Charles Dellschau

Images courtesy of Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn.

Artist’s Statement

Charles Dellschau’s work was in large part a record of the activities of the Sonora Aero Club, of which he was a purported member. Dellschau’s writings describe the club as a secret group of flight enthusiasts who met in Sonora, California in the mid-19th century. One of the members had discovered the formula for an anti-gravity fuel he called “NB Gas.” Their mission was to design and build the first navigable aircraft using the NB Gas for lift and propulsion. Dellschau called these flying machines “Aeros.” Dellschau did not claim to be a pilot of any of the airships; he identified himself only as a draftsman for the Sonora Aero Club. His collages incorporate newspaper clippings (called “press blooms”) of then-current news articles about aeronautical advances and disasters. According to a coded story hidden throughout the drawings in his notebooks, the Sonora Aero Club was a branch of a larger secret society known only as NYMZA. Despite exhaustive research, including searches of census records, voting rosters, and death records, nothing has been found to substantiate the existence of this group except for a few gravestones in the Columbia Cemetery where several of the surnames are found. It is speculated that, like Henry Darger’s “Realms of the Unreal”, the Sonora Aero Club is a fictional creation of Dellschau’s.

Charles August Albert Dellschau (4 June, 1830 [Prussia] – 20 April, 1923 [Texas]) was a butcher by trade who, after his retirement in 1899, filled at least 13 notebooks with drawings, watercolor paintings and collages depicting fantastical airships. He lived and worked in an attic apartment in Houston, Texas. Dellschau’s earliest known work is a diary dated 1899, and the latest is an 80-page book dated 1921-1922, giving his career as an artist a 21-year span.

While Dellschau has only had two solo exhibitions of his works, he has been in many seminal exhibitions around the world focusing on visionary and self-taught art. He will have his third solo show in December, 2014 at Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn.

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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of nine books and chapbooks, including Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her tenth book, Zoom, was awarded the Washington Prize and will be published in 2018. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, and Verse Daily.