The Bone Yard Project: When Planes Become Contemporary Art Canvases in the Tucson Desert

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A caravan of trucks, cranes, and artists moved three planes from "the bone yard" of retired aircraft to the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson this morning.

The three DC Super 3 planes were given contemporary facelifts by How & Nosm, Nunca, and Retna, all huge names in the international street art scene and notable talents in the contemporary art world.

In a few weeks, these planes will be joined by a C45 painted by Faile, a Lockheed VC 140 Jetstar by Andrew Schoultz, a C97 cockpit by Saner, and more than 30 nose cones by international artists including Richard Prince, Lee Quinones, Saner, Kenny Scharf, Aiko, Futura, Peter Dayton, JJ Veronis, Mare, Tara McPherson, Crash, Daze, Ron English, Erik Foss, Tristan Eaton, Lisa Lebofsky, Mark Ryden, Walter Robinson, Judith Supine, Ryan Wallace, Jameson Ellis,  Mark Kostabi, Eric White, and Arizona-based artists Colin Chillag, Daniel Martin Diaz, Randy Slack, El Mac, and Hector Ruiz.

Talk about some airborne eye candy.

Eric Firestone, who owns and operates Eric Firestone Gallery in Hampton, New York (once based in Tucson and, for a short time, Marshall Way in Scottsdale), approached New York arts writer and curator Carlo McCormick in 2010 with the idea to give contemporary artists a new and industrial canvas. McCormick says he thought Firestone was crazy. And then they took a trip to the bone yard.

A year later, they're both back at the yard with Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art's Lesley Oliver, guiding three painted planes across Tucson's busy Valencia Street to the museum property.

The Bone Yard Project is the continuation of "Nose Job," an exhibition curated by McCormick that was housed in Firestone's New York gallery over the summer. The decorated cones and planes are a tribute to the folk art medium developed in the U.S. and Europe during the First and Second World Wars. They're a modern take on the illustrated pop culture icons, pinups, slogans, and tattoo art that decorated war machinery and uniform.

The artwork included in the show, which opens on Saturday, January 28 at Pima Air and Space Museum, includes contemporary interpretations and signatures of this iconography.

For each artist, the exhibition is an opportunity to envision his or her style in a venue that will welcome an audience of contemporary art and aeronautic fiends alike.

Those are the nuts and bolts of the exhibition. And they're only the beginnings of a concept McCormick says is rooted in the ever-evolving concept of flight -- one that began with the myth of Icarus and continued with visions of planes that date back to sketches of Leonardo Da Vinci.

These dreams later became the cultural luxury of air travel and are now canvases in the middle of the Arizona desert, where the legends of the U.S. Air Force go to rust.

The Boneyard Project: A Return Trip will be on view at the Pima Air and Space Museum, 6000 E Valencia Rd, through May 31, 2012. The opening ($5 at the door) will be from 6 to 11 p.m. and will be a gathering of artists who've participated in the show as well as googly-eyed fans who've packed their cars and suitcases to see just what The Bone Yard has to offer.

Stay tuned to Jackalope Ranch for more images and interviews with curators and participating artists ... and check out more photos and a preview video for the show after the jump.

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