Victory-Girl –Creating Wearable, Flyable Art
Talismans of good luck, group identity, or signs of homesickness, these are just a few of the reasons pilots and their crews have adorned their aircraft with highly personal images called ‘nose art’ since the first aircraft took to the skies over a century ago. ‘Nose art’ (so called because the images were normally painted on the ‘nose’ of the aircraft) were painted on the fuselages of bombers, fighters, hacks and reconnaissance aircraft, on flight jackets and in mess halls, of military units in very combat situation to present day.
Victory-Girl, an aviation art services company in Upland, California, specializes in re-creating historical nose art for vintage warbirds, as well as more modern military and general aviation aircraft.
“Wartime aircraft nose art was and still is huge morale booster for our soldiers in combat zones and here at home” notes Jerri Bergen, owner and principal artist for Victory-Girl. “What we enjoy most is understanding the history behind the nose art, how an aircraft can come to be called ‘the Racy Tomato’, ‘Homesick Angel’ or ‘She Couldn’t Wait’.”
Victory- Girl has done hundreds of nose art pieces (see their galleries at www.victory-girl.com) for military and general aviation and can relate stories about each piece. “We created one piece of nose art for a military unit that wanted a pinup girl holding a pistol on a mail bag, for their heavy-duty helicopter. When we asked ‘what’s with the mail bag?’ they responded that although their combat cargo missions were varied and numerous, such as carting water to stranded troops, fuel to vehicles, and humanitarian supplies to local villages cut off from roads, their most important mission was getting the mail to the troops on the front line.”
As a service to the military, Victory- Girl creates nose art designs at no charge for active military units, charging only printing and shipping fees to units overseas. “It’s one way we can give back to those folks who are helping to protect the freedoms I take for granted every day” Jerri admits.
Nose art isn’t just for vehicles, however. Victory- Girl has also completed hundreds of nose art designs painted on leather jackets, once a common practice among pilots in WWII, and more recently among pilots of private aircraft. “What we really get a kick out of is creating a piece of artwork on a jacket that becomes an instant conversation piece the moment the wearer walks into a room”.
Characters, planes, portraits and pinups comprise the majority of subject matter for flight jacket artwork, but truly anything goes. “We’ve painted historical WWII pieces that have included German swastikas or other historically sensitive imagery. We caution our clients to be prepared for comments, both positive and negative, that these might draw. One client brought his jacket we painted with Nazi aircraft ‘kill markings’ (the ‘scorecard’ painted on the aircraft to note how many Nazi aircraft had been shot down) back to us, asking us to change it to another, less charged graphic. He was tired of explaining to distrustful onlookers that having Nazi kill markings on his jacket did not make him a Nazi sympathizer.”
Handpainting detailed imagry on leather takes some doing, however. “We can spend several days on a single jacket” Terri notes (Jerri’s twin sister, partner of Victory-Girl). “The process requires careful preparation of the leather, painting with specialty leather paints, and then a sealant process to ensure the paint doesn’t peel or slough off.” Painting on aircraft uses a more traditional enamel based painting process.
What do Terri and Jerri enjoy the most? “For sure its’ the memories we help to keep alive through this artwork” affirms Jerri and Terri, in unison. “ It is gratifying to know that you’ve helped build a tribute to a brave pilot, a loving husband and grandfather, who, although passed on, will always be remembered every time his grandson puts on his flight jacket with his portrait on the back.”
Examples of completed works are viewable at www.victory-girl.com or call Terri or Jerri at 909-297-6688.