Tribal tribute kites coming to Billings airport

2013-05-15T00:15:00Z 2013-07-13T06:20:10Z Tribal tribute kites coming to Billings airportBy MARY PICKETT mpickett@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The large buffalo that Billings artist Angela Babby painted on rip-stop nylon is dramatic.

But when the painting becomes a kite, it will be even more spectacular, two Billings kite makers promise.

Babby’s painting titled “Resurrection” will be among the kites made from paintings by some top American Indian artists. The kites will be on display at Billings Logan International Airport soon.

Twelve kites with Indian themes from a previous kite exhibit about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, plus five new kites, will be displayed beginning on Friday in the baggage-claim area of the airport, said Terry Zee Lee, president of SkyWindWorld, a nonprofit organization setting up the show.

Twelve more kites following a buffalo theme painted by Indian artists will join the display this fall after they are flown at several places in the region this summer.

The kite show, “A Flying Tribute to the Tribes,” the fourth that Lee has put up at the airport since 1999, honors the tribes that helped make the 1804-1806 expedition a success by providing food, horses and guidance.

“Without them, Lewis and Clark never would have made it,” Lee said.

Lee has been working on getting a buffalo kite display since the late Bruce Putnam, longtime airport director, suggested it years ago.

The bison theme is a fitting one for Native American artists because the animal provided many things to sustain tribes, from meat to clothing to shelter.

After Lee asked some of the best Native American artists to paint a work for the show, the response was wonderful.

Artists who contributed to the show include Montanans Kevin Red Star, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Neil Ambrose-Smith, Allen Knows His Gun, Rabbit Knows His Gun and Wendy Red Star.

Lee’s husband, Drake Smith, a retired government physicist and long-time kite maker, is turning the canvases into kites, including Babby’s.

Babby painted a large buffalo, its body creased with river-like wrinkles, in gray and lime green accented by black. The background is orange-red and rose and edged top and bottom by a leaf motif.

As striking as the piece was before being transformed into a kite, once aloft with light shining through it, it will be even more stunning, Smith said.

Another work in the show will be one by Santa Fe, N.M., artist Delores Purdy Corcoran, “In Honor of the Ancestors,” with a large stylized teepee filling most of the six-sided kite. Stars and crosses decorate the teepee.

One kite from the Lewis and Clark show several years ago, is “Fir Trees on Fire,” an eight-sided, 5-by-10-foot kite by John and Mary Gabby of Colorado Springs.

The deep purple kite has several triangle-shaped forms in a red, yellow and orange mosaic to commemorate an 1806 event when Nez Perce set the tops of fir trees on fire in honor of Lewis and Clark after tribal members guided the Corps of Discovery over the mountains on its return trip to St. Louis.

That kite and a new kite made by Billings artist John Pollock will be among the kites on display beginning May 17.

Pollock’s white, blue and red kite was inspired by Chief Joseph’s war shirt, which was at the Yellowstone Art Museum recently. Pollock is a Montana State University Billings http://www.msubillings.edu/professor emeritus.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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