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Paso's LXV Wine Lounge displays the quintessentially Southern California work of Carrie Graber

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Located on the historic Pine Street in downtown Paso Robles, the LXV Wine Lounge has a simple and unassuming exterior that blends seamlessly with surrounding shops, restaurants, and galleries.

But step inside, and you'll find a unique interior that evokes mystery and playfulness at once. The walls are painted with varying shades of cobalt blue, creating an almost oceanic feel to the space. A dark wooden bar is flanked with LXV's signature wines on the counter. Large maroon couches add another fun touch of color to the space and make it cozier.

At first glance, LXV Wines is your classic Central Coast tasting room. But venture toward the back of the space and customers will find something truly one of a kind. Behind a hidden door is LXV's Library Room. Inside it are walls lined with art, a wooden table fit for royalty, and, of course, stacks upon stacks of wine. On display until March 31 is painter Carrie Graber's work, pieces that she self-describes as "fine art illustrations of Southern California lifestyle."

'SOCAL LIFESTYLE' Carrie Graber's representational paintings depict people in recognizably Southern California settings. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF ALEX LOPEZ
  • Photos Courtesy Of Alex Lopez
  • 'SOCAL LIFESTYLE' Carrie Graber's representational paintings depict people in recognizably Southern California settings.

At the opening night for the Library Room, Graber sits at the grand table as guests mill around, admire her work, sip wine, and enjoy LXV's original spiced cheese and charcuterie offerings. In addition to the pieces that hang in the library, Graber unveils "scrolls" of her work onto the table as she sits in one of the room's majestic chairs, whose backs tower over the heads of those who sit in them. Graber keeps these prints of her art rolled up, only to be unrolled on a table that can accommodate the large size of the pieces. As she unrolls her prints, she explains her process, which includes priming the canvas, doing a ground color, letting it dry, laying in the image with yellow-ochre and white paint, and finally painting the image with a full palette.

The result is dreamy works that depict women in quintessentially Southern California settings, doing anything from riding a bicycle to lying on a luxurious sofa. The images are soft, and her pieces that are set outdoors look like glowy photographs at golden hour. Her work is exceptionally representational, meaning it depicts things as realistically as a photo would. But the color palette she uses adds a touch that goes beyond the bounds of what a photograph could achieve: The ethereal scenes she paints feel like the real world through literal rose-colored glasses, an idealized depiction of an opulent Los Angeles lifestyle.

"I was born in Southern California and have remained there, in a smaller community between Los Angeles and Palm Springs," Graber told New Times via email. "The quality and color of the light here, along with the lifestyle, culture, and joy of sunny afternoons have always inspired me."

While these points of inspiration are immediately clear, Graber said that sometimes her moments of inspiration are far more minuscule and less tangible.

UNVEILING Carrie Graber shows guests prints of her work on the grand table of LXV winery's Library Room. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF ALEX LOPEZ
  • Photos Courtesy Of Alex Lopez
  • UNVEILING Carrie Graber shows guests prints of her work on the grand table of LXV winery's Library Room.

"Sometimes just a word or an idea, the color of something I see at the store, someone's shirt, running around barefoot, the garden, the animals, places, faces, water, lamps, textiles, patterns, music, on and on," Graber wrote of her more subliminal inspiration sources.

Graber said that she is particularly glad to have her work at LXV because of the way that the tasting room prioritizes what she calls "incorporation."

"It's something so elemental to humanity—to incorporate, to pair," she wrote. "Wine with food, wine with spices, with images, scents, philosophies, sensory experiences within spaces, and art."

With a space as warm and cozy as LXV's Library Room, Graber's work fits right in. She says this enhances the experience for the viewer.

"Art tends to have messages, and being able to view the work as the collaborators intend is helpful," Graber wrote. "Of course, it's always open to interpretation!" Δ

Arts Writer Malea Martin is interpreting Graber's art. Send arts story tips to mmartin@newtimesslo.com.

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