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GOINGS ON: SANTA BARBARA : Worldly Messages in Art : Statements about the environment and homelessness permeate local exhibitions.

Several grapefruit-sized Earths hang from the boughs of a tree in a watercolor titled “They Don’t Grow On Trees,” reminding the viewer that, unlike the many worlds in the picture, our planet is unique. If it becomes spoiled, there are no new ones to harvest.

A theme of environmental concern runs throughout the 22 paintings by Ventura artist Margery Spielman now on exhibit at the Sea Center on Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf. Many of the works in the show “Imagine Earth . . .” which runs through Oct. 14, depict the planet in unconventional settings.

Hanging alongside Spielman’s paintings is a quote from Jacques Cousteau, the underwater explorer: “People protect what they love.”

That quotation, Spielman said, sums up the message in her pictures. “My intent is to paint images that will inspire hope, wonder and respect for life,” she said. “If people learn to love the Earth, maybe we’ll protect it.”

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Spielman relates this to her experiences in a recent scuba diving trip, in which she followed a 4 1/2-foot-long barracuda for more than two hours. By the end, she said, she was petting him, and her face was only 6 to 12 inches away from his.

“I wasn’t very fond of barracudas before, but whenever you spend so much time with another being, you get to know it,” Spielman said. “You develop a mutual acceptance and, hopefully, respect, and with that, you form a sense of caring. Now, if the barracuda population became threatened, I would go out of my way to protect it.”

Spielman took up scuba diving in 1964 when she was 16.

“I think we’re all born with an affinity toward certain things, and I’ve always had the ocean in my blood,” Spielman said. “When I was about 8, I saw a National Geographic article about Jacques Cousteau, and I stared and stared at the pictures. I thought, ‘That’s it. That’s what I want to do in life.’ ”

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Now Jacques Cousteau can stare at pictures Spielman created. He owns one of her paintings and displays it on his ship Alcyone. And she designed the logo for the Parc Oceanique Cousteau in Paris. Spielman has worked on a number of special projects for the Cousteau Society, and she designed a line of greeting cards offered through the organization.

As part of the exhibit, Spielman will be at the Sea Center Sept. 22 to sign copies of her Channel Islands poster.

The center is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. For information, call (805) 963-1067.

In another art exhibit, the works of Leonardo Nunez may inspire people to love and protect their fellow man. Nunez’s prints, drawings, etchings and paintings are portraits of homeless blacks living on the streets of Los Angeles.

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“The homeless Afro-Americans that I’ve based my work on have a dignity and integrity that transcends the reasons why a person is in the situation that he’s in,” Nunez said. “These people provide me with the inspiration, and I try to build upon that feeling with the different mediums.”

The show will continue through Sept. 28, and a reception will be held Friday, Sept. 7, from 5 to 7 p.m. The Westmont College Art Center, Reynolds Gallery, is at 955 La Paz Road. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. (805) 565-6162.

“How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired” opens a two-week run Friday at the Victoria Street Theater, 33 W. Victoria St. The French-Canadian film pokes fun at racial and sexual stereotypes. It is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Haitian-born Dany LaFerriere.

Although the movie raises a few eyebrows, its title has received most of the attention since it began a U.S. run a few months ago. Many American blacks have protested that it perpetuates stereotypes. LaFerriere has repeatedly insisted that the title is meant to be ironic.

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“We previewed the film for students in the Black Studies program at UCSB, and they didn’t find the movie itself offensive,” said Andrea Woodward, spokeswoman for the theater. “They didn’t like the title, but they know it was translated directly from French, and in that language ‘Negro’ doesn’t have the same connotations it has here. The students told us they have no intentions of protesting the film.”

For tickets and show times, call (805) 965-1886.

Also up the coast this week: The 46th annual Purebred and Half-Arabian Horse Show will be held at the Earl Warren Showgrounds today through Sept. 2. For information about the free event call (805) 687-0766. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art will open its “Improbable Machines” exhibit Saturday (Sept.1). Six contemporary artists extend the conception of machines as functional tools to that of art objects in this show that runs through Oct. 28. (805) 963-4364.


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