- Airport Pegasus
Sculptor Conserves Louisville Pegasus Landmark
sculptor Elizabeth Berrien of Eureka, California just completed a
fascinating project: removal, conservation and storage of her
life-sized Pegasus sculpture at Louisville International Airport in
Kentucky while the terminal undergoes renovation.
in 1985 by James F. 'Buddy' Thompson, then president of the airport
authority's board of directors, Berrien created the winged horse
sculpture during her artist-in-residency at Marine World/Africa USA.
She recalls, 'I wove it from aluminum welding rods with my bare hands,
outdoors and under a wide blue sky. Louisville is the home of Churchill
Downs and the Kentucky Derby, so Buddy wanted a racehorse Pegasus. As I
twisted the rods together, I envisioned Pegasus soaring across the sky
above me. It seemed natural to give it eagle's wings.'
|Berrien was flown to Louisville
in Pegasus' installation,
suspended beneath a glass skylight and floating above the escalators.
'I was totally unprepared for the excitement it caused; my mission was
simply to combat travel fatigue by giving folks something pretty to
look at. I had no idea of the heavy emotional impact it would make.
They told me the sculpture changed the flow of foot traffic within the
terminal. Some passengers became so mesmerized viewing it, they forgot
to catch their flights. And they didn't even mind!'
Pegasus became an instantaneous landmark. Having granted the airport
permission to use it as their corporate logo, Berrien returned to find
the image everywhere, even on the sides of airport vehicles and crew's
jackets and caps. Berrien was presented with an enamel pin bearing the
image of her work.
Eighteen years after creating Pegasus, Berrien returned to Louisville.
'On my way to baggage claim, I bumped into a camera crew setting up to
document the sculpture's removal. They grabbed me and put me in front
of the camera, and my work week pretty much kept up at that pace.'
Berrien consulted as airport crew carefully maneuvered a cherry picker
to retrieve the Pegasus from the heights. The sculpture was then strung
from a cross-arm frame in a hangar-like space. There it received a
thorough cleaning. Then Elizabeth started to wire. 'When I first made
it, this was a fine 3-D horse, with 2-D wings. But a problem arose when
the airport wanted to shift the work. At its location over the
escalators, it was too awkward to reposition the wings to their correct
upright carriage, so they ended up flopping down like a sea gull's.
The Airport Authority contracted Berrien to reinforce the sculpture and
give the wings more rigidity for future handling. 'This is where an
additional 18 years experience as a wire sculptor really came through.
I took one look at my Pegasus and recognized both the problem and the
solution. When I first created it, I knew horses but had only tried a
few birds. Now I've done enough eagles, herons, swans etc. to
understand the structure Nature gives birds to support and propel their
wings. I wove and twisted those same elements along the leading edge of
Pegasus' wings, which are now strong, beautiful and properly 3-D.
storage, waiting while the terminal is renovated
not working on Pegasus, Berrien wove special Pegasus ornaments for
airport staff. The Marriott Inn invited her to submit a proposal for
atrium sculptures, and she had conversations with Louisville gallery
owners and art association about upcoming exhibits. 'They're surprised
to find I make smaller sculpture too, not just landmarks and
|Berrien's one disappointment was
laryngitis, which kept her
from working with art students. She hopes to make up the date when she
returns to Louisville next year. Ascending the escalator to catch her
flight home, she heard, 'Hey, where'd the Pegasus go?' from another
traveler. 'Following her gaze upward, I saw empty cables dangling where
Pegasus had been. I told her don't worry, it's just taking an extended
flight, it'll be back in the spring'
Class Wire Sculpture · Elizabeth Berrien (707) 445-4931
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