The Shadow, The Shadow (Small Scale Model) and F-117 Nighthawk (Small Scale Model)

After showing The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 2 at Rotunda Gallery I was asked to show it again at the HERE Arts Center for a show called Airport 03. I was reluctant since I had already built it twice so I negotiated with the curator to create a new piece for the show. I decided that I wanted to try my hand at building a different kind of landscape, one that I hadn’t tried before. The idea came to me quickly to create a snowy landscape out of flour and to use a model of an F-117 Nighthawk that I built the year before. In my studio I started by making some initial drawings to determine the size that I wanted to make it. I decided that since the gallery was positioned in a place where people enter and exit a theater that I wanted to elevate it a little more off the floor so that nobody would accidental trip over it or step on it. I settled on two feet tall and seven feet wide. One of the problems that I discovered with The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 1 was that because the landscape was so large it was hard to see what the object was in the middle so this is why I decided on 7’x7′ in the end. I built the sides out of particle board since it’s cheap but it requires more wood filling and sanding since the corners are brittle and break easily; I try not to use particle board anymore. I built a structure inside out of 2″x3″‘s to help stabilize the corners and to elevate the surface that the flour would eventually be going on. I had to calculate so that in the end, after laying my 3/4″ plywood on top, it would only be about 3″‘s from the top. This gives me enough depth to fill in with the flour. After building my box I built another F-117 and destroyed most of it by breaking it apart and melting most of the pieces; I destroyed almost everything except for the tail which I wanted to preserve so that the viewer would know that it was an airplane wreck. Unlike The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) I didn’t need this plane to be recognizable so I thought that it would be more realistic to have most of the aircraft destroyed by the impact.

I took everything to the gallery and built the sides and inside structure according to how I built it in my studio; everything was numbered and lettered so that I knew what attached where since I already made my adjustments and needed it to be built exactly the same as it was before. When I was done I decided that I needed to lay plastic over the surface to keep the flour from slipping through the cracks. I bought 100 pounds of flour and dumped it into the box and started tamping it down with the palm of my hand to smooth it out. Before I got too far I put the tail of the F-117 model out there along with the melted and broken plastic pieces that went along with it. For added effect I used scrapings from a charcoal stick to create a finer spray of black debris around the wreckage. I finished tamping down the flour until it covered all of the edges.

After a few days the flour started to get small hairline cracks all over it which I though was a nice look that I hadn’t anticipated; it also would have been impossible to stop. I was pleased with the end result and received positive feedback about the piece. I thought the contrast visually between the white landscape and the black object was a good one and was excited that my idea panned out the way I wanted it to. I should also say that I made a small 11″x22″x22″ version of it out of luan, foam and burnt plastic as well sometime before I started working on the final version. Here is what I wrote about the final installation and below that are some images of the installation, the small scale model and the model of the F-117 Nighthawk.

The Associated Artists for Propaganda Research’s The Shadow addresses one of Carl Jung’s basic archetypal principals of the unconscious mind. The shadow explains that while repressing our uncivilized and dark qualities, we unconsciously project these characteristics outward, seeing in others the undesirable traits that we’d rather not see in ourselves. As a tool of propaganda, these unconscious tendencies are used against the general population to escalate differences and cause unnecessary conflict between the righteous Us and the evil Other.

The Shadow is an 84″x84″ floor model made using 100 pounds of flour padded down to create a smooth and consistent surface. The landscape shows a destroyed black F-117 Nighthawk which was used by the US for stealth operations during the first Gulf War.

The Shadow by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Shadow (Detail) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Shadow Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ReseachF-117 Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Filed under Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, Sculpture, Small Scale Model

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