 N. Moorpark Road, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. $12, general; $6, senior citizens and students. (805) 376-2485.

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