Artist Paul Villinski Unveils Long Awaited “Flower Bomber” Installation
ROANOKE, Va. (Feb. 9, 2018) — After a nearly eight month wait, Flower Bomber has finally taken flight. The site-specific installation by sculptor Paul Villinski is now on view through February 2019 in the City of Roanoke Atrium at the Taubman Museum of Art.
Originally slated for exhibition beginning in June 2017, the rental truck carrying the work was stolen outside of Villinski’s Long Island City, N.Y., studio the night before Villinski was to drive it to Roanoke. The truck and work were recovered a few days later, only a little worse for the wear. After some repair work this past fall, Villinski debuted Flower Bomber at the Taubman Feb. 9.
Representing one of the artist’s most ambitious projects undertaken to date, Flower Bomber weighs 750 pounds, has a wingspan of 30 feet and features a complex wooden structure with a skin of translucent fiberglass attached with 3,000 rivets. The work is a scaled-to-size World War II bomber airplane modeled after the North American B-25 Mitchell. Manufactured by North American Aviation (NAA), it is named in honor of Major General William “Billy” Mitchell, a legend of U.S. military aviation.
Suspended in mid-flight, Flower Bomber delivers a payload of more than 3,000 aluminum flowers onto the atrium floor, where they accumulate into a large pile. The aluminum is from cans that were harvested by canners employed by Sure We Can, a non-profit recycling center in Brooklyn. Seven different flower species are represented, each laser-cut and shaped by hand in Villinski’s studio.
The sculpture transforms a weapon that was considered a symbol of violence into an emblem of beauty.
For the artist, Flower Bomber “connotes mankind’s desire to leave the world behind.” The son of an Air Force navigator, as a boy Villinski was fascinated with flight. In his 30s, he became an experienced pilot of sailplanes, paragliders and single-engine airplanes.
Villinski’s site-specific installation continues an ambitious and experimental atrium program established by the Museum in 2010. This program invites artists to create new work that stretches the limits of their production while offering them compelling opportunities to explore fresh ideas in their work.
Flower Bomber replaces another of Villinski’s flight-themed works, Passage, a glider with 1,000 black aluminum butterflies seemingly lifting it into mid-air above the atrium floor. The work will be returned to the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas-Austin, which loaned the piece for exhibition.
Villinski’s solo retrospective Farther is also on view at the Taubman Museum of Art through July 15, 2018. The exhibition highlights several new works made specifically for the Taubman that explore recurrent themes in the artist’s work, including flight, community, the environment, and more intimate narratives such as addiction and recovery, all united by Villinski’s central preoccupation, transformation.
“I’m fascinated by the simple alchemy of transforming humble, discarded materials into things of beauty and layered meaning,” said Villinski. “This speaks to the idea of potential, of the surprising things that can be done with imagination, commitment, risk, and hard work — with enough love. My work is an exploration of the possible, at the heart of which is hope.”
Once Farther closes this summer, it will join the Taubman’s roster of exhibitions available for travel to other museums.
Villinski has created studio and large-scale artworks for more than three decades. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1984. His work has been included in numerous exhibitions nationally, recently including the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas; the Blanton Museum, University of Texas in Austin; and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, New York.
He has been a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and has been an Artist-in-Residence at the Serenbe Institute in Georgia; Socrates Sculpture Park, New York; the Millay Colony, New York; the Ucross Foundation, Wyoming; the Djerassi Foundation, California; and the Villa Montalvo Arts Center, California.
He is represented in New York by Morgan Lehman Gallery; in New Orleans, La., by Jonathan Ferrara Gallery; in Jackson Hole, Wyo., by Tayloe Piggot Gallery; and in Palm Desert, Calif., by Austin Art Projects.
The exhibitions Paul Villinski: Flower Bomber, Passage, and Farther are supported in part by the Foundation for Roanoke Valley.