In the spring of 2015, the First Division Museum at Cantigny in Wheaton, Illinois, asked me to paint a large floor map of the First Division’s Area of Operations in central Vietnam during the War, called III Corps (“Three Corps”).
I worked at about 1/3 scale, producing an image on paper roughly six feet by six feet, using a lot of aerial photography reference images. The finished art was photographed and expanded by another party to roughly 20 feet square. The map was then applied to the reverse side of clear flooring. The genius of the exhibit design was that the visitor gets the impression of flying over the country in a helicopter while walking from one artifact display case to another.
This was a particular delight for me to portray because of the fond memories I have of being airlifted out of the oppressively stultifying blanket of tropical atmosphere at ground level into the cool, dry air of higher altitudes where I could escape the immediate surroundings of red dust and sun-bleached sandbags and see the rumpled green mountains, the stained-glass patterns of the rice paddy dikes and take in the beauty of Vietnam.
The only downside of the project was having to be aware of anyone within hearing distance while I was painting who might notice the helicopter sound I was unconsciously making as my imagination soared over the landscape of 45 years ago.