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
“An aspect of folk aviation that I like,” says Bryant, “is that the characters come from everywhere. There are those that are very, very good. The founder of the Scientific American, Rufus Porter, designed an airship very early on, in the 1840s I think, which was very similar in shape and design to the Hindenburg, which came out in the 1890s. Scientific American magazine is very good at documenting many of these early concepts, through their Letters to the Editor and the like.”
The sculpture above is based upon a patent drawing by W.F. Quinby. “I don't know how much about Quinby is known,” says Bryant. “In the late 19th century the Patents Office was granting patents—perhaps one or two dozen—for anybody who sent them plans for an aerial machine, on the theory that it was impossible, so why not? Let them have their patents. And W.F. Quinby was prolific with his concepts. He came up with three that I know of, maybe four, and his designs are all delightful.
“Quinby did another concept, which I'm anxious to get to, which is something you wear. It's a belt, with batwings attached to it with rigging that comes up the sides. I want to do that one full-scale and maybe get someone to wear it. Not me! Somebody."
Made of cardboard, paper, chopsticks, plastic produce bag, twine, thread, tempera paint.