Kate McQuillen

Painting and Installation

The Eagle Has Landed: Attack

Excerpt: Attack sequence from artist book The Eagle Has Landed. Click here for a project description and statement.

Digital photographs of handmade paper and models, printed on Hahnemuhle photo rag paper. 9″x 14″. 2010.

Salute

Salute: An excerpt from "The Eagle Has Landed"

The Eagle Has Landed is a revised story of the moon landing, told through images composed entirely of paper models. In June of 2010, I was awarded a residency at the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts. My proposal stated that I would use their bookmaking facilities to first make handmade paper, dappled and cratered to look like the surface of the moon, and then, place miniature objects on this lunar landscape to create photographed scenarios. These still images would combine to tell an alternate history to the moon landing story we know: a subversive view of the intentions of NASA and the U.S. government during the Cold War.

In the first week of the residency, I produced raised-relief sheets of handmade paper molded to look like the moon’s surface, and flat sheets of paper pigmented to portray distant views of the full moon. In the second week, I began photographing the objects. I had a few scenarios in mind, all of which were impossibilities, using technologies we know cannot function on the moon. The first photos I shot were of astronauts using semi-automatic rifles. From this point onward, the story began to develop, and eventually became a Space Western. In the story, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin go from being carefree, rambunctious astronauts playing King of the Mountain on moon rocks, to being embroiled in a space shoot-out once they realize that the Russians have secretly beat the Americans to the Moon.

Mundane materials such as paper pulp and tin foil, combined with rice-paper-clothed Mattel spacemen toys, are used as a subtext to question the practicality and usefulness of our nation’s military aeronautics history. As the U.S. Space Program nears its end, shifting to international group efforts and privatization, this work looks back at the nationalistic and military origins of the program. Early 1960’s fears of the moon being used as a military base and the ultimate strategic position are invoked throughout the story through the planting of flags, the use of semi-automatic rifles, and military funerals.

The work also alludes to conspiracy theories about the moon landing. It is, after all, a model an assistant and I created in the span of two weeks, on a shoestring budget, with one nice camera and a good spotlight. The work does not attempt to be a perfect model replica of the moon; I found this project to be more interesting when it depicted something closer to what we imagine the moon to look like. The viewer is given just enough information that they immediately grasp what they are looking at; Upon a slightly closer look, though, they can see such details as the frayed paper fibers in the astronaut’s spacesuits, illuminated by the spotlight, and the familiar crinkle of crumpled tin foil in the landing gear of the Eagle. There is a sense of the absurd in the execution of the work, in the suggestion that something so commanding in its function could be represented in such a meager form. The work alludes to our obsession with machines as something that is ingrained in us at a very young age. Toy rockets, and the dreams we may have had for technology and space travel as children, are invoked.

This project was produced with the support of Columbia College, the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts, and the Illinois Arts Council. The artist would like to thank Brad Freeman, April Sheridan, Steve Woodall, Clif Meador, and Mel Potter for their assistance and encouragement, and Maggie Puckett for her technical advice and assistance.
Special thanks go to Kaitlin Kostus for her technical expertise, artistic guidance, and camaraderie throughout the project.