Plane Crazy about Robert McCall
MOJAVE — Artists who specialize in capturing the allure of airplanes and spacecraft in flight face a unique challenge — creating art that is technically accurate and aesthetically pleasing.
Such art is often used to document important events in aerospace history, re-creating with a high degree of accuracy events that occurred in the past, as well as imagining what may happen in the future.
Robert McCall is one such artist, whose work has detailed many aerospace milestones and futuristic designs. His six-story “The Space Mural, A Cosmic View” has greeted visitors at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space
Museum since the its opening in 1976.
Closer to home, the late artist has multiple large-scale pieces displayed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.
McCall, who died in 2010, and his work, will be the subject of a talk Saturday at the Mojave Air and Space Port by Cam Martin, a former NASA commu
nications director and congressional liaison.
The presentation will begin at 11 a.m. in the Board Room located in the Administration Building at the end of Airport Boulevard.
McCall’s art conveys not only the aviation that has occurred, but envisions what may be possible in the future, chronicling the space program and imagining where it may go.
“This career was started so many years ago, when I recognized, as a little boy in the first grade, that I liked to draw,” McCall said during a visit to the center in 2006. “I cannot remember when I didn’t want to be an artist.”
His interest in art coincided with a fascination for science and the worlds he could witness through microscopes and telescopes.
“These were things that absolutely blew my mind,” McCall said. “I was entranced with the universe and everything about it. The universe is so filled with wondrous things, most of which we know nothing about.”
From the start, McCall was drawn to painting man-made objects, military equipment, “but above all, I loved airplanes.”
He joined the Army Air Corps in the early 1940s “because I wanted to be near these airplanes,” with the intention of becoming a pilot.
However, the Army classified the now-famous artist as color blind and he was trained as a bombardier, instead.
The job suited McCall, flying B-17s and B-29s stateside, as World War II ended before he could be sent overseas.
“It gave me the time to look around and see,” he said of his position in the bombardier’s seat. “I was out there in front of the pilot and I was enjoying the view.”
Although he began painting aircraft, the dawn of the space program provided an exciting new phase for McCall’s career.
“I wanted to paint these incredible objects,” he said. “We were so intrigued with the future, which was coming up fast. I was so engrossed with the whole project. The miracle of that first (moon) landing that was so successful, astonished us all. That was an accomplishment beyond most of our wildest dreams.”
The McCall presentation kicks off the 11th year of Plane Crazy Saturday, a monthly gathering of aviation enthusiasts presented by the Mojave Transportation Museum Foundation.
The free, family-friendly educational event features a flight line filled with aircraft of varied types and vintages, available for visitors to see up-close.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission to the flight line with its displays is through the Voyager restaurant, in the Administration building. The restaurant opens for breakfast at 8 a.m.
Dogs and other animals, other than service animals, are not permitted on the flight line.
Aviation and space art, hats, shirts, books and collectibles will be available for sale.
Seating is limited and reservations are requested at www.mojavemuseum.org
Aviation artist Robert McCall shows off his 100 years of flight mural on display at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base during a 2006 visit. The artist, who died in 2010, has several murals featured at the center and will be the subject of a talk at the Mojave Air and Space Port, Saturday.