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A Delayed Takeoff for Airport Poster : Art: Production delays and a printer’s concern over nudity mean the official poster for John Wayne Airport probably won’t be ready for the opening.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An artwork entitled “Winged Figure” may yet take flight as the official poster commemorating the opening of the new terminal at John Wayne Airport, but it may be late out of the gate.

All five airport arts commissioners on Wednesday endorsed the Icarus-themed painting of a winged male nude by artist Jim Morphesis, saying they expect that it will be approved for use on the poster Saturday. They expressed support despite a printer’s initial objection to the poster because of nudity in the artwork and because it did not contain airplanes.

But Harvey Stearn, chairman of the John Wayne Airport Arts Commission, said, “The painting is magnificent--it’s a very fine work of art.”

The commissioners, meeting in an emergency session, did not vote on the issue--state law requires 72-hour public notice of public meetings that involve a vote--but they expect to do so at a 10 a.m. meeting Saturday at airport offices.

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Delays in production caused by a procedural mix-up and the objections of Anaheim printer Bob Cashman, who also is an airport commissioner, mean the poster probably will not be ready in time for the terminal’s Sept. 7 and 8 opening and dedication ceremonies.

Cashman said he may still produce the poster. Two other printers have come forth with offers to do the work for free, too. So even if it is late, the poster will be used as the terminal’s commemorative work, Stearn said. He added that some unused funds in the airport art program’s $40,000 budget may fund the project, if necessary.

(Mark Moore, director of the Works Gallery in Costa Mesa, said he has told airport officials that a printer he works with is interested in producing the poster. Moore’s gallery represents Morphesis.)

Morphesis’ painting depicts a winged nude male, pictured from head to mid-thigh. The artist maintains that no genitals are shown in the slightly abstract image, but Cashman, owner of Hallmark Litho Inc. and an airport commissioner, disagreed. He also objected that it had no airplanes and was therefore inappropriate for the terminal opening.

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The arts commissioners, only one of whom had seen a photograph of the work before Wednesday, said they were concerned initially that a suggestion of flight, one prerequisite for the poster, was not immediately apparent in Morphesis’ work. But that could be addressed by printing the painting’s title and a phrase such as “commemorating man’s age-old quest for flight” on the poster, Stearn said.

“The wing on the figure is subtle, perhaps not as obvious as we would have preferred,” Stearn said. “But as long as we have the title and a few words to that effect, I think we won’t have any problem at all.”

Nudity was “not an issue” whatsoever, he said.

Morphesis said he was not bothered that the commissioners wanted to emphasize in words the theme of his work.

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“I didn’t call it like ‘Man in Flight’ because I thought it sounded too corny, but if they want to play it up with further description, that’s fine,” said Morphesis from his New York studio.

Cashman’s recent objections--which led him to contact airport officials rather than proceed with printing the poster--might have been avoided had the proper procedure for the poster selection been followed, Stearn reiterated Wednesday.

The arts commissioners were supposed to have seen and approved a sketch of the image before it was sent to a printer.

“We could have given the artist better guidance” as to what the commission needed, Stearn said.

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But, to save time, airport staff decided to send a transparency of the image directly to Cashman, Stearn said. Courtney Wiercioch, chief of special projects for the airport, took some of the blame for the mix-up earlier this week.

Morphesis, who was chosen from among 11 artists for the poster creation after commission members viewed slides of their work, said that the transparency sent to the printer was very similar to “what they saw in the slides.”

But Stearn said Wednesday that a sense of flight in the slides was “more immediately obvious.”

Morphesis’ painting will be purchased for the airport arts program, which will be launched on a trial basis with the new terminal’s opening, and commissioners hope to display it in the program’s inaugural exhibit, Stearn said.

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Cashman and other printers who have offered to produce the poster will be invited to Saturday’s meeting to decide if they still want to donate their services--though only commissioners will vote whether to use Morphesis’ image, Stearn said.


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