Art is the world of illusion. Take something big and heavy and hang it on a wall. Then stand back and marvel as it seems to float through the air, taking you with it. An example: this very large celebration of flight unveiled 30 years ago at the Archival Library of the Institute for Aerospace Studies.
It’s copper-muralist Laszlo Buday’s vision of flight. Place yourself in front of it and gaze at the Earth, itself hovering leaden and fat, primitive with its jungles and grasslands. Now let your eyes move upward until you reach the top where Icarus, living our dreams, flies to the heavens and voila! You feel as if your feet could actually lift off with him. Illusion and magic.
Buday, who came to Canada in 1957 from his native Budapest, set out to tell many stories on this one metallic page. Here is our desire to not only rise like Icarus, but to conquer the whole universe itself. Below Icarus are the Johnny-come-latelys: Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes, snug as a bug in a balloon over Paris in 1783, the Wright Brothers following in their chopstick-light crate in 1903, Frederick “Casey” Baldwin and John McCurdy’s shaky attempts in 1909 to launch Canadians into the air. Surrounding them are orbiting satellites, supersonic jets and electronic messages that we send out to that great black sea. Of course, art can only tell us so much; Buday engraved no answers explaining what we do if anyone out there in that big, black sea actually answers any of these messages.