"Initial Point" is a Proposal for WWII Heavy Bomber Site-Specific Sculpture, to be located in Seattle, Washington.
a proposal for an outdoor installation sculpture consisting of
approximately 500, 1/432 scale model Boeing B-17E and B-17F bombers
(approximately 2-4” long) arranged in a historically accurate
representation of a “Big Week” flight group dating to U.S. Eighth Air Force
operations during World War II. A set of
light, arched towers, based on studies of cathedral arches and radio towers,
would support a set of balanced, mobile-like groups of aircraft models; the
models would have a limited kinetic movement generated by wind forces.
The sculpture would depict the highly complex, pyramid-like air formations of the
bombers used during the war. A
historical recreation and war memorial, its intent is artistic, created to
evoke the extraordinarily powerful impact of the B-17 bombing campaign on the
men of its crews, the men and women who built the aircraft in Seattle, the
people of the world it was intended to free from fascism. It places the viewer
in the position of those who watched the groups leaving to avenge their friends
and family, save their nations and destroy their enemies - but also the people
who lived among the targets or became targets themselves, the Europeans who
watched in mortal fear as these vast formations of bombers roared high above,
bring destruction on an industrial scale.
history, I am convinced, is of extreme relevance to America's concept
of itself, for good and for ill. The strange regional truth is that, in
order to defeat fascism, the extraordinary effort of Seattle,
Washington destroyed many of the major cities- and many hundreds of
thousands of people- in Germany and Japan.
"The Bombers" Painting (c) 2008 Jamie Bollenbach o/c 50" by 30"
The first test casts and design concepts were made thanks to the support of the University of Washington School of Art. I created two paintings: "The Bombers," 2008, and " The Americans' Planes are Much Prettier than the Germans', " which were exhibited to positive reviews at NOMA Gallery in 2011.
Stage 2: make a test sculpture for the B-17 public sculpture design: a wall-mounted installation of about 60 6" wide B-17s - This
stage is to take a clay model and begin a simple aluminum hand casting-
the effect I want is the opposite of most military modeling. The pieces
will be roughly cast and heavily textured, obscuring the details,
evoking, I hope, the sense of an aircraft in motion- and in war.
Once that is finished, which gives an opportunity to work with the aluminum by hand to develop the look of the piece, sculpture design concept and begin to raise the historical, cultural and even aesthetic issues around the Boeing B-17 and the strategic bombing campaign of World War II, as well as find support for the eventual project.
welcome your comments and suggestions for development of this concept;
in particular, I would like to hear from veterans, crew, aviation
engineers, and civilians who were participants and witnesses to these
Help the Project
If you would like to help get this sculpture flying:
1) STUFF we can use
PHOTOGRAPHY: Older decent digital camera and/or digital video camera.
METAL: Small bits of Casting aluminum (i.e. not cans.)
METAL: Aluminum Welding Rod- about 1/4 inch diameter.
CASTING WAX AND TOOLS
USE OF SHOP SPACE
USE OF SMALL FLASKS AND CRUCIBLES and CASTING TOOLS
2) EXPERTISE we need:
ALUMINUM WELDING (Use of Small Shop)
GRANT RESEARCH And WRITING
MILITARY HISTORICAL AVIATION RELATIONS
BOEING COMPANY RELATIONS
3) FUNDRAISING (TBA)
Model Sculpture Sales and Distribution
Initial Point's Historical Background
I had the honor of speaking with several American WWII bomber pilots and crew members - as well as people who were living in the target cities- about the sculpture concept. They responded positively to the concept of it, and I incorporated some of their suggestions.
The comment that keeps resurfacing is that even in the middle of an air raid, it was nearly impossible to really see the scale of it, or to engage with what was really happening on the ground. One pilot described to me the one moment in 25 hard, dangerous missions where, on an unusally low raid leading a flight of B-24s against a rail target, he really thought about the nature of the bombing campaign. (In World War II, at the height of the Allied bombing against Germany, 6-10% of the planes, each with ten men, did not come back.)
60 seconds out from the target, they broke through the clouds at 2000 feet, and he could see the exact point they were aiming at: a farmhouse. He described the sense of recognition: the outbuildings around a farm so familiar to him. He thought about the man sitting in his house with the holy rage of the Allies coming straight for him in the form of 50 heavy bombers. He considered calling it off, but did not.
Former Presidential Candidate George McGovern was a bomber pilot during the war, and attested to the horrific power we had unleashed, justified only by the inexhaustible monstrosity of Adolf Hitler. He had a similar incident- when a bomb became stuck and had to be kicked out of the plane, where it dropped on a farmhouse he was trying to avoid. Many years later, a certain redemption came when he was contacted by the family who had lived there- they had known what was happening, had found shelter, and lived.
The Endless Skyway Project Design Notes
These vast flights, some over 1500 miles long, were in a sense one of the largest
territorial structures ever completed by human beings – its capture of
vast areas of empty space with relatively tiny objects.The flight designers spoke of box and
pyramid-like air structures, highly specific arrangements of the aircraft to
maximize the gun defense against fighters.These structures are remarkable, almost aesthetic accomplishments in
themselves, never to be seen again, and the integrity of these structures was
more important to the attack than any individual aircraft. A real view of this structure must have been
an extraordinary sight, impossible to capture in photographs or film.
design of this outdoor installation would incorporate metal castings for the
tiny models, using a system of either wire pole mounting or grouped suspension
using a form of balanced mobiles, which would permit limited kinetic
movement.The installation, while small
in terms of mass, would cover a flight area to a 1/432 scale of the historical
air wings: approximately 2000 feet long; also, it could be arranged in a
circle, suggesting infinite movement, of approximately 600 feet in diameter.
may also incorporate a ground element: historical photos or miniaturized
landscaping representing the area of Europe directly underneath the
a) The models
individually are not intended to be accurate as detail models, but accurate to
how they would have appeared to ground observers, allies and targets
or spotter models of the time sometimes exaggerated the characteristics of the
b) Metal used
for the models ideally would be sourced from the original factory, now under
demolition, or from B-17 parts.
c) Surface qualities of the model which affect
the sight are important – for example, a randomized surface, involved lots of
flashing, organic imperfections, etc, could actually add to the perception of
realism at distance.
d) The design
of the support structures will relate to a double-vaulted ceiling in a
cathedral, ideally comparable in scale (topping out at 80-100 feet).The structure should directly relate the
concept of “airspace,” a human, quasi-architectural organization of the sky, to
a) The design
will have an aspect as a war memorial, particularly as we are in period
of losing WWII veterans to time in the same rapid way that in the late 1930’s
the Civil War veterans were passing. Veterans
of the B-17 Air War, Boeing workers of the time, citizens of the target cities,
might be invited to handle and physically inscribe the metal models with the
name of their aircraft, their own names or members of their crews, or other
b) The metal
used should, if possible, be recycled from sources related to the original
construction of the B-17 – old munitions, parts, pieces of the factory.
sculpture is meant to evoke the whole of the bombing campaign- personal
sacrifice, accomplishment, survival and bravery, but equally, the horrible awe,
mortal terror, destruction and death of real war.Commingled with overwhelming moral drive to
defeat fascism, the sculpture would evoke the rise of the terrible, just anger
of the humanitarian societies- and begs the question of moral responsibility
for the devastating effect on civilian populations during the war.
d) The “target
area” or terminus of the flight, may include a very deep, funnel shaped hole,
possibly in a fountain – deep enough so that light does not penetrate to the
bottom. – This may represent the massive death that is the necessary result of
strikes against cities, as well as the sucking darkness of fascism.
e) Additional elements for consideration:The use of wind-driven drones in the supporting towers to create a sound element: an endless, low roar. - Life-size figurative sculptures as funerary "angels."
a) Up to approximately 2000 ft, by roughly 50 ft, of“flightpath” area to support model aircraft support structures. The initial installation
is meant to be temporary, but it is also intended to develop into a permanent
b) There are
several possible configurations:
i) A straight line path 1/3 mile long,the demolished factory area or near Boeing
field, or Magnuson Point.
ii) A U-turn shape showing the target as the apex
(which halves the distance.)
iii) A circular pattern revolving around the entire
length of a building like the Boeing Flight Museum, or the HenryArtGallery, using an existing
structure as a support for the installation.
and Volunteer Requirements
engineering assistance in the selection and development of metals, tower
support design, kinetic movement performance, and assembly design may be
required.Volunteer engineers would be
recruited.Possible sources are UW
School of Engineering, Aeronautics, Boeing, Machinists Unions.
and assembly of this large outdoor installation structure will require
significant volunteer labor, and management.