Project Description

Berkshire Museum presents David Henderson: A Brief History of Aviation, from March 10 through May 13, 2012; the exhibition features an installation of the elegant, architectural sculpture of artist David Henderson in the Ellen Crane Memorial Room.

An artist’s reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 10; the event is free and open to the public.

The large-scale, curvilinear components of Henderson’s installation, configured differently in each venue where they are exhibited, were inspired by the beautifully complex fan vaulting of the sixteenth-century cathedral called Bath Abbey in England. Fan vaulting is a specific Gothic architectural element first used in the twelfth century. Imbued with a spare beauty, the converging curved ribs of each fan-like section form sweeping shapes reminiscent of wing spreads, combining strength and delicacy.

“The fan vaulting was only used in a few cathedrals in England, probably because it was quite complex, geometrically,” David Henderson explains. “It’s extraordinary that someone could build something like this in the twelfth century. My idea was to take the structure out of the religious context and see what it would do in a normal context, made out of different materials.”

Henderson creates his fan shapes from materials and methods that are used in building ultra-light aircraft. The ribs of foam are wrapped with fiberglass and the assembled structures are skinned with Dacron fabric, heat-shrunk for a perfectly smooth fit. The work is planned on a computer and then meticulously hand-crafted; the segments of the piece have to be constructed with precision.

“Man’s interest in birds, and particularly their ability to fly, has been a long standing fascination. Man has made various attempts, successfully and not, through recorded history to imitate (and possibly achieve) our feathered friends’ ability to take flight,” says Maria Mingalone, the Museum’s director of interpretation and curator. “We have invited David Henderson to show his piece A Brief History of Aviation at Berkshire Museum at this time because of how well it complements our current exhibition Taking Flight: Audubon and the World of Birds.”

Henderson, who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, graduated from Bard College and holds an MFA from Columbia University. For more information, visit