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Kites, Wings, & Other Flying Things

Dec 2, 2013
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Kite by Tyrus Wong; photo by Krissy Clark

Non-italicized text courtesy of Pasadena Museum of History.

Long before the Industrial Revolution made modern aerospace technology possible, early aspiration of flight began with the kite, an item that epitomizes the intersection of science and artistry.

As weapons during war and as recreation during peacetime, they have inspired leaps of the imagination and humankind’s leap into aviation. Glen Rothstein, the local representative of the American Kitefliers Association, has curated a selection of kites on loan from kite makers and collectors, including Dorine Imbach, Tom Van Sant, and Tyrus Wong at Pasadena Museum of History’s “Kites, Wings, & Other Flying Things: Pasadena’s History of Flight through Science, Art, & Design” exhibit.

Wong learned kite-making as a little boy in China, where he lived until the age of 8, when he and his father moved across the Pacific Ocean to America. His mother stayed behind, and Wong never saw her again. But he never forgot her, or the red, diamond-shaped kites that he flew when they lived together.…Now they are much more elaborate: hand-painted animals, decorated with feathers or spinning bottlecaps for eyes. He fills the sky with owls, swallows, rainbow-colored insects, centipedes, panda, goldfish. (WeekendAmerica.publicradio.org) Editor’s note: Wong’s most famous work as a film production illustrator was Disney’s Bambi.

From gliders and dirigibles to rockets and space exploration, California was the nexus of the development of flight in the 20th century.  Southern California, including the City of Pasadena, was indelibly marked by this industry.  Since the early 1900s, Pasadena has enthusiastically embraced aeronautics, through eager spectators, visionary inventors, daring aviators, and savvy entrepreneurs.  An aviation timeline, illustrated with images from the Museum’s vast collection of photographs, explores the development of this quintessentially twentieth-century industry from Pasadena’s point of view.  Related artifacts and ephemera documenting the industry are also on display.

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Knabenshue dirigible over the Raymond Hotel. Courtesy PMH Archives (A9-1d)

A. roy Knabenshue was an aeronaut who made balloons (NationalAviation.org). He piloted some of the first dirigibles, designed and built his own, and raced dirigibles against other airships—even racing an automobile (between L.A. and Pasadena in 1905).

Kites, Wings, & Other Flying Things
Nov. 20th, 2013-Saturday, April 19th, 2014
Exhibit hours: Wednesdays-Sundays, noon-5 p.m.
Cost: general, $7; students & seniors, $6; members and children under 12, free
Pasadena Museum of History, 470 Walnut St., Pasadena 91103
For more info, visit PasadenaHistory.org or call 626.577.1660

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Kite by Tom Van Sant; photo by Drew Barillas/LAWeekly

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Jacob’s Ladder kite by Van Sant; photo from tomvansant.com

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painter, muralist, ceramicist, lithographer, designer, Disney illustrator, and kite maker Tyrus Wong




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