Interview: Timothy Nolan and his public art project at LAX

By Sharon Butler

August 3, 2016

If you find yourself in Terminal 7 at the Los Angeles International Airport, you can’t miss Timothy Nolan’s new public art project, a series of  large-scale prints, made from collages that incorporate images of maps, galaxies, and other ephemera from the days when we looked things up in encyclopedias and used atlases to find our way. I wondered how Nolan, who is represented by CB1 Gallery in LA, got the commission, how his installation relates to the rest of his work, and what it was like working in an airport.

Sharon Butler: Tell me a little bit about your work. Did you propose a project that you felt would reflect something about that specific site–an airport? Did you want to make work that you felt would appeal specifically to people who are in transit?
Timothy Nolan: In my current work, I start with handmade collages, combining photography of unique geological terrain, outdated scientific graphics, and Art Deco patterns. These are scanned, digitally and manually marked, cut, and re-collaged. The larger works are then printed on aluminum or vinyl (in the case of the recent wall mural.) The results marry my interest in abstract painting and Pop Art with my fascination for quantum mechanics and astrophysics. The work alludes to natural phenomena and the intersection of culture and nature. I invite viewers to consider themes of transitioning ecosystems, and the quest for discovery beyond the visible realm.

I thought these themes were pretty relevant to travelers who either just got off a plane or are about to board one and travel at 30,000 feet. I know when I look out the window of a plane, I’m always thinking about what’s out there, both above and below. As you descend into LAX, the juncture of nature and culture is front and center: rugged mountain ranges, the Pacific Ocean, and miles of sprawling development.

I designed the mural for the specific walls in the hallway. I conceived of it as a diptych, with one half on the wall that is set back about 18 inches from the other. The imagery was in line with what I had been working on for a few years, which I thought would resonate with air travelers and their view from up there. But I also managed to sneak in an aerial view of the airport’s environs. I found this book of Landsat images taken from NASA satellites in the 1970s – pre-Google Earth! I liked the arc of the coastline; it seemed like the perfect counter to the nebula in the left hand panel.


You can also see Timothy Nolan’s work in our summer group exhibition Summer Reverie, currently on view through August 28, 2016.

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