Sunday, June 25, 2023

Airport Art

Not that long ago the most insulting thing you could say about a work of art is calling it airport art. Over the years that has changed. It is not a subject I have paid much attention to though in some airports, we have stopped and looked at one work or another.

Not all airport art from the past was poor. We were recently at the airport in Long Beach, California and there was art that was not new. There were mosaics on the floor some pertaining to aviation throughout the terminal. They date from 1939-41 and were designed by Grace Richardson Clements. The then 28-year-old artist was hired through the Work Projects Administration (WPA)'s Federal Art Project that commissioned art for public places throughout the country.

What caught my attention recently, however, was an article published in New York Magazine under: “Public Art Watch” on June 14 by Max Pearl. It is titled “Go to New La Guardia for the Art. The Airport’s $22 Million Face-Lift Breaks Away from Corporate Schlock”. Should you not be aware La Guardia (named after a New York Mayor) was the poor cousin of JFK and used to handle small planes for shorter flights. Now it is catching up with JFK and Newark airports.

There is a lot of new art there but what particularly caught my eye was by Berlin artist Sabine Hornig. In a passageway from the terminal to the parking garage she created a transparent mural of latex and vinyl mounted on glass, 42 feet high and 268 feet wide. Light streams through her collage of images including 1,100 photographs she took of the boroughs of Queens and Manhattan in New York City. Calling it “La Guardia Vistas”, she has also included some of the visionary words of Mayor La Guardia.

Our son lives in Long Beach, California and taking the two-leg flight there we changed planes in Las Vegas. Aside from the large number of gambling islands of game machines and If you are lucky enough to be in the D concourse you will see above the semicircle of gates the 150 foot mural painted by the local artist Adolfo Gonzalez . He calls it “Echoes of Las Vegas”. Its images span the history of the city from the glamorous ‘50s to the present. Here is a 3-minute video that will tell you the story of the mural and how the artist conceived it:

The airport we use most often is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, known as the Sunport. It actually has its own permanent collection of art and does special exhibitions as well. It has been called one of the most culturally unique airports. Besides paintings and sculptures there are showcases with Anglo, Native American Art, and Hispanic works from this part of the world. Here is a display of one set of showcases:

Special exhibitions are done in collaboration with local artists, community organizations and museums. The 2019-20 show “Lowriders and Hot Rods”that illustrated how this has been developed locally as an art form, was hugely successful with travelers constantly stopping to admire and photograph.

Airport administrations will say they use art “to welcome and entertain travelers, as well as share the local culture”. While that is true I would also add that it helps people calm down and not feel as pressured as most of us do when we travel. It certainly does this for us.

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