Labor Day weekend in America means everyone gets to travel to their weekend homes and favorite vacation spots to enjoy one “last” bit of summer, well, except for me. I stay home because I am too poor to have a weekend home or take a vacation. But unlike me, artist and retired airline baggage handler Gary Sweeney didn’t stay home. He worked for Continental Airlines and spent a year flying for free, documenting his wacky adventures with pictures. He traveled so much that he created a mural called “America, Why I Love Her” at the Denver International Airport.
Displayed on Level 5 of the Jeppesen Main Terminal since 1994, the mural is actually two large maps with hundreds of locations of unusual sights, many illustrated with framed black and white photos, from the Sand Museum and the Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame to the World’s Largest Prairie Dog and Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village. It is an attempt to pay homage to family vacations and tourist spots of Sweeney’s childhood. Every few months, Sweeney and his family would drive all over the country in their station wagon taking in the beauty of the landscape as well as the strange monuments and roadside attractions along the way. Sweeney’s parents live on in blown-up historic photographs next to the maps. The mural is one of the most popular art installations at the airport. And unlike some of the offbeat Americana spots on map that are now long gone, “America, Why I Love Her” is here to stay.