House of a Thousand Paintings

January 11 – February 10, 2019

Opening reception: Jan. 11th, 6 to 8 pm


Grief, boredom and idle solitude affect everyone differently. For Sanford Darling, following his retirement at the age of 65 and the death of his wife soon after, this moment of stasis led to the adventure of a lifetime and the eventual construction of an obsessive art-environment known as House of 1,000 Paintings.

Sanford Darling (1894-1973) was born in Santa Barbara, CA and lived there throughout his life. Following service in World War I, he undertook a series of odd jobs working as a commercial fisherman, Hollywood stuntman and chiropractor. He finally settled into a long-term career as an engineer for General Petroleum, where he worked until his retirement in 1959.

Not one to simply sit around and do nothing, Darling soon became restless after leaving GP and as he mourned the loss of his wife. Presumably to distract himself from these new life circumstances, he embarked on two extended trips through Europe and the Far East. His travels in Asia were done aboard a tramp steamer and included visits to Japan, the Philippines and also throughout the Polynesian Islands.

Following these voyages, Sanford Darling returned home in 1963 and immediately began manically documenting his adventures with paint, despite never having painted before. Using a wide brush and cans of semi-gloss sign enamel, he quickly took to recreating scenes from his travels, painting his way up, down, around, and throughout his home. By the time of his death in 1973, every inch of his home had been covered with paintings depicting remote islands, snow-capped mountains, palm trees, grassy fields, various types of architecture and wildlife. As he ran out of space to hang his work on the walls and facade of his home, Darling began painting his chairs, refrigerator, window shades, carpets, the curbs and walls in front of his home, and anything else that caught his eye.

Humans never make an appearance in Sanford Darling’s paintings. Instead, the sublime beauty of nature, the abstraction of memory, and the ineffable qualities of place are depicted and meditated upon. Darling’s prolific output exceeded one thousand paintings at the time of his death and constituted one of California’s foremost (and frequently visited) art environments during the 1960s and early 70s.