GOINGS ON SANTA BARBARA : 'Today Art' : The works of four women are being displayed this month as part of a citywide salute to Latina artists.


Just give artist Rachel Unzueta a paintbrush and a stereo and she'll whip up a painting.

"Put a nice dance song on and forget it. . . . I'm gone. I'm into the painting," the 23-year-old Santa Barbara resident said. "I like to dance while I'm painting and throw myself into it."

Some of Unzueta's art is on exhibit--along with that of three other female artists--as part of the " Visiones de Hoy " show at Santa Barbara's La Casa de la Raza. It opened Wednesday and will run through April 30. The show is part of a citywide celebration of "Artistas Chicanas: The Experience and Expression of Chicana Artists."

Despite the title, Unzueta said not to expect her pencil drawings and oil and acrylic paintings to represent Latino culture. "It's not cultural art; it's more today art. It doesn't really stick to any kind of theme," she said. "It's just me."

The other artists being exhibited--Judith Baca, Yolanda Lopez and Rosalyn Mesquita--are known for their cultural work. Baca designed a half-mile-long mural in the San Fernando Valley. It depicts the role of ethnic groups in the development of California. Lopez produced a video about images of Mexicans in the media. And Mesquita's artwork is based on her upbringing in New Mexico.

"Some have to do with santitos ," religious figures, Mesquita said. "And there are a lot of animal and plant formations from New Mexico. They have to do with my personal experience."

La Casa de la Raza is at 601 E. Montecito St. The gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. For information, call 965-8581. For information on other Artistas Chicanas events, call the UC Santa Barbara Women's Center at 893-3778, the UCSB MultiCultural Center at 893-8411 or the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum at 966-5373.

A noon ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday will mark the unveiling of the Touch Tank at the Santa Barbara Sea Center at Stearns Wharf. The shallow aquarium will be filled with sea creatures that visitors can take out and, as the name would imply, touch. But here's the best part: One tank regular is expected to be the sea cucumber, which, according to the Sea Center press release, "regenerates itself by expelling its insides and growing new ones."

Better be careful what you touch!

Seen a bright light in the sky lately? Could be the planet Venus, which makes such an appearance each spring. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has scheduled discussions about the planet for each Saturday night in April and May. Shows will include pictures of Venusian volcanoes and lava floods, and recent photos taken by the Magellan spacecraft now orbiting the planet. The museum is at 2559 Puesta del Sol Road. For information, call 682-3224.

Santa Barbara's Cahoots Improvisation Comedy Troupe is getting ready for its Sunday April Fool's show. Guess it's better late than never. The usual performers will be joined by the musical group the Velveeetas, featuring Lola Gorganzola, Ronnette Rondole and Fontina. They'll be singing such golden oldies as "Twistin' Postman" and "Itchin' in My Heart." The show is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Center Stage Theatre, 751 Paseo Nuevo (second floor of the shopping center). But you never know where an April Fool's joke might pop up, so call 963-0408 for information.

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