A stunted boyhood dream, a flight of fancy turned idea for an aviation-themed art show at the Center for African American Visual Arts (CAVA) in Los Angeles, and two days later this "FlyBoys" exhibit was born. Using found objects from self-storage lockers rented by his grandmother, community help from fellow artists, and the hard work of his own hands, artist Hebru Brantley created an ambitious exhibit that highlights the history of African Americans in aviation.
Art for Expression's Sake
With a host of professional artists lending their talent to make this project happen (Lonnie Holley, Zanele Muholi, Saskia Olde Wolbers, Glenn Kaino, and Amy Sherald), Brantley's exhibit has garnered widespread media attention. The project is about much more than just the art though - it is an out-pouring of community energy that transcends the gallery walls and a reflection of Brantley's own childhood dream to fly. His grandmother, an Air Force veteran and self-proclaimed "airlady", was his source of inspiration. When Brantley would ask her about the planes she flew in he would always get the same response, "they didn't have no black pilots flying jets." This led to a childhood dream that ended as soon as it began --a realization of how limited the opportunities were for black pilots.
"FlyBoys is about exploring the relationship between flight as a metaphor and dreams," Brantley states "for me, my dream ended when I realized that even though I was interested in airplanes growing up, I was never going to fly one professionally because there are very few African Americans who have been pilots in the history of aviation. It's also about redefining what it means to be an artist and how we see ourselves."
The exhibit is a mixture of fine art, found objects, signage, and poetry that tells a story through the lens of Brantley's own life experiences, as well as those of many other African Americans who have been part of aviation. When asked about his favorite pieces at the exhibit, Brantley responded that he couldn't decide between "the red DC-3" and a photograph by Saskia Olde Wolbers that shows three African American women in an aerial shot near what looks to be the forest canopy.
For more information on this artwork, visit Shophomeless.com.