Award-winning photographer and museum specialist Carolyn J. Russo at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum finds her inspiration to capture the simple beauty of under-represented aviation icons gazing out the window through a flight to Connecticut only to discover the “swiss-cheese” impression of LaGuardia’s air control traffic tower. This inspiration led her to travel through twenty-three countries to explore and photograph the ordinary beauty of over 85 stunning aviation innovations. Russo takes you on a photographic journey capturing the historic and contemporary air traffic control towers through Art of the Airport Tower, a traveling exhibit held at the Aerospace Museum of California, April 16-July 6.
The exhibit showcases Russo’s artwork highlighting fifty dramatic desaturated and black and white photographs that turn these ordinary aviation towers into monumental abstractions citing earlier aviation eras and emphasize the need to preserve them. An introduction by Smithsonian aviation expert, F. Robert van der Linden examines the changes in the technology, architecture, and structure of these towers contextualizing Russo’s work. The exhibit brings a heightened awareness to the architectural beauty to these aviation monuments and highlights the historical significance of these structures. Russo visioned these often overlooked aviation artifacts as “art forms” and “cultural greeters,” being the first ones to greet and welcome the passengers as they land at the airport. Among the contemporary air traffic control towers, Russo accentuates the the crescent-shaped Abu Dhabi airport tower resembling the sail of dhow boat, a cultural and welcoming icon to the visitors and London Heathrow control tower bearing the resemblance of a “top hat.” She also spotlights historic air control towers such as LaGuardia airport tower resembling “swiss-cheese” with tower’s creamy concrete textures and big circular windows and Ford Island Control Tower, a witness to WWII.For more information, visit https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/art-airport-tower.-Chhavi Mehra