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Bamboo kites take flight in Montpelier Arts Center exhibit


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Photo by Wanda Jackson. Artist Alonzo Davis’s “Kite” artwork series, exhibited at Montpelier Arts Center, reflects his love for flight.

Photo by Wanda Jackson. Artist Alonzo Davis’s “Kite” artwork series, exhibited at Montpelier Arts Center, reflects his love for flight.

Published on: Wednesday, October 17, 2012

By Wanda Jackson

Some of the kites are diamond-shaped, like the ones made famous by Ben Franklin during his experiment testing the properties of electricity.

Another is box-shaped, a style preferred by kite enthusiasts because of its ability to fly high in the sky.

And, there are other popular picks — triangular-shaped delta kites with long streamers and large kites with umbrella and horseshoe-shaped frames with seemingly enough power to lift you into the air or surf big waves.

These colorful and amusing flying creations have taken to the ceiling at Laurel’s Montpelier Arts Center in an exhibition by self-described abstract expressionist painter Alonzo Davis.

Similar to ceiling installations at Dulles International and Denver airports, “Kites” is being exhibited at Montpelier through Oct. 26.

Davis created the framework for each of his kites using his signature bamboo sticks and poles decorated using collage and paint. He covered the kite frames with handmade paper, decorated fabrics or found materials created in collaboration with other artists: Jessica Beels, Bob Donahue, Patricia Steck, Lynn Sylvester and poet Kay Lindsey.

Davis’s “Kites” exhibit makes reference to flight, celebration of the seasons and travel that highlights many cultures.

“Flight has been a part of my life since I was 10 years of age after going up in a Piper Cub trainer plane with Chief Anderson, one of the Tuskegee airmen,” said Davis, whose career as an artist spans nearly four decades.

A native of Tuskegee, Ala., Davis moved with his family to Los Angeles in his early teens. After acquiring an undergraduate degree at Pepperdine University, he earned a master’s degree in design in 1973 from Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. Fellowships in Hawaii and Texas inaugurated new bodies of work and led to dean positions at the San Antonio Art Institute and the Memphis College of Art.

Davis’s art and world view are inspired by his travels to the Southwest United States, Brazil, Haiti, West Africa and the Pacific Rim.

Many of his works are in private, corporate and public collections, including a 1984 Olympic Mural Project, Atlanta International Airport, the Boston Subway and Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The American Bamboo Society presented him with the “2006 Award for Excellence in Using Bamboo” for his bamboo construction, “Judicial Balance,” created for the Prince George’s County Courthouse.

A resident of Maryland for a decade, Davis works out of his studio at Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel and continues to create public art.

Montpelier Arts Center is located at 9652 Muirkirk Road in Laurel. For more information, call 301-377-7800 or TTY 301-490-3329.

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