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Lesile Payne Collection

Subject:
Payne, Leslie J. (American sculptor, 1907-1981)
Payne, Leslie J. (American sculptor, 1907-1981)
Creator:
Lorenz, Patricia Brincefield
Payne, Leslie, Jr.
Type:
Collection description
Airplanes--Parts
Clothing and dress
Dress accessories
Flags
Folk art
Mixed media (Art)
Model airplanes
Sculpture
Sketches
Tools
visionary art
Place:
Virginia
Description:
Leslie Payne Collection consists of sculptures created by Leslie Payne; a sketchbook of his imitiations; aviator suit, googles, and cap; found objects; and the materials, tools, and complete structure of his machine shop, the Airplane Machine Shop Company.
Related archival collection: Leslie Payne flight logbook, circa 1950. This collection is comprised of one scrapbook created by folk artist Leslie Payne circa 1950. The scrapbook is disbound and consists of 12 pages containing text, illustrations, black-and-white photographs and color photographs. Contact the Archivist for more information.
Leslie J. “Airplane” Payne, born in 1907 in rural Northumberland County, Virginia, was a fisherman and a crabber. Payne only received a fourth grade education, and remained impoverished for all of his life. He had few opportunities for travel, to satisfy his curiosity about the world, to put his enormous creative energies to work, or to indulge his larger than life personality. But in 1918, he attended an air show when he was only eleven years old that was to change his life. As a direct result of that event, Payne began a lifelong obsession with airplanes and airfields.
In the 1940s Payne began to construct airplanes, most of them relatively small in scale. Beginning in the 1960s, however, Payne began to construct what he called imitation planes. These were large scale planes, constructed so that Payne and a passenger could sit in the cabin and enjoy the view. Payne invited selected young ladies and local children to join him on flights in his planes and they would ride around the surrounding fields. Payne wore a flight suit, aviator cap, and goggles, and outfitted each passenger with helmet and goggles. He kept flight logs of all his passengers and imaginary itinerary, and also had his passengers take Polaroid photos. On those occasions, for those few hours, Leslie Payne became a pilot, with all the powerful and romantic notions that that suggested in the 1960s. On the back of his flight suit was emblazoned a huge emblem that revealed his self-made identity: Old Airplane Builder. Homemade.
Using scrap metal, wood, canvas, automobile parts, kitchen tools, and other materials that he scrounged, he built imitation planes and then transformed his small farm into an airfield, complete with air tower, machine shop, and runways. In addition to his passion for flying, Payne created model boats, hand-painted commemorative signs, and whirligigs. He exhibited all his works of art in an elaborate yard show at his home. After Leslie Payne retired to a nursing home in the late 1970s, and after his death in 1981, his airfield was abandoned.
Related Texts:
Congdon, Kristin G., and Kara Kelley Hallmark. 2012. American folk art: a regional reference. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.
Archival Materials:
Camp, Jeffrey Thomas, Susan Hankla, Phyllis Kind, Randall Morris, Shari Cavin, Victor Musgrave, Edwin Shelton, et al. 1969. Jeffrey and C. Jane Camp papers. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Leslie Payne flight logbook, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Regenia Perry.
Leslie Payne flight logbook, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Regenia Perry.
Rosenak, Chuck, and Jan Rosenak. 1987. Chuck and Jan Rosenak research material. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Topic:
African American sculptors
African Americans
Air pilots
Airplanes
Arts and the poor
Folk artists
Found objects (Art)
Outsider artists
Perseverance (Ethics)
Sculptors
self-taught artists
World War, 1914-1918
World War, 1939-1945
Cite As:
Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum
See more items in:
Lesile Payne Collection
Anacostia Community Museum Collection
Data Source:
Anacostia Community Museum

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  • Lorenz, Patricia Brincefield
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  • Payne, Leslie, Jr.
  • Lorenz, Patricia Brincefield
  • Payne, Leslie J. (American sculptor, 1907-1981)
  • Payne, Leslie, Jr.
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