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Sammamish exhibit 'Vanishing Points' inspired by WWII campaign over 'The Hump'
Donald Fels’s father was a WWII pilot. It wasn’t something the younger Fels knew about for most of his own life.
But his dad and other pilots with the United States Army Air Force’s Air Transport Command had been tasked with one of the most important missions of the Burma Campaign: To resupply the forces of Chiang Kai-shek and the USAAF in the Chinese war effort against Imperial Japan.
Doing so meant daily flights from India over The Hump, Allied pilots’ name for the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains. And, for the three years from April 1942 to November 1945, they did just that.
Not that it was easy. USAAF units were unprepared for cargo transport and there were no airfields in the theater to accommodate cargo planes. The route itself was extremely treacherous, riddled with uncharted areas and poor weather intel. Many men and aircraft were lost over the course of the campaign.
Fels, an artist based out of North Bend, learned about his father’s mission in 2008, while working in Southern India. He was particularly fascinated by the pilots’ rescue signal should they go down: A mirror with a pinhole in the center, which allowed downed men to triangulate light to signal airplanes flying overhead, despite being themselves out of view.
Fels’s exhibit “Vanishing Points,” on display in Sammamish City Hall through April 14, examines the disappearances of small things in both The Hump campaign and the work of South Indian billboard artists. The phrase takes on multiple meanings, referring to both what’s depicted and the manner in which Fels abstracts his subjects over multiple paintings, Sammamish Arts Commissioner Barbara Jirsa said.
“He’s a tremendous public artist,” Jirsa said of Fels. “He’s really a thinker and a wonderful artist in residence because he pushes people to think differently.”