A New Way to Travel:
Delta Air Lines x Queens Museum at LaGuardia Airport
The Queens Museum celebrates its partnership with Delta Air Lines with the exhibition A New Way to Travel: Delta Air Lines x Queens Museum at LaGuardia Airport. The six New York-based artists featured in Delta’s new Terminal C–Mariam Ghani, Rashid Johnson, Aliza Nisenbaum, Virginia Overton, Ronny Quevedo, and Fred Wilson–made new permanent artworks for the terminal’s multiple-floor atriums and elevator walls, as well as baggage claim and concession spaces. With the headhouse now open to the public, the Queens Museum presents the intricate, behind the scenes preparation that each of the six artists embarked on to create their works, through a display of 3D models, sketches, and material samples. The artists navigated dense architectural plans, spent countless hours with their fabricators creating maquettes, and carefully revised and adjusted their designs, crafting items that are in themselves works of art.
Mariam Ghani’s work operates at the intersections of history, memory, language, and loss. Her Delta commission The Worlds We Speak visualizes the linguistic diversity of the tri-state metropolitan area as a colorful mosaic of handmade ceramic tiles. For this commission, Ghani partnered with the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA), an organization that documents and promotes the diversity of languages spoken in New York City and beyond. The artist used data from ELA’s “NYC Language Map” to spotlight the over 700 languages and dialects spoken in the regions most served by LaGuardia Airport.
Rashid Johnson utilizes a wide range of media to explore complex themes of art history and shared cultural identities. The artist embeds a pointed range of everyday materials and objects in his work, often associated with his childhood and frequently referencing collective aspects of African American intellectual history and cultural identity. In “The Travelers” Broken Crowd, Johnson’s largest mural to date, he arranges sixty portraits in a grid format. The vibrant hum of the group reflects the energy and thrill of travel, while their direct gazes hint at the collective anxieties and concerns that connect all communities. The mural invites airport visitors to take a moment to reflect and “wander” in unexpected directions.
Aliza Nisenbaum is best known for celebratory, large-scale portraits of diverse subjects and community groups; her colorful canvases have featured subway employees, healthcare workers, security guards, and undocumented immigrants. Her mural, The Ones who Make it Run (Delta Terminal C, LaGuardia Airport), focuses on sixteen Delta and Port Authority employees as well as their service providers, among the many thousands who keep the terminal running smoothly each day. The painting includes pilots, flight attendants, police officers, firefighters, customer service agents, Urban Pathways staff (homeless outreach), taxi dispatchers, and individuals working in facilities and maintenance. Together, these employees represent the strength and diversity of the Delta and Port Authority community.
Virginia Overton‘s work comprises installation, sculpture and works on paper, often beginning intuitively as a direct response to a particular space. For Skylight Gems, she repurposed salvaged skylight sections from junkyards and constructed matching halves to create new, enclosed structures illuminated from within. These ”jewels,” suspended from each of the atrium’s three levels, are visible to travelers throughout the terminal. Conveying strength and delicacy, solidity and ephemerality, Overton’s gems celebrate the ingenuity of New York City’s architecture, while also capturing the excitement that travel—and the moment of arrival—inspires in both residents and tourists alike.
Ronny Quevedo explores ancient and personal trajectories of migration and displacement through mixed media and sculpture. The gymnasium flooring in his commission Pacha Cosmopolitanism Overtime is a direct reference to soccer, the spirited games of Quevedo’s youth, and the thriving sports culture that connects travelers globally. Quevedo’s commission is an homage to the diverse communities that call New York City home, honoring their resilience amid new and changing circumstances.
Fred Wilson creates artworks that challenge established concepts of history, culture, and race. His monumental work Mother incorporates black starlight globes and glass droplets, which he calls ‘drips.’ Wilson was inspired by his own experience while traveling via airplane: with the world below reduced to small dots, he reflected on humanity’s complex and enriching relationship with the earth. For Mother, Wilson has removed country names from the globes, instead using swatches of vibrant colors to distinguish land masses. Stripped of their use as maps or geographical aids, the globes illustrate instead how interconnected communities are today both locally and internationally.
A New Way to Travel: Delta Air Lines x Queens Museum at LaGuardia Airport is organized by Heather Reyes-Duke, Special Projects and Exhibitions Manager. The Delta x Queens Museum commissions at LaGuardia Airport is a partnership between the Queens Museum, Delta Air Lines, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Image: Mariam Ghani, The Worlds We Speak, 2022. Debossed ceramic tile, brushed steel. Commissioned by Delta Air Lines in partnership with Queens Museum, New York. Photo: Rank Studios.