Santa Monica Airport ArtWalk: A Mosaic of Life in California

Gwen Meyer Samuels in front of some of her work during the Santa Monica Airport Artwalk on March 23, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. “I never really cared about taking pictures. And I travelled, and when you travel, you take pictures, right? And so my background in textiles made me format my pictures, so that's how it started, really.” Photo by Danica Creahan / The Corsair

Gwen Meyer Samuels in front of some of her work during the Santa Monica Airport Artwalk on March 23, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. “I never really cared about taking pictures. And I travelled, and when you travel, you take pictures, right? And so my background in textiles made me format my pictures, so that's how it started, really.” Photo by Danica Creahan / The Corsair

The smell of carne asada, hotdogs, and churros wafts through the air on a chilly Saturday afternoon at the Santa Monica airport. Half a dozen food trucks surround plastic tables, where families and friends dig into their food.

Celia Cruz's "La Vida Es Un Carnaval" blares from the speakers, the lively rhythm punctuated by the occasional roar of a plane as it takes off into the sky.

The 13th annual Santa Monica Airport ArtWalk took place on Saturday, March 23. The event was spread across numerous sites, including the Santa Monica Art Studios, the Museum of Flying, and Santa Monica College's (SMC) Airport Arts campus.

Deena Mecham, property manager for the airport, had the idea for the art walk back in 2007. "It's wonderful to see how much it's grown," Mecham said. "Over the years, it's built up...And now here we are today. So we went from about 500 the first year to probably, I think we're up to 5,000. Four to five thousand a year."

Built inside an old airplane hangar bay, the Santa Monica Art Studio stands unassuming and plain across the street from the airport, the pale blue paint faded and old. Inside, however, is a dizzying maze of galleries and studios where artists display their work.

Italian artist Serena Semeraro's paintings hung from the rafters, the delicate paper weighed down by clusters of small white rocks. Among the work, Semeraro displayed a watercolor portrait of herself, her dark red hair standing out against the white walls of the gallery.

"This is my point of view in myself," Semeraro explained. "This is confusion, this is pain, and a lot of positive and negative emotions. But I think that is important to discover everything in existence."

Lola del Fresno, who is originally from Spain, works with mixed-media, combining acrylics, graphites, and inks. She explained that her pieces often have a translucency to them, which she uses to combine layers of her work together to create different images.

"My work is very much about the human experience and the imprint that the space where we live or we inhabit makes in your memory and affects your life," del Fresno said.

Her art is otherworldly and serene, a haunting sea of grays and whites.

Gwen Meyer Samuels holding a piece of her work in progress in her studio during the Santa Monica Airport Artwalk on March 23, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. “You can see I make the forms and it's made up of my photography. And, uh, in fact these images are from the Santa Monica flea market. There was some kind of domino game board thing, so I took pictures of it and then I morphed them into my textile design sheets. And you can see they all have like kind of a different perspective. And then I cut them up and I hand-stitch them to the form.” Photo by Danica Creahan / The Corsair

Gwen Meyer Samuels holding a piece of her work in progress in her studio during the Santa Monica Airport Artwalk on March 23, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. “You can see I make the forms and it's made up of my photography. And, uh, in fact these images are from the Santa Monica flea market. There was some kind of domino game board thing, so I took pictures of it and then I morphed them into my textile design sheets. And you can see they all have like kind of a different perspective. And then I cut them up and I hand-stitch them to the form.” Photo by Danica Creahan / The Corsair

Part of Mia Johnsons piece titled “Oh No” at the Santa Monica College Bundy Campus’ art exhibition during Santa Monica Artwalk on March 23, 2019. Photo by Danica Creahan / The Corsair

Part of Mia Johnsons piece titled “Oh No” at the Santa Monica College Bundy Campus’ art exhibition during Santa Monica Artwalk on March 23, 2019. Photo by Danica Creahan / The Corsair

Sandra Maldonado, who is part of SMC's Mentorship Program in the Arts, uses art as a tool to overcome past trauma and plans to go into art therapy. The work she chose to display is a collection of enlarged photographs and documents, which she also compiled into a zine.

Maldonado said, "It's about how my mom migrated to the US, and it's written in Zapoteco [an indigenous language spoken primarily in Oaxaca, Mexico]. And just trying to capture it through documents and identifications, through photographs."

The images are achingly familiar — a consular identification card, an international mail envelope with red-and-blue striped borders, photographs yellowed with age.

Alexandra Dillon in her studio during Santa Monica Artwalk. “I try to make people that have some sort of personality and inner life. I don't copy anything, but a lot of my work is inspired by art from other eras, so some of the brushes are inspired by the Fayum mummy portraits, which are Roman-Egyptian mummy portraits and sometimes I'm just very interested in like a baroque painting and that will just serve as inspiration…” Santa Monica, California, March 23, 2019. Photo by Danica Creahan / The Corsair

Alexandra Dillon in her studio during Santa Monica Artwalk. “I try to make people that have some sort of personality and inner life. I don't copy anything, but a lot of my work is inspired by art from other eras, so some of the brushes are inspired by the Fayum mummy portraits, which are Roman-Egyptian mummy portraits and sometimes I'm just very interested in like a baroque painting and that will just serve as inspiration…” Santa Monica, California, March 23, 2019. Photo by Danica Creahan / The Corsair

A piece of Alexandra Dillon’s work on display in her studio during Santa Monica Artwalk on March 23, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. “I paint on found objects. All of the faces are imagined people. I try to make people that have some sort of personality and inner life.” Photo by Danica Creahan / The Corsair

A piece of Alexandra Dillon’s work on display in her studio during Santa Monica Artwalk on March 23, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. “I paint on found objects. All of the faces are imagined people. I try to make people that have some sort of personality and inner life.” Photo by Danica Creahan / The Corsair

Alexandra Dillon is a surrealist artist who uses items people throw away and turns them into art.

"A lot of my work is inspired by art from other eras," Dillon said, "so the brushes are inspired by the Fayum mummy portraits, which are Roman-Egyptian mummy portraits."

Dillon described two faces she painted on a green dustpan, explaining that the were originally Roman faces, but since the dustpan was from the 1970s, she changed the image a bit, adding sideburns and seventies-style hair.

"And all of a sudden, Roman people were 1970s people," Dillon said with a laugh. "And what's so amazing is that they all look the same. Like what's the difference between somebody from that era and now? Nothing. We're all the same. Nothing's changed...The continuity between older generations and now is part of my story that I'm trying to tell."

The art walk was a microcosm of the greater Los Angeles area — a mixture of people from different cultures and backgrounds from around the globe. Israeli sculptors, Austrian photographers, and Iranian painters all displayed their work in their studios, while the rhythmic sounds of cumbia, salsa, and merengue drifted in from the party outside. It was a representation of the multicultural experience Southern California offers.