Artist Nina Vichayapai is featured in the Museum of Flight’s Art+Flight project, an exhibition with art from over 30 artists in a variety of mediums.
Vichayapai’s piece, “I Wander Lonely as a Cloud,” is a large sculpture using fabric and seed paper to depict clouds and rain.
Originally from Bangkok, Thailand, Vichayapai received a BFA from the California College of Arts and now lives in Seattle. Vichayapai discovered her unique affinity for fabric art in one of her first classes in college that focused on “getting your painting off the wall.”
She reflected on her experience with art as a young child and realized her experience hand sewing could lend itself as an art medium to explore. Vichayapai’s mother taught her to hand sew at a young age, and she quickly learned how to create anything from clothes to toys. In college, she returned to textiles and hand sewing as an art medium.
“I never went back,” Vichayapai said. “I still do a lot of painting, but hand sewing is the backbone of my practice.”
The concept for “I Wander Lonely as a Cloud” began in the summer of 2022, for an artist pop-up event at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). The theme was air.
The theme reminded Vichayapai of a practice called cloud seeding, which is used frequently in Thailand, where planes release chemicals over the clouds to generate rain. The whole process is environmentally neutral and friendly.
Taking inspiration from cloud seeding, Vichayapai created clouds from fabric, painting depictions of clouds onto it. Across cultures and centuries, clouds have been artistically interpreted in many ways, so Vichayapai incorporated different patterns and references to clouds throughout human history.
For the rain, Vichayapai made wildflower seed paper and invited people at the SAM event to write wishes for the Earth. She cut the paper into raindrop shapes and attached them to the cloud sculpture like rain.
Vichayapai also hosted a paper making workshop at the Museum of Flight, where people could add their wishes or take the paper home. The seed paper itself can be planted in the ground and sprout native wildflowers.
With many colors and different fabrics, the cloud sculpture is a bright contrast to the reality of gray clouds. Perhaps it is an homage to the potential of rain for the Earth that coaxes beautiful colorful wildflowers to the surface.
Climate and Earth are returning themes in Vichapayai’s art, but “I Wander Lonely as a Cloud” is the first to directly address climate change through the seed paper wishes. Her interest in earth, plants, and nature continue to crop up in her pieces as climate change becomes more and more important to address.
Another theme in Vichapayai’s art stems from her multicultural identity, being from Thailand but living in the U.S. and feeling like “both are home, but sometimes not quite.”
“Looking for belonging and connection is a core part of interpreting the world around me,” Vichapayai said.
The cloud sculpture represents the connection humans have with the Earth, in this case a positive intervention through cloud seeding. Many human interactions with the climate are negative, so Vichapayai wanted to break that narrative and show that it is possible for humans to positively impact the Earth and prioritize its health.
Having been raised in the Seattle area, Vichapayai is excited to be featured along with many other local artists at the Museum of Flight. Visit the Art+Flight exhibit to see “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” and other artwork through January 7, 2024.