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Keith Ferris + Thunderbird = Big Art

29 April 2011

Keith Ferris + Thunder Bird = Big Art

Above is a simple equation but it might be misleading since it doesn’t represented a painter hearing the word — “What’s the word? The word is Thunderbird!” — and creating impressionistic art work. Instead, this equation  describes an artist who has used the historic B-17G known as Thunder Bird in three pieces of art. The pieces are named: “Fortresses Under Fire”, “Retirement Party for Old Thunder Bird” and “Schweinfurt Again”.

Taking in “Fortresses Under Fire”, on display at the National Air & Space Museum on the National Mall brings the visitor to a mural that is 75′ wide x 25′ high (22.7m x 7.6m) viewing a moment of WW II aerial combat — 11:45am on 15 August 1944 over Trier Germany to be succinct. Ferris has placed the viewer into the tail gun position’s perspective looking at the developing combat between four Flying Fortresses, a Bf 109G and an Fw 109. The contrails direct the eyes to Thunder Bird’s element (also including “Bonnie B”, “Special Delivery” and “Marie”) showing how the strategic scope of the war has narrowed to these few men engaging with fatal intent toward one another in the upcoming few moments.

The back wall of Room 205 of the National Air & Space Museum on the National Mall is Keith Ferriss mural "Fortresses Under Fire" — photo by Joe May

One can see the faces of Thunder Bird’s pilots, navigator, bombardier and top turret gunner as they are making their way back to base. Crew bunched together in what must have seemed like a small aluminum tube suspended so high above the ground. Thunder Bird had a magic about her and would go on to have a career spanning 112 combat missions, carrying a total of 538 airmen without sustaining a casualty.

 

Detail of the Keith Ferris Mural "Fortress Under Fire" — photo by Joe May

More of Keith Ferris’s work can be seen here.

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