Artists and preservationist helped bring cultural cache to the sculpture that tops the Blue Angel Motel. There may be a way to return the favor. Based on the design intelligence gathered by Gina Quaranto, the deity of the Blue Angel Motel was mass-produced into Christmas tree ornaments and then recreated as an 8-foot sculpture by Ali Fathollahi. The clone fulfilled a commission, according to Las Vegas Weekly, and was perched on a home to top a Mid-Century modern nativity mise-en-scène.
The scale of the latest angel recalls those fiberglass figures that are painted and auctioned off, a public art program that began with cows in Zürich, and adapted by Chicago. Other cities picked up the idea, and some used a different emblem represent them. Pigs settled in Seattle, the Keeper of the Plains guard Wichita, elk roam in Indiana, and androgynous angels once scattered across Los Angeles. It’s hard to deny the civic currency for the populist program sometimes sniffed at for being kitsch on parade. "It's the scourge of Western civilization," once said Tom Eccles, former director of the Public Art Fund. They are not monumental or site-specific, wrote Susan Tallman in July's Public Art Review. Yet, the art historian understood how the prefab sculptures had a “certain conceptual panache” and artists created “ephemeral self-portraits of their city.”
The curvy form of our lady of Blue Angel would work in this city that translates ephemeral kitsch with highbrow context, and sponsoring artists to paint one is a natural fundraiser for city's public art programming, help aid a struggling non-profit like Contemporary Arts Center, and of course, benefit Blackbird Studios.
I admit it may take convincing some Las Vegans that reinterpreting the angel isn’t blasphemy or desecration of a favored monument. What is appealing is picturing how the highways and front yards, roofs and lobbies, are in the path of marching roadside angels painted by artists to support public art.
I saw the angel in the marble
and carved until I set him free.
Above: Stephen Hendee created sculpture for the celebration of 30 years of public art programming in the City of Las Vegas.