John Ferdico

Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i
Media: Photography and mixed-media sculpture

The Protectorates are ornamental sculptures consisting mostly of original photographs transferred to the surfaces of plastic model airplanes. They adopt anachronistic functions— devotional iconography, totems, and charms against misfortune—to portray a contemporary visual mythology.

The pieces in the series begin as plastic hobby kits—toys, essentially—which are these days beguiling for their accuracy and fidelity of detail. Refining skills that I first learned as a boy, I build the kits to a finish and quality that one finds in the displays of a well-appointed aircraft or history museum.

Rather than building exact replicas of aircraft in miniature, which is the intent of the original kits, I create new marking schemes from my own photographs (and in some cases old family pictures) by scanning the images and printing them onto waterslide decal paper. This allows me to transfer the imagery onto the surface of the models, creating a seamless, painted-on illusion. The intended result is an accurate and detailed representation of an American military aircraft, but one adorned with an enigmatic camouflage scheme, or elaborate, rogue markings.

The Protectorates employ warplanes as a central symbol. As visual forms, I find the aircraft both profoundly alluring and profoundly fearsome. They are symbols addressing the scope of human achievement, from marvelous to most brutal. Alluding to stories of ascension and transformation populating much devotional heritage, I imagine the works as icons of our cultural tensions between technologies and ideologies.

Learn more about John's process and project in his three blog posts:
What I make
The persuasiveness of craft
Photographic Portraits: The Scale Modelers

Recipient of the Cynthia Eyre Award