s
It all started with a fascination with speed in my art. Speed in every sense of the word: seemingly effortless motion, the blurring power of velocity, and the quiet gratification I get from a perfectly executed activity. I like swiftness and I like for things to move along.

American travel changed radically after September 11, 2001. The Banned Booty series captures a small aspect of this change. What used to be routine -- checking into a flight and passing through the final security check point with no concern for the nail files or scissors stuffed in your bag -- was transformed into a drawn-out endeavor. We all learned to surrender to the new ways, to get used to Transportation Security Administration officers rummaging through our suitcases and carry-ons, and to the shrill beep when metal ticks off the magnetometers and unnerving calls for "female/male assists." Shoes came off. Barefooted travelers became a normalcy. Steel knives on in-flight dinner trays were replaced with plastic. And toothpicks were classified as dangerous.

The relentless search for pointy objects at American airports fascinated me. Curious to find out what sort of items were the latest taboo, I started to shop for TSA-confiscated goods. Three-dozen phone calls and countless e-mails later, I found a government agency willing to sell original contraband by the pound. I was told I was buying a mixed bag from eight California airports. The contents of the first shipment, which arrived at my studio within a few days, went into my first 12 Banned Booty works.

The first pieces in the collection incorporate run-of-the-mill booty, such as scissors, Swiss Army knives and nail files. The more unusual paraphernalia made me wonder, "What were they thinking when they declared these items weapons?" A toy shot gun? A cheese knife and spreader? A Chinese frying pan? Deer antlers? Are they kidding ... ?

With no information available on the passengers who tried to travel with the confiscated goods, I began creating personalities with my art. What did these carry-on items say about the owners? Armed with 21st-century passenger booty, I shaped artistic interpretations of our time. Two-dozen professional hairdressers' scissors compose A Cut Above. Needle-nosed pliers and a physician's reflex hammer must have belonged to Seasoned Travelers. And Houdini Booty Lock Up, my take on a contemporary time capsule, cuts across every demographic line. Enclosed within the work's bulletproof Plexiglas cube is a common blender blade, barbells, a butane torch and corn-on-the-cob skewers, all wrapped with 60-feet of hand-painted chain. Together, they reflect the way we have magnified the meaning of common items. It is serious. It is lighthearted. And it is the way we live now.

The master act of Houdini was called The Metamorphosis. Looking at Houdini Booty Lock Up, or any of the works in Banned Booty, how can one not crack a smile and wonder: How did we get here, and just how much have we changed?

As you armchair-travel through these pages of banned booty turned contemporary artwork, I hope you will enjoy the "people-watching journey" and form your own thoughts about just whom these fellow travelers were and where they might have been going. Look closely; you might discover something of your own.


Steve Maloney
Rancho Santa Fe, California