On Saturday, January 13, art lovers bundled up against the cold to roam the halls of the Santa Monica Art Studios for an opening reception featuring some thirty artists. The lack of heat didn’t dim anyone’s enthusiasm. Sipping on Woodbridge wine, Perrier and Redbull in plastic cups, young and old alike enjoyed the wide variety of artistic styles on display.
The Santa Monica Art Studios are housed in a former airplane hangar, designed by Villya Karalius and constructed by Uri Mizrachi of AVI Construction, with a soaring roofline dotted with skylights. Within the 22,000 square feet of the historic hanger there are twenty seven artist studios, three galleries and hallway space for additional exhibitions.
Geoff McGann’s photography was on display at ARENA 1 art gallery. It is not uncommon for an artist to find a day job necessary to help support their art, but McGann creates art to help support his day job. As Creative director for Public Interest, a 501(C)3 non profit, he receives a modest salary in exchange for the pleasure of doing work he is passionate about, creating public service ads for an array of prevalent causes. Public Interest works with big name foundations such as the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Film Institute, creating public awareness to affect social change. The agency is also involved with the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps support injured troops when they return home.
Some stand-out pieces included a series of ethereal images suggestive of angels and Hindu Goddesses where women were draped in blurred twinkling lights posed against black backgrounds. Alongside were a serene black and white landscape and several portraits that expressed a blend of glossy sophistication and decadence. “Riders”, a surfer-themed series, used light and shadow to depict this well-known Southern California icon with a slightly ominous undertone. This was Geoff’s first major exhibition and he was surrounded by friends, family and admirers. Geoff’s daughter Skylar, dressed in a pink princess outfit, pointed out her favorite photo, a portrait of a glamorously pensive woman in an open button down shirt and unraveled tie.
McGann’s background in advertising and commercial direction is apparent. Some of his photos could easily be imagined as print ads, particularly the series entitled “Starters” that features athletes at the ready, toned limbs glistening. Using an exaggerated sense of perspective to create a sense of impending action, these are some of his best photos.
Prices ranged from $350 to $1,400, with twenty percent of all profits donated to Public Interest. Geoff’s work will be on display from January 13 through February 8 at ARENA 1, 3026 Airport Avenue Santa Monica. ARENA 1 is open Wednesday through Saturday from 12 to 6 pm.
The ARENA 1 gallery is flanked by the Hanger Gallery South, the Hanger Gallery North and studios where several other artists were exhibiting work.
Sylvia Moss, a former UCLA costume design teacher, had her studio open to the public. Moss is a resolute and lively woman who doesn’t let the fact that she has Multiple Sclerosis impede her self expression. Using acrylic, oil, fabric and glass, her impressionistic paintings reflect her costume design background, focusing on colors and textures. The MS Society features four of her paintings on their thank you cards and her work can also be found in galleries in Santa Fe, Sedona, Malibu and Palm Desert.
Perry Castellano’s sculptures, made from non corrosive stainless steel and shaped with a plasma cutter, were shown in the south east corner of the complex. A Connecticut native and long time California resident, Perry says his compositions are the result of spontaneous inner expression inspired by nature.
As the night wore on the crowd thickened and the line for beverages grew longer, but the mood remained festive. The artists were more than happy to engage in conversation about their work, or a myriad of other topics for that matter. The Santa Monica Art Studios is not just an exhibition and work space, but it’s also a community. Artists at different stages of development and experience may participate in classes, lectures, formal and informal discussion, critique and collaboration. Studios open during the year to museum groups, arts organizations and local school children who work with studio artists to create their own artwork.
Owners Yossi Govrin and Sherry Frumkin are engaged in a variety of arts related improvements at the airport that will contribute to the growing reputation of Santa Monica as a cultural hub. The space’s transformation from airplane hangar to art community is not without its symbolism, as both art and aircrafts can be said to elevate humanity.
Resident Artist web links can be found on the Santa Monica Art Studios website.