Small Sculpture in Texas ©1993, 2000 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Barnstorming

Our new museum director is my hero. Richard Brettell is keen on the ways people flow through art, and he is open-minded. Better, he likes local artists and talks to us. One of his pet projects is a fund to buy Texas art. It'll be intriguing to see who they buy, but I believe in the project enough to help. That by helping I could place one of my art objects in the Dallas Museum of Art-if only briefly-hurt not at all.

It was a chair. A doll chair, a foot-and-a-half tall. Solid back, four legs, three braces at the bottom, not much else. Of pine, partially finished.

I spray painted the bottom tan, the top a deep sky indigo to match the sky behind color Canon copies, glistening on thin paper, glued to the front and back of the back of the chair. Of the Texas Commerce Bank building. The upper portions where the hole goes through. An east view on the back; a west view on the front (of the back). And a hole jigsawed through beveled to match different enlargements of the same hole. I painted the hole the same #816 Monet Blue.

Through the bevel, I drilled a hole to match a three-feet-long, threaded metal rod I bought at Elliott's. It was a tight enough fit I had to twist it into place. I globbed rubber cement up and down the rod and on the inside of pearlescent blue ribbon shredded so it just fit around, to disguise its threads.

That dried, I attached a translucent plastic ribbon to the opaque blue. In the light, this flume-to show where the HO-scale Fokker Triplane had angled up toward the keyhole, spiraled edgewise through, then straightened out the other side, away from buildings, up into the blue. To the front left leg, I wrapped a shorter copy of another photograph of the cross on top of, and the pitched brown-red roof of Sacred Heart Cathedral, then added "Barnstorming-a tribute to Postmodern Dallas."

I loved it like a birthed child. My baby. I struggled with it most of two weeks, spending every waking moment with it — every sleeping moment dreaming the hows and whys. At first I was desperate to keep it, bid it back into my possession in the silent auction, which culminated in the something-or-nother Ball last Saturday night. But I kept my cool.

It brought $200 — a pittance, but more than I could well afford. My contact at the DMA said the older lady who bought my treasure was dripping with art jewelry. Hope hers is a happy home for art. Hell, it cost me 60-70 bucks for parts and paint. It was a labor of love — truly a love child. I have beautiful color slides of it. Nearly a whole roll of loving snapshots of my only child.

In a way, the photographs are the piece, I only donated the chair. It's my first art sale in well over ten years. Perhaps it will initiate a trend. After I'd shot most of my film, Barnstorming fell over, bent the rod, popped a strut irretrievably into the grass, and shoved the top two wings back a fraction of an inch-about the width of an HO-scale pilot. I epoxied it most of the way back into position, but it's still a bit bent. Only on my Ektachromes is the tiny triplane whole and pristine.

My original idea — long before the Beaux Arts Ball invitation — was to build a two-dimensional photograph of an old-fashioned biplane twisting through the TCB hole. Maybe it's just as well.

Post Script: Much later, the piece was invited to a San Antonio Museum of Art show. It was my first museum invitation, but Bozo Ball policy prohibited telling artists who got their work, and although several people promised to find out for me, no one did. The policy has been changed, but too late.

Previously unpublished,
1991 

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