Plein air painters at work. Photo courtesy of the Peninsula Outdoor Painters Association.
It was at a Thanksgiving dinner with my friends the Seymours several years ago that I heard the term "plein air" for the first time. I've always been interested in art--so this was a rather large gap in my knowledge.
En plein air is a French phrase which means "in open air." So, plein air painters are painters who, like Winston Churchill with his easel, like to sit outdoors and paint.
Three years after that Thanksgiving dinner, a light bulb went on over my head as I stared at Hangar One at Moffett Field.
This photo was taken in June when the black tarp still covered the hole in the top of Hangar One. Those panels are gone now and just the girders are visible. You can see the tail of an old P-3 on the edge of the photo. The P-3s used to fly out of NAS Moffett on Cold War sub hunting missions.
Since I returned to California I've frequented a gallery where many local plein air painters exhibit their work and I've come to know several of them, as they take turns manning the till at the gallery. Many belong to the Peninsula Outdoor Painters--or POPs.
At the same time, I've been volunteering at the Moffett Historical Society Museum to see if I can help with their public relations and publicity. My father did a lot of flying out of Moffett and we all celebrated birthdays at the Officers' Club there.
I got to thinking of putting the two together: painters and Moffett.
The museum was interested, so I contacted the painters' group and was told if I could get ten or so interested I would have an excellent event--known as a Paint Out in their parlance. With the help of artist Diana Jaye, we sent around an email.
Hangar One from the wetlands side, looking toward the Coast Range. Photo courtesy of Sue Wilson, Benecia Plein Air Painters.
Thirty-one painters have so far responded in the affirmative! Many--and a lot are long time Bay Area residents--said they had always wanted to get on the old base to paint.
The Navy base was decommissioned in 1993 and NASA now controls the property for its Ames Research Center. So we now have to make sure NASA is okay with the idea.
If we can get this thing going, we might even be able to manage an exhibit--which could raise money and bring attention to the artists and the museum and the Hangar. But I'm getting ahead of myself, as usual.
I have high hopes that we can pull off the Moffett Paint Out. I also hope someone will paint a picture of the artists painting at the old field--in their sun hats with their sun umbrellas, chairs, lunch coolers, and easels--with God's work--the Bay, Mount Hamilton--and Man's work--Hangar One and the runway--looming large on the horizon.
That's the picture I'm going to buy.
Peninsula Outdoor Painters, living on the edge. Courtesy POPs web site.
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