Artist Leslie Payne's sketches of "imitation" airplanes may have been used as preliminary drawings in conceiving his sculptural works.
Born in rural Virginia, at the age of eleven Payne saw his first air show. These new aerial exhibitions were taking place all across America and inspiring children like Payne to one day take flight. Growing up on a farm he spent the majority of his life working as a handy man and crabber on the Chesapeake. Though he never lost his passion to fly, it was not until the 1940s that he began to assemble his notable "imitation" airplanes from scrap metal, wood, and canvas.
With only a fourth grade education Payne transformed his small-scale models to life-sized ones that were actually mobile. Using salvaged engines to propel his creations, Payne took local children for a ride up and down his family's field. He wore a flight suit with aviation cap (also made from found objects) and kept flight logs of all his passengers and imaginary destinations. In addition to his passion for flying, Payne also enjoyed creating model boats, hand-painted commemorative signs, and whirligigs. He was known for exhibiting all his works of art in an elaborate yard show at his home.
The Leslie Payne Collection, Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, purchase from Patricia Brincefield