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September's Art After Dark dazzles with diverse and whimsical exhibits

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Thursdays in downtown San Luis Obispo can be an overwrought affair. Sure, Farmer’s Market is nice. I like the combination of bratwurst and Beach Boys covers as much as the next khaki-panted, middle-aged man, but sometimes, it can all be a bit much. There are too many throngs of teenagers to wade through, too many varieties of kale for this zealous sugar hound, and far too many restrictions on a humble 24-year-old who just wants the bounce house all to herself. Come on! The kids always get the bounce house! Just once let me in, and I promise I won’t accidentally deflate it with my keys or grown-up fat. Pinky promise. Alright, you get it. Farmer’s Market. Sometimes, it’s a bit much, which is why it’s so nice to have Art After Dark roll around on the first Friday of the month.

You see, Art After Dark is like the Frasier to Farmer’s Market’s Everybody Loves Raymond—one is a little classier with more wine, the other is a little louder with more Italian food, and both are terrible comparisons that don’t make sense as much as they reveal an antiquated taste in television. Well, I forewent the outdated sitcoms this past Friday, and my usual Harry Potter snuggie evening attire, to take a gander at what September’s Art After Dark had to offer. Spoiler alert: It was far better than Everybody Loves Raymond.

- THE SLO TABLEAU :  Art After Dark takes place every first Friday of the month in downtown SLO. For more information, go to artsobispo.org. -
  • THE SLO TABLEAU : Art After Dark takes place every first Friday of the month in downtown SLO. For more information, go to artsobispo.org.
First, I hopped (well, hobbled is more like it) over to Linnaea’s to energize myself for the event ahead. I don’t like coffee, so I order the next best substitute—a cupcake. While I was eating said cupcake in a very demure, not-at-all-using-my-pants-as-a-napkin fashion, I was at the perfect vantage point to admire Linnaea’s new art exhibit, which features paintings by the cafe’s owner, Marianne Orme. Titled Someplace to be Flying, the display comprises a series of simple and serene, nature-inspired paintings—bird silhouettes and branches backed by a gradient of greens, blues, and rich browns. They were a lovely compliment to the relaxed atmosphere of Linnaea’s, the pleasant sounds of Chopin that someone began playing on the piano, and the not-coffee that I ordered. But, on that evening, as dusk neared, you could sense a bubbling tension. The youths, adorned in feathers and smelling of a dumpster laced in pinecones, began to ask, “Where is Art After Dark?” Good question, youths. I was off to find the answer.

Though Linnaea’s was perhaps off the bill for the evening, a crowd was already bursting out the doors of Fromagerie Sophie across the street. This was to no one’s surprise, as they are the purveyors of gourmet cheese. People love cheese. But, the many gray-haired wine sniffers that had ensconced themselves in the Fromagerie weren’t there for just the cheese. If you could somehow take your eyes off the brie wheels, you would see the alluring and vibrant prints of local photographer Glenn Knowles. Eating cheese is as Gouda as it gets, but Knowles’ pristine shots of butterflies, pelicans, and coastal scenes made the whole experience that much cheddar.

I sadly could not stay at Fromagerie Sophie, because, if given the choice, I would never leave that glorious cheese haven. So, instead of awkwardly encamping myself in the wax husk of an old Edam, I set out. On my walk, I stopped over at Blakeslee & Blakeslee for a quick cheese refill, and to see their exhibit, Painting Pismo Preserve. While downing what I was confident was goat cheese, I took in the pleasant, en plein air scenes that the San Luis Obispo Painters for the Environment (SLOPE) had created. But, I couldn’t stay long. I was on a mission, at this point, to hoard all the free cheese I could, and that left me walking toward my final destination—Steynberg Gallery.

I saved the best for last, because the Steynberg’s exhibit was, by far, the most electric and dazzling display of the night. Upon entrance, a cavalcade of bizarre and fantastical displays emerged. In the middle of the room, a papier-mâché mobile of twirling dolls towered before a collection of curios straight out of P.T. Barnum’s carnival sideshow. To the left, you could see a doll’s head peep out the bottom of a ceramic chrysalis with knitted frills; to the right, you could witness women’s body parts intermingle with branches. And, in the middle, you could pet the prickly fur of a little tiger family perched atop a pedestal. These were the sculptures, quilts, paintings, and offbeat knick-knacks fashioned by artists Ginny Bayly and Chloe White, as part of their exhibit, The Two-Headed Nightingale—a weird, whimsical, and impressive cap off to another excellent evening of Art (and cheese!) After Dark.

Jessica Peña is currently experiencing a cheese hangover. Please send feta to make her betta at jpena@newtimesslo.com.

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