Thursday, May 12, 2016
Ron Cole's Warbird Relic Displays: Origins and FAQ
The simple question has always been: how to breath old history into new artwork. The aviation art genre' is about history and its preservation within the paintings that we, as the artists, create. But no matter how beautiful and accurate our works - they are still new paint, new inks, new papers and new frames, ultimately hung upon new walls by people who seek to connect with the past. By themselves that can only go so far.
Since not long after World War II, a new hobby arose among people with an interest in the history of that conflict and who lived in the areas most afflicted by it. In Europe it became popular to search for wartime aircraft crash sites. Armed with metal detectors, loss reports, and sometimes eye-witness accounts, these new archaeologists set out into areas that were sometimes as accessible as their own backyards, or as remote as the middle of Ukraine swampland. And they came home, usually, with buckets of metal. Real history. In many cases it was then a matter of detective work; finding serial numbers, connecting the aircraft with its crew, its unit, the day and circumstances of its loss - usually in combat. Amazing pictures of these historical moments were formulated in that way, but the buckets of metal typically sat in sheds, unable to really speak for themselves.
Who has heard the cliche', If these things could only talk? Another cliche' comes to mind, Show don't tell. My artwork showed a story. The pieces of metal represented real and amazing history that people could physically touch. By bringing all of these elements together with my artwork I felt that I could create things that were very special, unique, and make them available to virtually anyone. I wouldn't price them too high (Some for as low as $50). I'd use modern and user-friendly online store environments to sell them: https://coles-aircraft.myshopify.com.
I released my first 'relic displays' in 2008. Since then I've offered more than 60 different displays that collectively chronicle all theaters and most aircraft types. More recently I've moved into more modern subjects as well, such as my F-104 Starfighter displays. There will be many more new editions to come.
Of course, there are some frequently ask questions that I've become accustomed to addressing:
Authenticity: Unlike pilot autographs and similar adornments, these pieces of metal are actually very hard to 'fake' or misrepresent. People build huge egos upon their knowledge of what these wartime aircraft were painted - and almost all of my relic pieces retain some of their original wartime paint and possess all of the expected age-related elements and damage. Perhaps more important, everything I acquire comes from well known and vetted sources: known aviation archaeologists, museum collections or restoration shops. If I can't be confident, I won't put my good name to it. One error means more than a thousand successes. I know that, and guarantee everything I offer.
War graves: Understandably touchy and important. In all but a couple of cases, all of the combat loss aircraft that I offer displays for were lost under circumstances where the crew survived. One of those exceptions is my Lt. Bill Lacey P-51B display. In that case, the parts originated with the well known archaeologist Christiaan Vanhee. Bill was killed in the crash of his aircraft over Normandy, though removed from the site at the time in 1944. Before I offered parts of his P-51 in my displays I met with his surviving sister, presented her with a large piece of his aircraft, my painting of it, and obtained her blessing to memorialize her brother's memory through my work. I have found such sentiment to be universal among the veterans that I've come to know and their relatives. As a result I'm absolutely confident that I'm doing their memories a great service by offering parts of their valor to new generations to be preserved indefinitely in their homes.
I'm always in search of new ideas, subject requests, and of course parts of amazing aerial machines. I invite everyone to contact me and to visit my Blog and website: