Brian McCutcheon, Capsule, 2011. Commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Courtesy of the Artist.
Capsule (2011) depicts an imaginary flying machine built in the shape of NASA’s historic Mercury space capsule Friendship 7, which on February 20, 1962, launched astronaut John Glenn to become the first American to orbit the Earth. Unlike NASA’s gold-plated original, this sunburst orange capsule and the metallic cocoa-colored trailer that supports it have been customized like a hot rod, branded with the words “UNITED STATES” and augmented with components including chrome coil-over shocks with red pinstripe paint and modified 1959 Cadillac taillights that look like shooting rocket flames. The adapted trailer and transformed capsule were built to appear as if they could pull McCutcheon and Angus recklessly behind a car to simulate the experience of high-speed flight. The painted aluminum surface of the capsule has been riveted to a snug roll cage that recalls the interior of race cars of the 1950s and 1960s. Looking inside the open door, a replica of an aluminum lawn chair from that same era serves as the pilot’s seat. It is secured to the shuttle with black seat belts that suggest an absent human form beneath them.