Propeller Sculptures / By MotoArt Told by Artist Donovan Fell III
As a young boy growing up in Southern California in the early 1950's, airplanes and the men who flew them became a lasting fascination. In 1959 I stood in line for hours at Los Angeles International to gaze in awe at the new DC-8 jet passenger liner. United Airlines offered the public free tours of this new aircraft to acquaint them with the future of aviation, jet propulsion.
As the years passed jets became commonplace and propeller driven aircraft have become a rarity. During this time my career evolved into building themed entertainment structures and sculptures for museums and the entertainment business.
One January morning in 1998, the metal junk man who recycles our scrap aluminum made his usual stop. By chance I glanced in the back of the scrap pile and viewed several marvelous creations from the past. As it turned out, these were B-17 propellers. All were greasy, dented, and about to be melted for scrap.
What beautiful shapes they were and what countless memories of engineering, combat and freedom they contained. It was love at first sight and I vowed to save these unique forms of metal from the smelteršs furnace. Within minutes a deal was struck and the possession of several hundred pounds of scrap aluminum changed hands.
The next few weekends were spent degreasing, sanding and polishing these beautiful metal shapes from the past. Due to their size and weight, wall mounting these pieces was out of the question. Eventually the idea of a single freestanding blade sculpture evolved. Within a few months my office and adjacent workspace had become a propeller forest. Realizing others shared my enthusiasm for these seductive historic shapes led to a new and lucrative hobby. After some initial detective work, several sources were found for procuring more blades, hubs and various other components that make up these sculptures.
The rescue of these marvelous engineering components from yesteryear gives much joy as well as a feeling of being a small part of the great art of aviation.
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