The Tuskegee Airmen: The name evokes thoughts of courageous men, now coined by Tom Brokaw as “The Greatest Generation”. Their title is also synonymous with words like: honor, fearless and undaunted (Kids these days may think of the “Divergent Movie/Book Series with the group “Dauntless”.) I can appreciate the sacrifices they made during World War II. As was the war, they fought a war of two fronts: The overseas physical battle against the Nazi machine in Europe and a battle against the bigotry and a mentality of their own country’s deep seeded segregated social policies.
So how does a middle aged white guy get involved, let alone interested, with the first, all African-American military aviator group in the US? Answer: George Lucas, of course. I’ve always been interested about what “good ‘ol Uncle George” was going to do after his “retirement” from the Star Wars franchise. I heard rumblings that he was going to do Avante-Garde / Experimental films that “would only be seen in small, unknown theaters.” (Heck, he may be doing that right now. If he is, I wish him luck. Drop me a line so I can see one of them, ok George?) Then, I started hearing more about a WWII film about aviators… an all black unit…a movie titled: RED TAILS. I had to see it. What was all the fuss about? Why were these guys so important?
The film stuck with me (but got panned by critics. Sorry, George.) It reminded me that men…wait PEOPLE, no matter what the color, really know what’s important when all is placed on the line. I guess that made me realize about how important these guys were; not only to African-Americans, but also to America as a country. They truly are an American story: the underdogs, the “come from behind” heroes…winners! So, for Artfields 2016, I decided to do a piece with them in mind.
THREE MEN ON A RUNWAY
Maybe it was the pose, the angle of the shot, I don’t know. These guys were different. They weren’t the notable aviators, but the ground crew…mechanics. These were the guys who kept the Red Tails flying. Without them, there wouldn’t be any Red Tails. I thought it would be great to have them as the subject of an art piece. They really were the “underdogs behind the underdogs”! They reminded me of my dad, who was a mechanic too. He saved my “bacon” plenty of times, by keeping our old cars running when I was a teenager. I guess I could appreciate the ground crew of the Tuskegee Airmen: because they were just a tough and gritty as those pilots. They should be recognized as heroes too…I want people to know (and my students as well) that these guys were just as cool (and as important) as those Red Tails in the sky!
So, it’s off to Artfields we go! I’ll let you know how the piece is progressing…I think it may be the biggest one I’ve ever created…a “monster-piece”! Tune in for updates…