City Ellen Forney on Fighter Jets
posted by April 4 at 14:55 PMon
Artist and local treasure Ellen Forney attended last night’s design meeting on the Capitol Hill light-rail station, where artist Mike Ross has proposed a sculpture of chopped up fighter planes. Forney is also creating artwork for the station, in the tunnel through the west entrance, and in the comments of my post below, she thoughtfully weighed in with her perspective and insights. Here’s what she wrote.
Lots of people are upset about Mike Ross’s deconstructed fighter planes, which makes sense: Capitol Hill = liberals and pacifists, history of peace marches, etc., and how do military planes fit in here? I frankly haven’t figured out my opinion of his proposal either, which means his piece is thought-provoking, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I went out for beers with him (and his girlfriend and a pack of Sound Transit people) after the meeting and we talked about the project, and what he was thinking in putting that sculpture together.
FYI, there’s some precedent for deconstructed war machinery in Seattle - Magnuson Park has those half-buried nuclear submarines that are arranged to suggest orcas (though yeah, in a different neighborhood).
His intention in breaking the planes into pieces, arranging them into a curvy shape, and painting them pink was described as “emasculating” and “transformative,” both by him and by David Hewitt, Sound Transit’s (also awesome) station architect. Mike hopes to suggest the fragility in strength, also an interesting concept. I asked him later about the color choice and he said it’s not new - he got the idea from a friend who paints military equipment in pink bubbles, and a group in London who painted a tank pink.
Mike explained his thought process more eloquently over beers, I think. For his presentation at SCCC, he started with the organic and more touchy-feely aspects of the design (clouds, birds, brushstrokes) and so the finale - “They’ll be fighter planes!” – was kind of a shock. It probably would’ve gone over better (for me, at least) if he’d started out the other way around: “They’re fighter planes! Think Boeing and the Blue Angels. But I’m dismembering them and changing their form and meaning.”
I think he did a great job with the limitations of the space – it’s so full of crossbeams and metal mesh that it’d be pretty impossible to see the whole sculpture regardless of what he came up with. That it is intended to be seen in pieces was an interesting solution (one that hopefully will work in real life).
I haven’t come to a conclusion about what I think about his proposal, and I told him that and he was cool about it. I could go on about all we discussed (why there are two jets facing each other: aggression and non-aggression both entail more than one entity; how doing public art is a difficult task; about the documentary he saw recently about Eisenhower coining the term “military-industrial complex” in a speech in 1961, and how horrifying it is that that’s what our country has become; how awesome Capitol Hill is) but it’d take way more space than this lo-o-ong comment.
So: fighter planes… dunno… but at the very least, he came up with something that’s not “safe” and totally public art-y, and it’s worth thinking about beyond a knee-jerk reaction. Plus he seems like a good guy, for the record.
Also, thanks for the correction, Ellen: Ross is from Brooklyn, not San Francisco, as I mistakenly wrote in my post.