If you think of public art the most public place one can imagine would be the busy terminals and of our international airports. They are extraordinary transit zones and places where humanity is on the move. Both Melanie and I confessed to each other that we liked going to airports in our youth just to witness the drama of air travelers. There are lots of people waiting which is why I always took a sketch book to draw people there. People are busy sleeping, reading papers, checking their cell phones, hurrying to their flights and generally hanging out. In the rush of humanity on the go are people arriving, departing and meeting their loved ones in great shows of public emotion. Airports now have all distractions of ordinary street life with few places for rest. Occasionally there are rest zones for art to occupy.
In all the years we have been applying for public art projects both individually and collaboratively, airports have been at the top of our list. The link to aerial sculpture inspires much of what the work of Airworks Studio has been about for a very long time. From the flying forms of kites to banner installations, atmospheric suspended installation sculptures and kinetic wind sculptures. All have the element of flight and the movement of air over form. We have applied for close to a couple dozen airport calls for public art commissions. I became a finalist back in 1994 for the Denver International Airport before I was ready for a seriously large scale work. We’ve also been finalists for the Philadelphia International Airport arrivals hall.
Last year we were selected for a newly renovated concourse connector bridge at the Jacksonville International Airport in Florida. We had presented a proposal to the art selection committee of a simple group of suspended truss-like forms in gentle curves through the overhead space. We chose materials that were reflective, light reactive, transparent and colorful to cover the truss forms and give a light and airy atmospheric effect to the ceiling of the bridgeway.
the computer 3D model
The forms derived from the bridges of airplane routes one sees on those flight maps in the in-flight magazines that show arching lines connecting cities to each other. The paths of airplanes make contrails across the skies each day connecting people on these bridges across the sky. The white cloud lines are made from crystallized vapor trails and sometimes in the right weather conditions the sunlight catches prismatic ‘sun dog’ parhelion effects along the edges.
When all fifteen twenty foot truss units were complete everything was wrapped for the packing and shipping in a large cavernous fifty three foot trailer truck. We flew in six days later to meet the truck at the airport. Everything arrived in good condition thanks to carefully roped and strapped supports. The trusses were then carried into the front door of the airport and put in a staging area at the end of the airport ticketing area. We set to work immediately putting in a 10pm to 4am work shift each night for the six nights it would take to install the hanging eyebolts into the ceiling, the cables and the trusses. Fortunately we contacted a local sign company and arranged for some assistance with the hanging operation. Austin, Cleave and Larry from Harbinger Sign Company were tireless in their help in getting everything up.
After a week all the trusses were cabled to the ceiling we switched gears to hang a kite show in the Haskell airport art gallery at the request of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and public art director, Cabeth Cornelius. We had brought a group of exhibition art kites with us for ‘Kites & Flights’ that would be shown in conjunction with the dedication opening of the ‘Sky Bridges’ aerial sculpture for the airport.