medic helmet, non-combatant, war, army helmet

Soft Power, a new series of paintings as part of an ongoing project documenting the visual and auditory residues of armed conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.

The domed helmet donned by generations of soldiers and military personnel in the West, which has changed very little in its fundamental structure since World War I, carries multiple associations beyond its protective function. It is a memorial object (helmets belonging to dead soldiers are often placed atop their rifles near their graves in the field), it is an integral part of adaptive camouflage, and it is a method of identification (by both friend and foe). The helmet is also worn by those who do not actively take part in armed combat, such as UN and International Red Cross personnel. By positing the helmet as the primary subject in a body of creative works, the helmet is transformed into something else: it becomes a lonely element, with its intended function slowly losing its potency in an era of roadside, suicide, and remotely-detonated bombings where traditional armor has given way to full-bodied anti-incendiary suits and unmanned artillery units.

Pierce highlights the irony of the military helmet and its ever-increasing status as nothing more than a costume piece for the modern soldier. Armor-piercing bullets, IEDs, and chemical weaponry all contribute to the soldier’s body becoming more fragile than ever, as heavy armor and protective gear (like the helmet) travel towards memory. Pierce’s stark imagery of various domed helmets, shimmering with white glitter, invite extended discussion on the function and symbology of traditional military armor and its shifting role in modern armed conflict.