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Blues Festival Near Ojai at Lake Casitas

September 26, 2002|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A new blues boom was established around the country and the world by the early 1980s. A bounty of aficionados--mostly white and obsessive--created venues and organizations for this Great American Music, one in need of extra loving care.

In this region, like elsewhere, the blues found friends and gig opportunities where none had previously existed.

The Santa Barbara Blues Society started up in 1977 and is now the oldest continuously running blues society in the nation. And in 1982, roots music enthusiast and impresario Michael Kaufer kicked up the Bowlful of Blues in Ojai, an important annual blues and roots event celebrating its 20th anniversary Saturday. The festival moved in 2000 from its original location at Libbey Bowl to an idyllic waterfront site at Lake Casitas.

Headlining this year will be Baton Rouge's Kenny Neal, who mixes Cajun sauce in with his blues; honking saxist Big Jay McNeely; Louisiana's Lil' Brian & the Zydeco Travelers; and former Stax recording artist May Ann "Tweety" Woodard. Tapping into Ventura County's considerable talent pool, we'll also hear Jimmy Calire, Jackie Lomax, Ball and Sultan, Leslie Lembo and 11-year old guitar wunderkind Devon Geyer.

The lakeside Bowlful of Blues has become one of the county's more predictably good times for the having, bolstered by a strong sense of history.

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Bowlful of Blues, Saturday, 2-10 p.m., Lake Casitas, near Ojai. Advance, $23; at the gate, $25; senior citizens 65 and older and students 13-19, half-price. Children 12 and younger, free. Parking $3. (805) 646-7230. www.bowlfulofblues.com.

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Picturing Artists: Photographer-administrator Donna Granata has given considerable effort to putting a face on Ventura County's art scene, both through her organization, Focus on the Masters, and through her own expressive medium. Her portraits of the artists, a healthy selection of which are now on display at Ojai Center for the Arts, tend to peel back the curtain on otherwise faceless creative energies.

As seen in this crop of lush color portraits, Granata doesn't follow any strict guidelines in her portraiture.

One striking shot is her portrait of famed photographer and portraitist Arnold Newman, amid photography apparatus. Whereas Newman's work strips away external tricks and focuses on the subject, though, Granata stays flexible in her approach.

Thus, we get a surreal image of landscape artist Norman Kirk, part photograph and part unfinished painting, the artist playfully immersed in his art. Art/Life publisher Joe Cardella is seen in a doppelganger image, holding a copy of Art/Life, mimicked in a frame around the portrait. Composer Miguel del Aguila, a once dominant force in the area who now spends most of his time in New York, is seen as both a sharp unflinching presence and a fuzzy reflection in his piano lid.

Other notable pieces here include a new photo of conceptual sculptor Dennis Oppenheim, whose rainbow-like, dynamic bus centerpiece on Telegraph Road was recently featured in the magazine Art in America. Red arcs swirl about him, as if his mind has gone dizzy with possibilities for his public art notions.

In other photos of Ojai artists, witty Mad magazine cartoonist Sergio Aragones sits--swimming in ideas, one assumes--at his busy desk, and celebrated Ojai-based painter Michael Dvortcsak seems caught between thoughts among his luminous paintings.

Some images work their charms in unexpected ways, like the shot of painter Carlisle Cooper, a mild figure on a couch, in a light blue sweater. The artist's own cool, aloof visage is in marked contrast with the radiant splashiness of his unique painting style. The image's duality suggests the old adage--never solely judge the artist by the art, and vice versa.

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"The Artist and the Camera," Ojai Center for the Arts, 113 S. Montgomery St., Ojai. Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Ends Oct. 2. (805) 646-0117.

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