- Associated Press - Saturday, January 4, 2020

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a flying work of art.

It’s called “Ravens & Roses” and it’s a Citation 560XLS, covered, inside and out, with the work of Nancy Friedemann-Sanchez, an award-winning Colombian-American artist who lives in Lincoln.

The imagery on sky blue jet and embroidered on the seats inside - the black birds and flowers of the title, vines, smaller colonial flowers - is linked with Friedemann-Sanchez’s ongoing work, examining Spanish colonialism, Asian influence in Latin America and migration through a feminist lens.

That connection with her imagery takes the design, mirrored on each side of the plane, from decoration into the realm of art.

“It’s art,” said Karen Duncan, who, with her husband, Duncan Aviation Chairman Emeritus Robert Duncan, commissioned Friedemann-Sanchez’s work. “It’s work by a serious artist. It could be called a painting or a sculpture. But it is art.”



The commission grew out of a visit by the Duncans to Friedeman-Sanchez’s west Lincoln studio.

“She had a table filled with flowers,” Duncan told the Lincoln Journal Star. “I said, ‘Those flowers are so beautiful; we ought to put flowers all over it.’ She started to cry.”

Karen said, ‘We’d love to have you design one of our planes. We love your flowers, and we’d love to have you doing it,’” Friedemann-Sanchez said. “I teared up a little. I was completely shocked and delighted.”

That was about two years ago. Then Duncan Aviation purchased the 560 XLS just over a year ago, and work began in earnest.

Using 10-foot-long sheets of paper - the plane is 52-feet long - Friedemann-Sanchez combined painting and collage to create preliminary designs, going over the details with the Duncans.

“The one thing that was the mainstay was the ravens,” she said. “They love ravens. They’re very intelligent. I used the same imagery I use in my work. It was a collaboration, but I made sure my ideas stayed in there.

”There’s an iconography based on a century of movement, travel and technology. Airplanes are the symbol of movement, migration, going through geography. So the plane itself is part of the work.”

Much of that imagery, especially the flowers, comes from something women would draw. And that femininity is also reflected in the interior. The pink leather seats, however, weren’t chosen by Friedemann-Sanchez. Robert Duncan picked the color.

“I said, ‘We’re going to put pink seats in there?’” Karen Duncan said. “He said to me, ‘They’re not pink; they’re strawberry. They’re really unique. In planes, you see beige, beige, beige until you want to vomit.’”

The project’s other primary collaborator was Teri Nekuda, Duncan Aviation completion designer, who worked closely with Friedemann-Sanchez over the course of a year selecting the color of the plane - which began black and, after multiple tests, became medium blue - and the implementation of the imagery.

“We had a lot of conversations about the colors, paint-reflectant values and how the artistic elements would conform with the angles and shapes of an aircraft, as well as how aviation regulations would affect the overall design,” Nekuda said.

Nekuda scanned the final designs and used computer design software to overlay them onto the plane, getting it ready to be painted. But not by the artist.

“I didn’t touch it,” Friedemann-Sanchez said. “I didn’t take a brush to it. It was the Duncan paint team. The person who did the vines, I would say, ‘Could you put a vine here, so it gets smaller and it ends in a point?’ He’d make it perfectly. He was so gentle and careful, and then, zoom, it was done. They’re masters of their craft.”

The team divided the aircraft into 14 sections with six people who would mask and unmask the surface where the 23 specific aviation paint colors were sprayed, a task that required 101 rolls of painter’s tape, 75 paint mixing cups, 135 cup liners and 288 touch-up brushes.

Because much of the surface was covered with tape, the biggest challenge in converting Friedemann-Sanchez’s brushstrokes to color sprayed onto the plane was remembering where each color went, Paint Master Specialist Stacy Finch said.

“The paint team is really proud of this, as they should be,” Duncan said. “It’s so beautiful. … As Robert says, ‘You’ll love it or hate it. But you’re certainly going to talk about it.’ We haven’t had anybody say they hate it yet.”

“Ravens & Roses” is the fourth Duncan Aviation plane to be uniquely designed on the exterior, joining an orange-and-yellow plaid Citation Mustang; an apple green Citation M2 with red, blue and yellow paint splotches; and a red and black Learjet 35A, nicknamed “Spiderman Lear.”

Duncan took her first flight on “Ravens & Roses” on Dec. 11, going from Lincoln to Wichita, Kansas, to pick up Robert, who was attending flight school. There wasn’t much opportunity to show off the plane that night.

But it will soon become an airborne art show, beginning with a planned post-holiday trip to Mexico.

“Aren’t we going to have fun flying this all over?,” Duncan said. “The other airplanes people would come out with their phones and take pictures. They’re really going to do that with this.”

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