Fly Me to the Moon: Santa Maria Public Airport’s Latest Art Display is Filled with Bold Visions

Rebecca Rose

Fly Me to the Moon: Santa Maria Public Airport’s Latest Art Display is Filled with Bold Visions

The Santa Maria Public Airport is filled with quiet spaces–people reading books, waiting in line for car rentals, or sharing a meal at the restaurant. Hovering over all of them is an ongoing display of public art featuring painters and photographers from the community.

Valley Art Gallery is behind the colorful works that line the hall connecting the main terminal to baggage claim. Artwork at the airport changes every two months and is there for the public to view at any time. The art is also accompanied by a card along with the artists’ name and price of the piece on display. It’s one important way local artists can connect with the public who may be interested in learning more about them and their work.

Artists currently on display include Marilyn Benson. Benson is part still life artist and part comic book colorist; her images feel bright and animated, a restrained nod to pop art of the 1960s.

The airport currently features two excellent examples of Benson’s work, Glorious Poppyand Pop Art PoppyGlorious Poppy features contrasts in both style and color. The red and black within the petals of the flower are more arid and fluid, conveying a strong sense of realism. Benson contrasts this with a vibrant green and blue background, putting the image somewhere between hyperrealism and pop art.

Destroy to Create

Elinor Plumer also tackles the same subject matter with Poppies, an acrylic painting of three wild-growing flowers in a field. Plumer has a beautiful eye for small details, utilizing a mix of abstract and realistic techniques in her work.

Another standout example is Linda Nelson’s On a Quiet Beach. The acrylic painting features a wide and empty beach occupied by two seagulls. Nelson’s choice of color is what makes the image work. The soft pastels bleed into each other, creating a hazy image where sky and sand are almost one, interrupted only by the rough bannister of a staircase jutting out out from one corner.

Joan Coy’s Woman in Red is a portrait that stands out for its unique shape and perspective. The woman’s eyes appear to be gazing at something specific while her expression remains stoic, yet slightly pleased. It’s a memorable and unusual work within the collection.

Not all of the works are paintings. Photographers such as Pat Stalter also show their work at the airport. Stalter’s digital artwork Oak Bridge is a stunning example of landscape photography. A fallen tree rests gently over a wooden bridge, creating an interesting dialogue about the utilitarian needs of humans in natural spaces. There is a sense of conflict; humans must destroy to create, and nature often returns the favor.

Heidi Gruetzemacher’s work Orcutt Rain is giclee, a French term meaning “to spray.” The word refers to fine art prints made using digital printers. Gruetzemacher’s work is an audacious abstract, filled with fine details that can only be appreciated up close. The lighting is key to the work; from different angles the paint reflects different colors and shapes, making it one of the most compelling works of art in the show.

The art at the airport proves yet again the value and importance of creating public spaces for art. Within this small space, dozens of artists have the chance to connect with an audience who may have never know of their existence in the first place.

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose wants to play among the stars. Contact her at

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