Going Places

Artist weaves visual metaphor for travel at airport

Christie Beniston’s new “Time Interwoven” installation at the San Diego Airport offers a visual metaphor for the act of travel. “Time Interwoven” was the first work acquired by the Airport Authority under its new Art Master Plan.

Beniston, a longtime Solana Beach artist, said she seeks connecting points for all of her projects. While researching her concept for this public art competition, she said she discovered similarities in the definitions for the words “weave” and “travel.”

“The definition for travel had a reference to going back and forth, so I started to think visually about what else goes back and forth,” Beniston said. “Then I looked at the definition for weaving, and it was similar to travel.”

Beniston applied her concept visually by depicting the world’s 24 time zones in a dazzling display of color, light, metal and glass now on view at San Diego Airport’s Commuter Terminal. It is near the elevator used to reach the administrative offices.

Chula Vista’s Stanford Sign & Awning fabricated Beniston’s design, and the entire process took about a year.

According to Beniston, like a weaving, the horizontal threads of the weft represent the horizontal lines of a map’s latitude, and the warp represent the meridians of longitude.

Beniston portrayed her 8-by-15-foot concept on a frame containing 24 vertical bands of color. Each band bears a different city name on that same longitude, including San Diego. The names appear on a slightly dim LED (light emitting diode), and a timer lights the individual bands. Each color band lights up with double illumination at 8 a.m. local time to mark the beginning of that location’s work day. Each city name stays doubly illuminated for one hour.

“It was important to me that the light moves across much in the same way that a weaver moves his thread across or a traveler moves across,” Beniston said.

“Time Interwoven” shows a continuous color pattern, except for one intentional flaw. Beniston depicts San Diego’s location as a single red line. With this deliberate flaw, she follows the tradition of Native American weavers who leave a flaw in a pattern to let the spirit or soul of the piece escape. According to Beniston, this represents the same spirit released by the inventiveness and ingenuity of San Diego’s early aviation pioneers, including Charles Lindbergh.

Research plays a large role in any Beniston project.

“I try not to just decorate; I try to come up with solutions that define, inform and fit the space,” Beniston said.

Known for her use of vibrant color, Beniston’s work is peppered throughout North County. Previous projects include her multicolored “Steeples” project in Escondido, the “Seussentennial Fountain” at Encinitas’ San Diego Botanical Garden and Solana Beach’s whimsical Rosa Street drinking fountain.

Her tiered “Topiaries” will remain on display for the rest of the year in Palm Desert’s El Paseo outdoor sculpture exhibit. Each of the 9-foot-tall, brightly colored creations has its own shape and form.

From Nov. 10 through Jan. 7, Beniston will display a ceramic teapot in Carlsbad’s William D. Cannon Gallery’s exhibition, “Teapots: Object to Subject.” Her ultrathin ceramic teapot measures 18 by 21 inches but is 2.5 inches wide. Top ceramicists will show 44 other pieces.

Beniston’s teapot features giant squid wrapped around its base. While researching this project, Beniston found a connection between squid and tea.

“I liked the idea that squid release their ink and color the water in the same way that tea bags do,” Beniston said. “This will reset what you think about teapots after you see this show.”

Beniston is currently constructing a 4-by-20-foot, 10-panel mosaic mural for the exterior of the Solana Beach Library, a project awarded to her by San Diego County. The mural is set on an aluminum frame, and she is using glass tiles and handmade ceramic tile pieces inset with the glass tiles. Each panel represents one of the 10 general knowledge categories of information in the library based on the general knowledge Dewey Decimal system. Maps of Solana Beach will be engraved behind the categories of information.

“The panels will reflect information with a lot of symbolism and many references to Solana Beach,” Beniston said.

She is working toward an early 2010 completion of the project.


View more of Beniston’s work at