Kevin Costner gets his face painted

You’ve probably already seen it. It’s hard to miss Johanna Spinks’ rendering of the actor as you walk past the front window of the old Gardner Building in Downtown Ventura. Perhaps not as easily recognizable to the general public as the portrait of the movie star (though many of the models are notorious figures in our city) but equally impressive, are the portraits of 56 other local residents who sat in Spinks’ studio to be captured in oil on canvas. The collection of portraits, titled “Face of Ventura” — painted from life in a single sitting — will be on display Aug. 26, 2-6 p.m. at the Museum of Ventura County . Try to match the portrait to the sitter.

Artist “plants” himself naked

On his 29th birthday, Ojai native Noah Crowe dug a 3-foot-deep hole and “planted” himself up to his waist in the ground. Founded on the idea of utilizing a generative art practice that “roots” you in the community, Crowe’s embodiment of a tree paid respect to nature and his desire to unify the urban and natural landscapes. Seemingly idealistic, Crowe’s plans are in fact well-grounded. He wants to launch a citywide public arts collaborative of planting baby oak trees in all abandoned and unkempt lots in the city of Ventura. Inspired by German performance artist Joseph Beuys, who died before completing his project of planting 1,000 oak trees in New York City, Crowe hopes to extend the late artist’s lineage of humanism and creative participation in shaping society.

As a way of understanding the deeper connection we have with our environment, Crowe remained in the same spot he planted himself in, naked, for half a day. When hypothermia set in and he was pulled out, he replaced himself with an actual baby oak tree that he had been caring for. The tree remains in the same spot near the 33 freeway on-ramp on Ventura Avenue. “Art is in the domain of the public. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” says Crowe. “Let’s bring the trees back to the city.” For more information about Crowe’s project and to show support, visit

Double honors for FOTM founder

Focus on the Masters founder and executive director Donna Granata was presented the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award by the Ojai Arts Commission. Although Granata seems much too young to receive a lifetime award, she is nonetheless a well-deserving candidate. Granata has been documenting and archiving the work of contemporary artists in the county through her nonprofit organization for 20 years. Her interviews are fascinating in that they allow artists to share their lives in their own words and are taped live in front of an audience. If you haven’t yet attended one, you are in for a delightful experience. Granata’s own hair style is part of the attraction at each event. Carefully coiffed and styled prior to the interview, it acts as the perfect icebreaker in the tense few minutes before taping as Granata — with great finesse and humor — thanks her hairstylist as a key contributor to making the event possible. Additionally, the Westside ArtWalk has named Granata “Artist of Distinction,” an annual honor presented for a distinguished body of work combined with outstanding service to the community. Congratulations, Donna!

Underground art comes to the surface via RAW

An artist walks into a bar . . . and a musician and a fashion designer and a makeup artist and a photographer and a hairstylist? Yep, it’s no joke. Rather, a seriously brilliant idea by RAW, a nationwide organization that cultivates creativity for artists of all kinds at the same time and under one roof. A typical event begins with a short film, followed by music performances on two stages, a fashion show (also showcasing makeup and hair ), an exhibit of painting and photography and performance art. All participants are hand-picked by Ventura resident and director Sara Vausbinder, who, after working with RAW in Los Angeles, suggested it be brought to her community. The menagerie of creativity, which averages 300 people in attendance, is an ongoing event at Bombay Bar and Grill, occurring every fourth Thursday. The next event, Mixology, falls on July 26 and will feature live body painting, three bands, unusual accessories, an edgy drag performance and more. For information, visit To submit work, e-mail

ArtThrob is a monthly column by artist Claudia Pardo, who is interested in what quickens an artist’s pulse and keeps him or her producing work despite less-than-ideal circumstances. If you’re a Ventura County artist, send her an e-mail and introduce yourself.