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Art for travelers


I had six hours to spend looking at art at the little Anchorage airport, while waiting for my plane. Alas, that was more than five hours too many.

To be fair, Anchorage is a small place, and the percent for art from a fairly small building budget is not so much. I’m not saying what showed there didn’t have it’s rewards–a seal-filled snow-and-ice scape drawn on a skin (seal skin?), and once past security, a nice array of baskets and traditional clothing.

I like learning, and there was enough here to get some info out of what I was seeing.

The art there followed Mark Barry’s (see post) local-color rule, but it was too small in scale, except for some paintings which were suitably large but not so nice.

San Francisco, on the other hand, did well with local color. The corridor where I was hanging out between planes had one of Wayne Thibaud’s paintings of a vertical San Francisco street.

And in one of the major corridors past security was a museum-like show, “California Tiles,” with commentary and explanation. The tiles were displayed in vitrines and reproduced on 48″ posters–two different scales good for people walking and good for people taking the people-movers. (The two tiles shown above were suspended above an image of what the tiles would look like if there were lots of them).

A sign said the show was produced with technical assistance for the Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The display met the local color and appropriate scale tests. It also met my need for learning something new.

At last, I made it to Philadelphia about 21 hours after I began my day.

But I brake for art, no matter how exhausted. There in my terminal corridor was a display by Allan Wexler, whose work I admire. His little houses at the airport rethink how we build what we build (shown, houses with walls that open); He packs his paper chairs into cardboard, chair-shaped boxes with faux wood finishes.

It’s work to contemplate, because it’s filled with thoughts about why we do things the way we do them and how we might start to take another approach. There’s also a respect for the Zen of materials here. But this is tough work to absorb in the bustling airport setting.

And the local color was missing. We could have been anywhere in the world that chairs and houses are used.