Monday, June 20, 2011

WPA Mosaics at the Long Beach Airport

This beautiful mosaic is on the second floor of the Long Beach Airport terminal. It's one of at least four mosaics at the airport, and is titled "Zodiac." (picture is from the Long Beach Airport Unofficial Guide site.)

During the Depression, the Long Beach Airport got some WPA funding to develop their airport (actually, to continue developing the airport, since the place--named Daugherty Field in 1923, after a famous barnstormer who started the world's first School of Aviation there in 1919--had been developing and growing since 1911).

The main terminal was completed in 1941 and the grand opening was scheduled for December 7. Yup, the "day that will live in infamy" December 7. Ceremony was scratched and the new terminal was quickly painted in camouflage. That's from the California's Living New Deal website, which quotes a book by Gerrie Schipske on early aviation in Long Beach.

More history on the airport is at its official site, though there's not much about the artwork.

You can tour the Long Beach Airport, but you have to make reservations a month in advance. Here's the website on that:  I may do that, just to see more mosaics. There is a huge modern one, and a few others by the WPA artist, Grace Clements.

Grace Clements was born in 1905, died 1969. She'd trained in New York, then came to L.A. in the 1930s where she both exhibited and taught. As far as I can tell, the Long Beach Airport was her biggest project. I found a little more about her at the LAMural site--scroll down to the second article, about a formerly lost mural uncovered at a LaVerne high school. It had been stucco'd over, no doubt during an invasion of Vandals. The mural is in petrachrome, which I believe qualifies it as a mosaic too.

The Long Beach Historical Society just opened an exhibit featuring photographs (on fabric) of New Deal artwork found in the city, and Clements' Zodiac mosaic is among the displays (along with "Fish" and "Seagulls," also at the airport). The real things can be seen at the airport as well. The exhibit will run through the end of the year and can be seen Tuesday-Saturday afternoons, according to this press release.

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