Airplane

Ercoupe, photograph by Carolyn Russo, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

“I was flying from the time I was two weeks old. About once a month, my daddy would fly from our home in Fayetteville, North Carolina, taking my sisters or brother to our grandmama’s in Candor, North Carolina. He would drop the wing and circle the house and she would come out waving.  The family plane is an aluminum 1946 415c Ercoupe designed by Fred E. Weick.  Produced after World War II and sold through such esteemed aviation outlets as the Men’s Department at Macy’s, this airplane remains my primary source of aerial transportation.  My cameras are workhorse FM2 Nikons with Nikon 35 – 105mm and 80 – 200 zoom lenses. I most often shoot Ektachrome slides for aerial landscapes, ASA 100, 200 and 400 at a speed of 250, f stop 8 or 11.”

Claude Burkhead, artist’s brother and pilot:

“In July of 1995 we were traveling in our late Grandfather’s classic Ercoupe from the Ohio Dayton International Air Show to the Wisconsin Oshkosh Fly In.  Most of the route was over lush rural countryside. Shortly after exiting a rain shower which cleaned the silver plane, we circled farms and small town water towers as the day turned spectacularly clear. Flying over the landmark dunes on the south shores of Lake Michigan, the skyline of Chicago became visible. It remained on the horizon for about an hour due to our 80 mph speed. As directed by O’Hare, our flight path took us between the downtown skyscrapers under the approaching Airlines. Mary Edna was popping research photos as we wove our way through the buildings and up the coast.”

Rebecca Burkhead, artist’s sister:

My sister first got the idea of painting aerial landscapes when she and our brother Burke were flying from Savannah, Georgia to Hilton Head, South Carolina in 1980. Captivated by the complex patterns of the coastal islands, she’s been hooked on aerial perspective ever since. She started making batiks during her senior year in college. Now she works full-time at her waterfront property on James Island, just south of Charleston, South Carolina. For each landscape batik, which takes days and often months to complete, she uses a technique that involves painting hot wax on areas she doesn’t want the dyes to penetrate. For thin lines she uses a tjanting tool, which allows wax to flow like ink through a bowl with a copper spout. After waxing she dyes the cloth. Then she or an assistant sandwiches the cloth between papers and heats it with an iron until all the wax is removed. The heat also sets the colors. At any point in the process, an improperly mixed dye can ruin the entire work.

“[Batiking] is unforgiving at every stage,” she says, “so I’m always alert and conscious of details.”