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"The world is really so surreal these days that it's necessary for us to blunt it somehow in order to stay sane. The artist functions to short-circuit the buffering mechanism, so that people can occasionally perceive the weirdness of things as they are."
- William Gibson

Cloud Sculpting  
  Using gliders and chemical showers to shape clouds artistically.  

A retired pilot finds his way to Vermillion Sands, and meets a kite-maker. Add a beautiful but mysterious woman to the mix, and you've got a great story.

The tree gliders, brilliant painted toys, revolved like lazing birds above Coral D, waiting for the first clouds to pass overhead. Van Eyck moved away to take a cloud. He sailed around its white pillow, spraying the sides with iodide crystals and cutting away the flock-like tissue. The streaming shards fell toward us like crumbling ice-drifts. As the drops of condensing spray fell on my face I could see Van Eyck shaping an immense horse's head. He sailed up and down the long forehead and chiseled out the eyes and ears.

From The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D, by J.G. Ballard.
Published by Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1967
Additional resources -

I don't know if anyone has ever tried cloud sculpting. Cloud seeding (the attempt to produce or alter precipitation and weather by sprinkling materials into clouds) was done just after World War II.

Thanks to John for letting me know about the great cover art for this story; I read it in the 'Vermillion Sands' collection.

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