Birds and planes mix it up in Karlsen's library windows
For her latest public artwork, two silk-screened windows at the Playa Vista Branch Library, Anne Marie Karlsen took her cues from the building’s location. The relatively new library sits on land formerly occupied by Hughes Airport and close to Ballona Wetlands, on a flight path for migrating birds.
A longtime resident of the area, Karlsen says she loves to watch birds and airplanes sharing space as they fly over the bluffs of Playa del Rey. Also mindful of digital design offices that have sprouted in the area, she eventually came up with a plan for “Flyway” that incorporates digital technology.
The result is a pair of collage-like glass works composed of what she calls “an encyclopedic array of photographic images offering layer upon layer of meaning.”
A window in the lobby depicts a swallow flying over a 1950s photograph of the bluffs and the Hughes runway. But the artwork is meant to be read like a book, Karlsen says, pointing out that the bird’s beak is a silhouette of a DC 8, its eyes are pelicans and its feathers contain views of the wetlands and patterns from the interior of the enormous flying boat known as the Spruce Goose.
A quotation from Sir Richard Francis Burton, "One cannot look at the sea without wishing for the wings of a swallow," appears in the lower right corner of the composition.
The second window, in the children’s reading room, portrays a snowy egret alongside a map of the North American Flyway route. Close observers discover that the bird is composed of images of plants and animals that live in the wetlands and fragments of local aviation history. Howard Hughes makes a surprise appearance as the egret’s eyeball.
The unusual artworks were fabricated in Munich, Germany, using a process that requires silk-screening powdered glass, instead of printing ink, on sheets of tempered glass. The sheets are fired in kilns to permanently fuse the images to the windows.
-- Suzanne Muchnic
Photos: "Flyway" windows by Anne Marie Carlsen at Playa Vista Branch Library. Credit: Anne Marie Karlsen