The Weird World of Folk Aviators
With his whimsical sculptures, Gregory Bryant celebrates early ideas about winged flight.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- Air & Space magazine, May 2012
Eric Long, NASM
Crouch suggested that Bryant take a look at the work of Charles A.A. Dellschau, a visionary artist of the late 19th and early 20th century. “He was a butcher who immigrated to the United States from Germany in the early part of the 19th century,” says Bryant. “After he retired, he filled out 13 huge notebooks with his drawings of his concepts of aerial vehicles in the 19th century, which he claimed were real.”
According to a 1998 article by Cynthia Greenwood of the Houston Press, in 1899, Dellschau “began to paint amazing airships. His intricate collages show shiplike decks supported by striped balloon pontoons; they show bright-colored helicopters and evil-looking striped dirigibles outfitted for war; they show crews of dapper little gentlemen accompanied by the occasional cat. Many pages are bedecked with little newspaper clippings about aviation, and text in his weird Germanic lettering celebrates the pure, unexcelled marvelousness of the flying machines.
“Taken at face value, Dellschau's collages document the feats of the Sonora Aero Club, a secretive group dedicated to the creation of 'aeros,' or flying machines. In code, and bad spelling in both English and German, Dellschau recounted how, in his youth 50 years before, he and fellow club members gleefully ruled the skies of Gold Rush California, piloting fantastical airships of their own invention.
“Dellschau never seems to explain why the club worked so hard to protect its secrecy, but he shows the members going to great lengths to do so. By day, the Aero Goeit was disguised as a gypsy wagon, so it could travel open roads undetected. Dellschau writes that a club member was banned from developing a machine because he'd talked to outsiders. And of course, even years after the club disbanded, many of Dellschau's own comments are rendered in code. Apparently, whatever it was that he had to say was too private even for his own notebooks.”
Made of cardboard, gold foil, soda bottles, fingernail polish.