Amid the lights that hang over the tables at Ceres Bakery float the broken wooden wings that have fascinated artist Ry Basko for years.
Basko recently finished the multi-day effort to create an art installation in Ceres that displays the sometimes broken and battered fragments of the gliders that he flies. A curled piece of wooden banding typically used for cabinetry is woven throughout the gliders that Basko has crafted mostly out of balsa wood.
There are other pieces of Basko’s art adorning the walls in what amounts to an artist show, including paintings, prints, a poem, and a row of elaborately painted eggs nestled along the bottom of a glass case near the cash register where pastries are on display.
The show also includes a few pieces of art that Basko didn’t create. In order to fill extra wall space, he reached out to his friend, Jesse Jackson Brown, who supplied a couple brightly painted stereograms, which are paintings designed to show a three-dimensional shape.
A woodworker by trade, Basko was born in Choteau, grew up in the Flathead, and spent years living in Portland. His obsession with the gliders began on a camping trip with his family about five years ago.
“I got bored, I was sitting around the campsite trying to make a glider out of leaves and twigs and stuff, and it just clicked at some point,” Basko said. “I don’t know why.”
The fascination cooled off but then reignited in the presence of his daughter when she was about 3 years old. In all, Basko said he’s built maybe 50 gliders. Whatever pride and joy he might feel in those aircraft is tempered by his knowledge of the limited set of outcomes.
A typed description of the installation, and some of Basko’s ideas around it, hangs on the wall at Ceres. It begins as part explanatory essay and part love letter before going on to explain the two results the fragile aircraft can achieve in flight when launched by hand or rubber band. “It will fly away, never to be seen again, or it will break,” Basko writes in his summation. “Fly aways are fantastic, mysterious and elevating—easy to love, hard to attain. Breakages used to bum me out until I realized it was simply an unavoidable part of the process and became adept at field repairs and rebuilds, AKA ‘frankengliders,’ some of which became great gliders and a platform for new designs.”
Over the years and dozens of gliders, and in some cases ornithopters with flapping wings, Basko couldn’t part ways with the damaged remains of his creations.
“I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the parts, and then I stumbled into this and I was just like, ‘that’s it,’” Basko said.
A good definition of gliding, he said, is the slowest fall possible. “The only way you’re going to go up is if you catch a thermal, other than that you’re just trying to take the slowest fall possible,” Basko said. “I find it really poetic in a way. I like that definition of a glide, the slowest fall possible, and I kind of connected that to how we all go through life. How we’re all just trying to fall as slowly as possible through this thing we can’t quite control. Sometimes we go up, sometimes we spiral out of control. Not that I’m a fatalist. I just love the concept of flight.”
Basko approached Ceres ownership about showing his art in their business and was given the green light to go ahead with it. The installation went up last month, and Basko said he found the courage to reach out to Ceres owner Hannah Bjornson after the creation of new artwork that brought him out of a long period of stagnancy.
“She and the rest of the staff have been amazingly accepting and encouraging,” Basko said, adding that he was dedicating the show to his parents Patty and Bill Basko, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary.
Towards the end of his written summary about the broken glider installation, Basko explains the deeper meaning of the installation this way: “How swiftly we lie broken on the ground. To me this installation represents the ability we’ve found as humans to pick ourselves up, forgive ourselves for our failures, embrace change, rebuild and ultimately, glide effortlessly and freely once again, and again. Like I said, rich in metaphor : )”
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