Toy Soldiers

Hi there! Now that I’m thoroughly back in the game, I bring you some new explorations, the first of which is a side project inspired by these little guys. 


I found the two tin figures, a parachuter and a boy scout, in an antique store in Ohio. The plastic parachute figure was sitting behind a planter in my backyard, left there by the two boys who lived here before us.

This isn’t the first time I’ve found such figures inspiring. Two years ago, I painted this piece:

Heather Kerley
Little Green Parachute Man, 2011, Acrylic on Canvas, 14 x 32 in.

However, these new pieces are not about light and detail. Instead, I was playing more with meaning and message. The result are these sketchbook pages:

Boyscout Parachutersketch

Somehow, including the phrases “It’s up to you” and “Make it count” seemed fitting, in considering the pressure someone is under going into battle, either figuratively or literally.

And that really got me thinking about symbolism. I have always been interested in gender identity, so much so that I focused on gender in my graduate program. Specifically, I dwelled on issues of “hypermasculinity” in depictions of the Lebanese civil war. I won’t bore you with the details of my thesis topic, but I suppose that’s why I couldn’t help but think about symbols of masculinity and war looking at these little guys, benign though they do appear. I see the boy scout figure, saluting in his crisp uniform as something of a proto- toy soldier.

So here we are, as my government ponders a military operation against Syria (*teeth grinding*), I am left wondering about a lot of things – expectations, identities, uniforms, and organizational culture. And I’m thinking about the humanity underneath it all. 

I was thinking about all this when I painted this piece, based on an old photograph of my husband when he was in the Army. He was getting promoted and having his rank “punched on.” I did this little painting just for me, mostly because I wish so much I could have known him then.

He looks like such a kid….but also very proud and also like a man.

Promotion, 2013, Gouache on Paper, 24 x 17 cm.
Promotion, 2013, Gouache on Paper, 24 x 17 cm.




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