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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A moral dilemma - the Apache Helicopter commission paper cut

Very occasionally I get an unusual commission to do and the Apache helicopter paper cut commission was one of those. It's only a small piece - a little under A4. I have only seen an Apache fly once and that was when I was down to see my father in Winterslow near Salisbury. I was driving back home, past Wallop and there it was, silhouetted against the blue sky. It must have been on a training flight - it was very low and just hovering! An amazing sight. I was so excited to see it so close. My inner 13 year old tomboy came straight to the surface in the same way it does when I see the super snazzy cars on Top Gear.

But it made me face a moral dilemma......
Making the paper cut was more complex than I expected. Not the design - I had a fairly clear idea of the composition and the feel of the piece - a dominant black silhouette shape with an intimation only of the landscape and the sky. That wasn't the difficulty. As I was cutting one fiddly shapes it struck me hard that these were the missile/bomb holders. I had turned them into decorative shapes. It made me think - what am I doing here? Why am I making this cut - glorifying an object of war? Did cutting the piece and NOT thinking about what is an essentially emotive image make me negate any moral question of whether I should make the piece or not? I thought about it for days. Asked friends and family about what they thought and thought about where the commission had come from -a friend whose husband is an Apache helicopter pilot instructor.

After much pondering I did manage to partially resolve the issue. The Apache is used defensively as well. It's an object that serves this country and its flown by people that I hold in deep respect for their ability, intelligence and professionalism and without these people in the armed forces - where would we be? They actually signed on the dotted line to serve... and that's brave.

So the conclusion? the Apache helicopter cut is a celebration, a symbol for the armed services and not a celebration of the machine for its military hard wear and capabilities for conflict and killing. It's my way of saying I respect you and thank you for doing the job that you do. My way of serving in a tiny, tiny way.


  1. Artists are tormented enough, I am sorry you had to deal with a paying job that conflicted with your conscious.
    I just visited Olana two days ago, the exotic mansion built from 1870-76 by the noted landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church on a hill overlooking the Hudson River near Hudson, N.Y. People assume that they are looking at painted or stained-glass windows, the reality is quite different: The windows are rare examples of scherenschnitte, the Northern European art of elaborately cut paper.
    Church, who had seen wooden lattice shutters in the Middle East, copied the effect for his home by sandwiching paper cut in geometrical shapes between two panes of glass.
    While two of the windows, a large one on the staircase in the Court Hall and another in the vestibule, are Church's originals, the smaller window in the Gallery Hall is a restoration by Pamela Dalton, a cut-paper artist who lives in Harlemville, N.Y., 30 miles north of Olana.
    OK, I copied this info from a brochure but if you ever get to the States I think you would love to see these windows.
    X David, NYC

  2. Yes... certainly torment goes with the job! Lots of dwelling on things to get to the core. I dont know the building you talk of, but these doors sound amazing. I will have to get Googling. I think I would love them. I have mounted work now between two pieces of glass. Its gives a whole different feel to the cuts. The shadows though shallow are so subtle.

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