I Spy Carry-On - CODAworx

I Spy Carry-On

Submitted by Kati Toivanen

Client: Kansas City International Airport/ Kansas City Municipal Art Commission as part of the One Percent for Art

Location: Kansas City, MO, United States

Completion date: 2022

Artwork budget: $20,000

Project Team

Printed the images


El-Co Lab

Framed the works

Scott Gobber

Dolphin Frames


These digitally composed photographs invite the traveler to seek and find personal items a family might pack in their carry-on luggage. Reflecting on the duty of the security officer, who surveys contents flowing through the x-ray machine, the traveler discovers objects from logistics and grooming to small toys and snacks. The project and its title were inspired by the compelling visual riddles made popular by the classic I Spy books.

For my photography, I embraced a shadow-show approach, a playful technique children often use to invent and perform stories. To photograph the individual articles, I placed them on a light table covered by a sheet of vellum paper. Then I digitally combined the pictures to construct each collage. I also created visual connections between the three compositions to further emphasize the continuous nature of an x-ray belt. My method slightly obscures the items, to convey mystery and intrigue. The dream-like imagery provides a calming moment for the travelers, and children will delight in recognizing familiar toys like dinosaurs and dolls. The viewer might even spot a pair of red ruby slippers, a playful nod to our local cultural history.


Having the concept and imagery reflect the function of the site was critically important for this project. Considering the variety of travelers using the space was also an integral part of the project.