When I first came across Lee Bontecou’s work earlier this year in Chicago, the first thing I thought was that it resembled something off the set of a Tim Burton movie. I had never seen anything like it before, and wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I thought it was interesting and nightmarish – but what was it supposed to mean? I was looking into black holes and peering at materials that appeared as though they had teeth.
Upon digging a little deeper, it is glaringly obvious to me why I was instinctively drawn to her work. The woman made art out of airplane parts. She crawled around and gathered scrap metal, canvas, and airplane parts to make her creations. Before seeing this exhibit, I associated airplanes with visions of vacations, spontaneous weekend trips, and last minute getaways out of town. The airplane has afforded me the opportunity to be across the country in less than five hours, and I have always been amazed by that. It is one of the very best modern inventions – the ability to explore and roam about so quickly. I had never before considered the dark side of aviation. Maybe it is a generation thing.
Aviation certainly changed the world. Businesses and entire countries began operating more efficiently. People spread ideas and interacted with each other on a global scale. Then naturally, came WAR. Lee’s thoughts are quoted in an interview on http://www.smithsonian.com describing her art as “Look at the stealth bomber,” she says. “It’s a beautiful thing up in the air, a piece of sculpture! But what it does is horror!”
Our world is a marvelous man-made well-oiled machine. Lee’s work reminds me to keep the dark side in mind. Everything seems to have a duality of purpose. Things of beauty (and people too, for that matter) and progress are not without the ability to cut to the core. It may only be a mix of careful planning, coupled with great measures of fortune and luck, that the world doesn’t just chew us right up and completely devour us.