It isn't ancient history but it has been quite a few years since we attended the Indianola Balloon Festival in Indianola, Iowa. The photo shown here shows the owners of the balloon blowing hot air into the balloon.
When younger I would see these balloons, usually just one, used to advertise for an event or for a company. It would be easily seen floating above Des Moines, Iowa with a banks name on its side.
The shaped of a balloon seems to be one of form following function. The patters of color add to the beauty of the shape but the uniform panels of cloth sewn together makes it into a soft sculpture.
In a balloon race they are to all take off from another location at the same time. They then land onto this location. Sometimes the wind currents takes a balloon hostage and the balloonists have to pass on by as they will miss the place altogether. The people in the basket take it with stride and wave as they float on by knowing that it is not a pure controlled science. I guess there must be an emergency field somewhere down the way, like a hay field that they can land onto.
At the end of the race the balloons maintain the inflation but stay anchored to the ground. Then in unison they all turn on their burners to cause the balloons to look like glowing candles.
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A painting that I did a few years back. It has a definite balloon problem.