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Love and War

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All is Not Fair

Two somewhat related stained glass artworks about war, “Only Hank Survived” and “Love to France,” are the subject of this page.

As seen in the full-screen background image, the center of “Only Hank Survived,” which I created in 1986, is a large graphic square with blue abstract shapes. I copied this graphic from the cover of a book that unfortunately got lost during the many years that I spent living abroad. Approximately 30 years ago, when that book was published, it made a statement proclaiming the utter insanity of the arms race. The blue chart was intended to illustrate the multitude of times that the US stockpile of nuclear weapons could completely wipe out all of humanity. Today this data is verified by estimates of the Arms Control Association:  

The world’s nuclear-armed states possess a combined total of roughly 16,300 nuclear warheads; more than 90 percent belong to Russia and the United States. Approximately 10,000 warheads are in military service, with the rest awaiting dismantlement.”

Nine countries possess nuclear weapons and interestingly, the five of them (the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom) which signed the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968, are the same states that made the agreement with Iran to halt the country’s push toward joining this exclusive club. 

WWI French postcard

Surrounding this blue colored chart are postcard-like images (some of them photocopies of actual postcards) primarily encompassing a brief visual history of the US Air Force. As in the case of the second artwork on this page, “Love to France,” several images depict women as subjects of romantic love with soldiers, but also as sex objects connected to the horrors of war.

Painting on fuselage of B-52 bomber

Painting on fuselage of B-52 bomber

I suppose such postcards, which were likely sent home by soldiers stationed in Paris to their wives and girlfriends during WWI, might be interpreted as a romantic expression of fighting to protect both one’s nation and one’s allies in the name of love. On the other hand, this is a far cry from the sexy depictions of scantily-dressed buxom pin-up beauties painted onto the phallic fuselages of World War II bombers, which these became known as “Nose Pin-up Art.

It was not until 2007 that the British Ministry of Defense banned Pin-up Nose Art of women on Royal Air Force planes, whereas the US Air Force declared that decorations should be “gender-neutral” back in 1993.

From romance magazine published during WWII

From WWI French postcard

The link between women and war went even further on the front cover of a woman’s magazine in 1942. It displayed the image a beautiful blonde woman being discovered (presumably by her boyfriend?) tied up with a rope, with the provocative cover line: “I was a Nazi Love Captive.” What a contrast with the romantic WWI French postcards that I bought from street vendors alongside the Seine River in Paris! In one case, a woman embraces a soldier in the center of a daisy, its “petals” made of bullets. As seen above, another example is a postcard entitled, “Love to France,” presumably showing a Frenchwoman gazing adoringly into the eyes of an American soldier with, in the background, the American flag waving beside a statue of George Washington and a Parisian street sign of Avenue du Président Wilson.

Only Hank Survived

Only Hank Survived

The following are images seen in the above glass artwork, “Only Hank Survived,” which depicts the disturbing evolutionary impact of the US Airforce and of military might overall since WWI.

From the Bio of a Playboy Magazine Playmate-of-the-Month

Nuclear Age Love

These two images express my take on the contemporary depiction of war as a romantic concept. The first one is the biography of a Playboy Magazine’s monthly Pin-up model. The girl trivializes the gravity by including it in her short list of “turn-offs:” “Closed minds, War, People who don’t have anything nice to say” all carry equal weight. In this instance, I made a photocopy transparency of her biography and superimposed it over another transparency of an atomic explosion. The second image is also a combination of two transparencies, one of a couple who are body builders, the other of a US Pershing II intermediate range ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead, the kind that was deployed in Europe as a deterrent at the height of the Cold War.

Due to the two devastating major wars of the 20th century, the US Air Force grew exponentially, from fighter planes shooting bullets from rifles to bombers carrying nuclear weapons, whereas the 21st century has spawned the Frankenstein monster which President Dwight Eisenhower most feared: an omnipotent military industrial complex. This was not exactly what President John Kennedy had in mind, when, not long before he was assassinated in 1963, he gave a commencement speech at American University, saying: “The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war.” Surely, he’s rolling in his grave.

At the time that I made this artwork, the US had already been mortally tainted by the Vietnam War, which left enormous doubts about the legitimacy of its role as the world’s policeman. The US did not start the Vietnam War. However, the conflict proved to be a tragic failure causing ghastly human loss. By the time I made this artwork during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the arms race with the Soviet Union – which resulted from the dropping of two atomic bombs in 1945, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan – had veered completely out of control, which is what the blue chart of this artwork suggests. Years later, George W. Bush broke Kennedy’s promise to the world that the US would never start a war. Many of the same people responsible for the 2003 invasion of Iraq have engaged in sabotaging the historic nuclear deal with Iran. Opponents of the agreement are resorting to the same fear mongering that led to the preemptive war in Iraq, allegedly to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which has so far failed to materialize. My theory as to the motives for this strategy in the region is expressed in a 1975 piece of mine, entitled: “Vision After the Sermon – US Dependence on Overseas Oil (1960 – 90).”

The fateful story of Hank

The name of the artwork is meant to symbolize the myriad of ludicrous and destructive results of war. It remains incomprehensible what Hitler did to Europe and to what end? This one image from 1939 conveys the needless waste of human life and the sheer luck of those who survive a war. The text on this photo states: “Lt Cooper’s crew crashed into a farmhouse and wheat field in Copeland, Kan[sas] during training. All members, except the officer in the center (Hank), were killed. He was on the flight, but they landed because he was sick, and crashed a half hour later.”

One only needs to see what a single atom bomb did to Hiroshima to recognize the monster that the human race has unleashed upon itself. Below you can view the bomb, the plane (Enola Gay), an aerial view of the complete destruction of the city and finally the skin of a Hiroshima survivor – there’s nothing romantic or sexy to be seen here:

Tonnage of US and British bombs dropped during WWII

The chart above demonstrates the staggering total tonnage of bombs dropped during WWII by the US and Royal Air Force. Detailing the total number of month-by-month strategic sorties and bombs dropped from 1942 until April of 1945 – at the very peak of WWII – the US alone ran over 45,000 sorties between July of 1944 and March of 1945. In June of 1944, the US dropped well over 80,000 tons of bombs and in March of 1945 the total stood close to 105,000 tons.

One has to ask: how did Europe evolve to become so cultured and yet millions of people were killed, and entire cities across the continent were demolished? What a catastrophic waste, especially considering that the same tribes that at one time in history were mortal enemies later became friends. Could there not have been a way to bring about that transformation without resorting to determined attempts at mutual annihilation? Was there no way for societies that created incredible art and architecture over centuries – works that are revered today by people from around the world – to prevent madmen from gaining such horrifically destructive power? What kind of lesson has been learned from the breaking of John Kennedy’s promise that his country would never start a war? Arguably, that betrayal gave birth to another kind of monster, the Islamic State, which has threatened to repeat Hitler’s megalomaniacal ambitions. Further, with the advancements of military weaponry, xenophobic fear-mongering has resulted in domestic terrorism that has become the horrifying norm inside of the borders of the US.

Here are the rest of the images in “Only Hank Survived” with their descriptions below:

01. The first fighter plane of the US Air Force was the British DH-4, which came equipped with an American-made engine. It was later used by the government when mail service began in 1918 and was later used by Orville Wright for his last flight, also in 1918.

02. A squadron of fighter planes during WWI.

03. B-29 “Superfortress,” such as “Enola Gay, which dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, seen here on a mission over Japanese cities.

04. The B-17G “Flying Fortress, the state-of-the-art aircraft of WWII, was built too late for combat. This image shows the utter waste of 60,000 of these planes, which ended up grounded at Erlangen, Germany, at the war’s end. The US Army Air Force had no idea what to do with them.

05. The first tactical nuclear weapon of the US Army is seen here in its initial test in 1953.

06. “Fat Man,” which was 60 inches in diameter, 128 inches long and weighed over 10,000 pounds, was detonated over Nagasaki with 20,000 pounds of explosive power on August 9, 1945. A nearly identical bomb was detonated at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945.

07. The Pershing 1A battlefield support missile was a NATO theater-strike weapon first deployed in the late 1960s.

08. Among the tragedies of war are self-inflicted damages caused by the deployment of new materials, tools, machinery and weapons that had not been adequately tested. The USS SCBM Submarine named after John C. Calhoun was designed as a nuclear deterrent during the Cold War. It also became known as one of the numerous ships from that era that incorporated asbestos in their construction, resulting in terrible and often fatal lung diseases that can occur anywhere from 20 to 50 years later in the life of an individual exposed to the asbestos. Another example of this was the usage of the herbicide, Agent Orange, during the Vietnam War. It is estimated that approximately 2.6 million Americans were exposed to it. The long-term effects of this exposure is so insidious that it reportedly affects not only war veterans but sometimes even their children. It is only now being investigated by the US Department of Veteran Affairs.

Love to France

I compare these two artworks because the compositions are similar and in both cases I employed the usage of vintage French postcards from WWI. Beyond that, “Love to France” includes other French postcards from the same era that I purchased many years ago in Paris. However, the theme is exclusively romance and in some circumstances, as if WWI never happened. There is seemingly nothing particularly controversial about this artwork as opposed to “Only Hank Survived,” except for the subtle fact that I intended for it to serve as my ironical bittersweet love letter to France following the year I spent living in Paris in 1987. The reason for this is described elsewhere on this website:

Caught in the Crossfire

Here are the rest of the postcards that I collected and used to make this artwork. Descriptions and translations are below:

01. “Keep hope – Let’s exchange a tender kiss, that will not be the last.”

02. “I want your soul to be without fear, the sweet moments of our hugs.”

03. “Loving You Always – Your gaze is a soft flame, that burns in the depths of my soul.”

04. I always associated hula hoops with the era of the late 1950s and early ’60s when they became a fad, but here an innocent girl is seen playing with one during WWI, as if all is well, even though a war is being fought in the sky overhead.

05. “Are you English, Russian, German? You are kind. You are charming.”

06. A large dead fish bears the inscription of the words “I love you,” and in the upper left is the date, April 1. The following link explains the significance of this French April Fool’s Day postcard: “April Fools’ Day in France: Le Poisson d’Avril.”

07. “Her – Because you are so gallant, accept this bouquet that I offer. Him – I’d like them, alas, I am poor of money but I am rich in love! My heart does not belong to me; you have robbed me with one of your gazes.”

08. “Oh! Don’t deny me your love and taste this charming moment face-to-face.” 

09 through 13. A series of postcards of an artist drawing the portrait of a shy woman whom he manages to win over, thanks to the fortuitous timing of the rain.