Crashing the Philadelphia art scene
After months of delay, the installation of a new sculpture in Lenfest Plaza is finally finished.
A full-sized Navy combat plane has been twisted to resemble the moment of impact at Broad and Cherry streets. It's a sword turned into a plowshare.
Artist Jordan Griska bought the shell of a Grumman S2F plane on eBay and had it shipped to his warehouse space in West Philadelphia. When it arrived, it had no engine, no instruments, and no weapons. It was little more than a fuselage and a pair of wings, and it was barely even that much.
"The whole front of the top is new metal. The landing gear door is new metal, there's quite a bit that was done. A lot of refurbishing," said Griska. "You get to know the airplane better and earn the right to manipulate it."
After restoring the plane, Griska went about deconstructing it. He broke the fuselage and twisted the wings so the plane would appear to be crumpling in the midst of a crash-landing.
Early news of the sculpture sparked the ire of some war veterans.
"It's a beautiful plane to fly. Very stable," said Ed Auble, a former Navy pilot who flew S2s while patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War. "Any S2 pilot would say that."
Auble had been concerned that the way the plane is twisted implied its crew of four would not have survived. But eventually he turned from a critic to a believer.
"It may sound funny, but if they had shown disrespect to this plane that many of us put in a lot of hours—and some died—then we would have felt differently," said Auble. "But we know that they cared. That swung us."
The plane is frozen into a neat but brutal sideways crash, with its belly exposed at a grotesque angle. That belly has been outfitted with hinged Plexiglas, and the space inside converted into a greenhouse outfitted with grow lights. Inside, herbs and greens will be harvested for area food pantries.
"My generation—what do we do with all these parts (of) post-war conflict? What is our role in that?" said Griska, 27. "For me, trying to take a positive spin and move forward and grow something for the community."
Unlike its neighbor—the giant Oldenburg paintbrush tilted over Broad Street—the "Grumman Greenhouse" is temporary. It will be in Lenfest Plaza for at least two growing seasons.