Local artist creates unique patriotic statement: star spangled flamingos

By PETER DAY

Norman Rockwell brushed picturesque oil scenes of boys white-washing fences. Andy Warhol hadimages of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell's soup cans. But for local artist Travis Chatham, his ode tothe quintessential American icon is a plastic lawn flamingo painted red, white and blue. Perhaps nosurprise, Chatham's creative spark came as a result of the September 11th tragedy. "I came up with theAmerican flamingos last year because of 9/11," Chatham said. "It hit me very hard. I was soimpressed with Americans showing their patriotism everyone was showing it one way or another, theflags on the cars, houses, everything." So the graduate of Art Center College of Design begansearching his soul. "I thought to myself: I want to express my patriotism somehow." Chatham'screative bent came upon an offbeat idea. "I didn't want to just buy one of those plastic flags that go onmy car window. I wanted to show something with a little more pizzazz, something that says 'California,USA', something classic. What is better than the classic icon of America, the pink flamingo?" Not onefor an antique Rodin cherub statue, it just so happened that Chatham had a few classic pink flamingoslaying around the house. "So I painted them up," he said. "I was still in my last year at the Art CenterCollege of Design. Since the school is so close to JPL, it was shut down for a few days. The first dayback after 9/11 I put some of the flamingos in the entrance driveway of the school. I put up about sixof them in a little pack. I guess it was kind of symbolizing us as Americans sticking together andshowing off how much we love this country we live in." The flamingos were a hit. Chatham's long-legged expressions began disappearing from their Art Center perch. But the artist took their curiousdisappearance as a form of compliment. "I had a lady come up and ask me if she could take a pictureof them and submit them to a magazine. I said sure." A few weeks later Chatham learned that hisflamingo was going to be on the cover of the magazine, an international architecture publication,"Blueprint Magazine." "I thought that it was so cool. I didn't expect anything to come of it at all." Itseems many people love Chatham's flamingos. So the artist has began making them en masse. "Rightnow I am trying to paint up as many as I can. I try to make each of them a little different so they are allunique. I hand paint and number them all. Right now I have about four different styles that I am goingwith." Chatham's "American Flamingos" are available at his Higley's exhibit. Also included in theexhibit are portraits of Aretha Franklin and Gwen Stefani. Higley's is at 714 Foothill Blvd., LaCanada. To view Chatham's entire portfolio, visit www.travischatham.com.

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