Valley Art Exhibit Features Local Artists John Card, Beverly Johnson, and More

Rebecca Rose

Valley Art Exhibit Features Local Artists John Card, Beverly Johnson, and More

It’s always refreshing to see the work of Orcutt painter John Card on the wall at any gallery or public exhibit.

This time it was at the Santa Maria Public Airport, where members of Valley Art Gallery are showing some of their latest work. As usual, the new pieces from the artists are surprising, both on an elemental and a subjective level. The collection ranges from photography to painting, both realism and abstract. But even in this diverse group of painters, there is always a cohesion that speaks to the hyperlocal nature of their collective.

Card’s work this time dabbles in abstraction. He’s not a painter who shies away from experimenting in different formats. He came to art somewhat later in his life, as an adventurous retiree, seeking self-expression and a challenge. Card has steadfastly refused to allow himself to be pigeonholed in any one genre, which is why his paintings can often take you by surprise. The minute you think you know what to expect, he delivers something bold and out of his comfort zone. It’s artists like Card who make the local art scene so vibrant and entertaining.

For this latest exhibit, Card pounces with a piece called Firestorm, an ambitious acrylic painting that focuses on a certain kind of duality. Card really lets himself go, mixing inherently unpragmatic colors (purples, oranges, yellows, etc.) creating a bifurcated canvas where one side juxtaposes the next. No, he isn’t an expert in abstract painting, but he’s certainly diving into the form without hiding his enthusiasm or naiveté.

Another familiar face to the world of abstraction and still life is Beverly Johnson. Johnson is relatively new to the format, having taken it up a few years ago while looking for a break from her traditional work. But it’s clear that she’s quickly becoming an expert at the method, which involves using generous amounts of paint and manipulating it while moving the canvas (by spinning or tilting it) and then using tools such as an artist’s palette knife to create shapes and bring new colors to the surface.

Her piece in this latest exhibit is called Waterfall, and it represents a merging of her two worlds as a painter. The waterfall behind the neat color arrangement of long waving flowers is made using the pouring technique. Johnson then wipes through the paint she pours, using the knife to create the illusion of water reflecting dozens of colors and light variations.

Unique Points of View

Like Card, Johnson doesn’t stay chained to any one strict format or genre. She likes to play with her ideas and let her subjects dictate where to go. There’s a pleasant familiarity in her work, even when she branches into new places—and it’s work that should definitely be seen in person, to give the true scope of how well she balances fundamentals such as texture and light.

Another local artist (who tackled a subject out of our region) is Suzanne Rynders, an artist who is relatively new to me. Her piece in the exhibit is Bixby Bridge, Big Sur, a colorful landscape that feels playful and evocative. Rynders doesn’t shy away from bold pops of color to create a portrait of a landmark that’s increased in popularity over recent years.

I especially loved the way she parked her setting in bright daylight, allowing the intensity of the whites to glow in the piece. It’s a work of art that feels casual but has more moving parts within the palette and composition than is immediately detectable.

Rynders’ other piece is Dolphins Leaping, another acrylic painting that gives a good insight into her restraint as a painter. Rynders is skilled at creating shapes and letting the brain fill in the rest of the story, while focusing on playing with shadows and color gradients.

While all of the artists have unique points of view and styles, everything feels uniformly Californian (there are hints of the original California Scene Painters in almost every inch of canvas). But they speak specifically to the Central Coast; these are local artists putting their special stamp on culture, scenery, and the lifestyle specific zip code.

The exhibit is free and open to the public at the airport, which is a great place to see paintings and other artwork by some of the region’s top artists. Free public art is increasingly difficult to come by in certain regions, and no one should miss the chance to experience it while they can.

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is purely abstract. Contact her at

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