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Ingrid Lahti - Airplane Shadows

Model

Proposal for large-scale public art project as part of Five Sites at former Sand Point Naval Station, Seattle, 1999.

Airplane Shadows: Artist's Proposal

I will suspend two airplane silhouettes — one 15' wide x 9' long, the other 10' x 7', cut from ¼" sheet aluminum — between the roofs of two airplane hangars on 63rd Ave NE at Sand Point Way. These silhouettes will generate changing shadows along the street and against the walls of the hangars as the sun travels overhead.

The shapes and their shadows will reference the history of the facility at a time when Sand Point was an important component of our national defense system. The silhouettes, derived from plan views of airplanes published in WWII airplane-recognition manuals, will represent the WWII Grumann S2F-1 bomber and the 1929-30 Boeing Model 89 (XF4B-1) fighter plane, both of which were once stationed at Sand point.

The shadows pose the question: friend or foe? Almost since the invention of the airplane spotters and pilots have scanned the skies attempting to distinguish friendly from foreign. Because of the variation in the angle of sunlight, the shadows will vary in their definition, being the clearest and easiest to identify at midday and the most distorted near sunset as night approaches. To fine tune the positions of the silhouettes I will seek the assistance of an astronomer.

On the street corner just southeast of Hangar 2 there will be an information panel with an aerial photo of Sand Point during WWII when it was a military facility with a runway. Also on the panel, there will also be a set of aircraft-recognition shapes used in WWII for identification purposes, which viewers may also use to identify the silhouettes above them.

Airplane Shadows may remind people that the Cold War period has truly ended. How has the world and our community changes throughout the years since WWII? What is the future of Sand Point and our community? The decommissioning of military facilities allows us to use our resources in different ways. What does it mean when a nation shifts its focus from fear and paranoia to exploration and enjoyment, from closed defensiveness to open curiosity?

This is a big load for a shadow to carry. It will unfold naturally through the whole experience of the piece. Visitors will experience the installation by moving through it as the sun does, interpreting the piece not just visually and conceptually, but physically.

— Ingrid Lahti, 1999