Aviation Art Soars to New Heights: The Centennial of the Wright Brothers' First Flight and the Predominance of the Military in the News Brings Aviation-Themed Art into the Spotlight

Article excerpt

One century ago, Wilbur and Orville Wright made history with the first successful powered flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C. Dec. 17 marks the 100th anniversary of this historic flight, and this centennial celebration, coupled with the recent military activity in the headlines and an increase in American patriotism, have been keeping aviation artists busy.

"Of course, world conflicts always bring out the most sales and coverage of aviation art and/or combat art," explained artist Rhu Bigay, who recently released a patriotic, aviation-themed print titled "America Remembers." "Patriotism and aviation art go hand in hand. There is an increase in sales of aviation art both during and after each world conflict for the simple fact that many choose to honor or remember the ties that bind."

"The 100th anniversary of the first powered flight has brought attention to aviation art as its own entity and as a tool to represent aviation" said artist Kristin Hill, secretary of the American Society of Aviation Artists (ASAA), a nonprofit organization designed to bring together people who share a love of art and aviation.

* "No Quarry Today" by Domenic DeNardo was awarded "Best of the Best" by Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine.

* "Jayhawk Initial" by Gerald Asher, president of the American Society of Aviation Artists

Celebrating the Wright Brothers

Several artists, galleries and museums are celebrating the Wright brothers' flight centennial with new work and aviation art-themed shows.

At the North Carolina Museum of Art, for example, the exhibition titled "Defying Gravity," which opens this month and runs through March 2004, features approximately 94 works of contemporary art that have been inspired in some way by the Wright brothers and their historic accomplishment. Among the 48 artists featured are Roger Brown, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella, Wayne Thieband, Boetti and Andreas Gursky.

"The way we are celebrating the Wright brothers is not so much from an historical point of view, but really from a metaphorical point of view," explained Huston Paschal, co-curator of "Defying Gravity." "We wanted to celebrate their creativity and their inspiration, and we chose contemporary art to do that to show that their inspiration is still very much alive and a metaphor for arts as well as for science."

Another museum celebrating the Wright brothers' first flight and its impact on the arts is the United States Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio, the Wright brothers' hometown. The museum is hosting a yearlong event rifled "A Centennial Celebration of Aviation Art," featuring more than 250 original paintings by noted aviation artists. "When planning events for the 100th anniversary of flight, one suggestion was to include artwork to show the history and story of aviation through the eyes of artists," said museum spokesperson Denise Bollinger.

Many artists agree the centennial is an ideal time to promote and sell aviation art. "The 100th anniversary is an opportunity to educate and excite anyone who doesn't pay much attention to getting on a plane and flying for pleasure or business;' said artist and ASAA member Diane Harms Decanio.

Appeal to Collectors and Artists

Though the Wright brothers' centennial and the spike in American patriotism has increased the focus on aviation-themed art, a majority of aviation artists claim the unique aspect of the work itself is compelling to collectors. Most say aviation art enthusiasts have been attracted to the work for years, and they have yet to see a bump in sales due to the anniversary.

Artist Domenic DeNardo, a member of the ASAA, said aviation art is interesting for collectors because of the "unique attributes displayed by the aircraft and the very inspiring nature of the atmosphere that surrounds it."

Many other artists agreed. "There is really more to aviation art than the depiction of a flying mechanical object," explained Bigay, an aviation artist who exhibits at air shows throughout the country with his company Air Show Blues. …