Keillor’s Removal Makes a Bad Plan Worse

I never write about the same topic twice in a row, for the same reason thieves know not to return to the scene of their crime. It can only complicate things.

But late last week, after I had completed an essay disparaging the airport’s putative “plan” to return David Joyce’s beloved “Flying People” artwork to its walls, two things happened. They put some flying people up, and they took one down. In both cases, they confirmed my worst fears.

Several dozen characters from Joyce’s original work were mounted on the southwest wall, beyond the last baggage claim carousel. They couldn’t have chosen a less appropriate location. Now those characters will be seen only by people standing still and waiting for their bags to arrive. Or by people who see them from a distance and trek the length of the airport to explain the visual commotion they see in the distance.

For those who turn right after exiting the secure area to retrieve their checked bags, the images will be front-and-center and far away. Those are exactly the two things those images have never been and were never intended to be. Sigh.

Good people can disagree about which airport surface might accommodate the artwork best, so long as we share a respect for the work itself. But respect for the work is not evident. As I argued last week, the premise that the characters can be separated is evidence that they have become little more than decorations for the airport.

If a member of a successful boy band decides to build a solo career, his agent understands that fans will have to adjust their expectations. They have to be wooed all over again. That’s hard work and it requires careful planning. It’s not always successful, but it can be done.

A mafia chop shop in New Jersey knows they can steal cars and sell the parts for healthy profits, so long as they don’t try to sell the parts back to the owners whose cars were stolen in the first place. That may seem efficient, but it’s not a good way to do business. (That’s my second reference to criminal enterprise, in reference to what’s becoming of our beloved Flying People. I suppose that tells you something.)

The new stage for the flying people is dimly lit. I take that as evidence of disrespect. I won’t belabor the point, because there are other points begging to be belabored.

In the top left corner, there’s Howard, famous for his suitcase and large feet. He’s one of the only characters whose face is away from the camera. He looks to be escaping this entire enterprise of dismembering art to make a collage. I imagine other characters might wish they could reanimate long enough to follow Howard.

In the center is Don Dichiara, who was Joyce’s intern at LCC in 1988. He’s the only character who seems to be flying right at the viewer. He’s been placed in the center, as if he’s leading a flying parade without anyone behind him. A collection of clouds are also amassed at the center, as if to make it easier on young parents having to explain the display to restless toddlers before their car seat or stroller can be returned.

Near the right edge are five characters all arranged to look at a blank space and mounting bracket where Garrison Keillor was immediately removed last week. Keillor may or may not have done the things he’s recently been accused of, but removing him from a 30-year-old piece of art is beyond the dimly lit pale.

Judas did worse, but he’s still in daVinci’s “Last Supper.” Joyce chose Keillor to be the only non-local in his piece — the only bystander who doesn’t belong to the parade that nobody was leading, least of all Dichiara. He chose Keillor because he admired him, as many of us did and some still do.

On whose authority did the airport remove Keillor? I’d go back this week to see if they’ve removed his mounting bracket yet, but that would be returning (again) to the scene of a crime.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes for The Register-Guard and blogs.