The Taubman Museum of Art is pleased to showcase the large-scale sculpture Passage by New York-based sculptor Paul Villinski.
A wooden glider reminiscent of the balsawood gliders of the artist’s youth, Passage is scaled up to a wingspan of 33 feet and inhabited by 1,000 black butterflies. Both the structure of the plane and the butterflies haloing it are from reclaimed materials found on the streets of New York City, materials Villinski has used in his artistic practice for more than two decades.
Modeled after the 1950s Slingsby Skylark Glider made in Yorkshire, England, Passage is inspired by Villinski’s desire to fly as a boy.
The son of an Air Force navigator and Vietnam veteran, Villinski has been fascinated with flight since he was a boy. Much of his childhood was spent incessantly reading histories of flight while building and crashing balsawood airplane models and staring longingly at the sky. In his 30's, he became a passionate pilot of sailplanes, paragliders and single-engine airplanes.
For the artist, flight connotes mankind’s desire to leave our earthly concerns behind. He states, “Now and then, I have the extraordinary luck to spend a few hours floating along on currents of warm air, the earth’s surface slipping silently by, the mundane anxieties of daily life thousands of feet below the long, white wings of my glider. Back in the studio, I wish I could bring everyone I’ve ever met along in the tiny cockpit of my sailplane.”
In addition to flight, butterflies have a special significance for Villinski as they globally symbolize transformation and rebirth. He says, “Butterflies are impossibly beautiful….these ridiculously delicate creatures fly many thousands of miles each year.”
The butterflies are made from discarded aluminum cans collected from the streets of New York, which are then meticously cut and shaped by hand to represent more than fifty species of Lepidoptera (the order of than 112,000 species worldwide of butterflies and moths). Circling the fuselage, wings, and tail of Passage, the butterflies appear to assist in the levitation of the glider while also being emblematic of hope and liberation.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.