SEATTLE, May 1, 2013--The premier exhibition of paintings and drawings depicting America's first African American military pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen, will leave The Museum of Flight on May 12. "Red Tails, Silver Wings: Paintings of Tuskegee Airmen by Chris Hopkins" is an original exhibit by artist Chris Hopkins done in cooperation with the Museum. The works are rendered in the vivid, dramatic style that has made Hopkins one of the most successful illustrators in the country. Hopkins has produced iconic posters for movies including "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and he was nominated for a Grammy for the album cover art for Styx's "Paradise Theatre." "Red Tails, Silver Wings" is the artist's personal tribute to African American aviators. The exhibit includes 28 paintings (three on loan from the Pentagon) and 15 charcoal drawings.
A version of the exhibit with fewer artworks will be on display this summer at The National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright/Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.
Image: Detail of "Butterflies," a painting by Chris Hopkins in the "Red Tails, Silver Wings" exhibit at The Museum of Flight. Image courtesy Chris Hopkins.
Chris Hopkins began his painting career as a commercial illustrator working in the entertainment industry. Among other things, he produced iconic posters for movies including "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and the posters for Super Bowls XX, XXI and XXIII. He was also received a Grammy nomination for the album cover art for Styx's "Paradise Theatre." Hopkins' 2010 book of paintings, "Eagle Dancing," portrays historical Northwest Native American culture.
After moving to the Northwest in 1988, Hopkins' career began to change from slick airbrush advertising to a more painterly style working on private commissions to depict historical events. Hopkins produced works depicting the histories of Northwest Native tribes and portraits of Northwest Native American artists. He also became known for his military artwork. Hopkins produced works honoring the men and women who served in Operation Desert Storm and in the war in Vietnam.
Hopkins began work on his Tuskegee Airmen series as part of his work for the Northwest chapter of the Air Force Art program. Over the years, the series has moved beyond the Air Force Art program to become a personal mission and passion for Hopkins. The Tuskegee Airmen project is a tribute that consists of more than 40 artworks that accurately portray the foreign and domestic exploits of the first African American fighter pilots, their support crews, their families, their predecessors as well as their legacy. With the help of surviving Tuskegee Airmen, Pentagon personnel, and noted historians, this body of work has been created with tremendous attention to detail and accuracy.
To learn more about Chris Hopkins and his Tuskegee Airmen series, visit his website chrishopkinsart.com
The Tuskegee Airmen
The Tuskegee Airmen challenged racial segregation and paved the way for the integration of the armed forces. At the beginning of World War II, the United States armed forces were still segregated and the U.S. Army Air Corps refused to train African Americans as pilots. In response to a lawsuit, the Army Air Corps agreed to an experiment training pilots and crews at Tuskegee University, Alabama.
Though the government thought the experiment would fail, the Tuskegee Airmen, as the pilots and crews came to be known, defied expectations. They amassed a remarkable record escorting allied bombers over Europe. Very few bombers were lost under their escort and their pilots fared significantly better in this mission than many other squadrons. The pilots flew Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, and North American P-51 Mustangs in combat with distinction. Although they also trained to fly the North American B-25 twin-engine bomber, the war ended before these were deployed.