Ride Em Helicopter Steve Maloney


Take Me Home Huey isn’t the first time Steve has used a helicopter as a canvas. “Ride-em-Copter,” a very different project, also began at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

While hunting for pieces he could turn into art, Steve stumbled upon the carcass of an old Bell Jet Ranger Helicopter being sold for scrap. His eyes were quickly drawn to a gap where the engine had been – a space now occupied by the mountains in the distance. He imagined his father’s saddle astride the chopper, and from there, the whole concept was born: he would transform the helicopter from a utilitarian training vehicle into a flashy symbol of the modern American West.

Drawing on famously glitzy cowboys (such as Jon Voight’s character in Midnight Cowboy and the subject of the Glen Campbell song) he began to map out his plans for the project. First up, cowhide. Instead of the real deal, Steve had the idea of using wraps like the kind used to adhere advertisements to buses and planes. The difficulty came in finding a high enough resolution image. In the end, he had to purchase some actual hides just to photograph and create the digital files.

Next up, gemstones. No rhinestone cowboy would be complete without a blinged-out jacket, and Steve’s chopper was no exception. When his assistants asked if they’d glued on enough, he kept shaking his head and repeating, “More! MORE!” It took a while, but eventually the chopper sparkled head to toe with the light from a thousand glittering gems and a dozen or so Indian motorcycle lights attached to the tail and the stabilizers.

One of the biggest highlights of the piece is a longhorn skull looking out from the front. Steve purchased one off the internet, but then thought something was missing. He took the skull to a local dentist and plopped it down on the receptionist’s desk. “Can you give this thing a gold tooth?” he asked. The response, “Do you have dental insurance?”

With such a spectacular exterior, Steve knew the inside had to be equally impressive. He started with a crystal chandelier, then added cowhide seat covers, green shag carpet, and a bejeweled control stick. Inspired by the metal sheeting of slipstream trailers, he chrome-plated the back and added a swanky bar. LED lights illuminate the variety of surfaces. Everything came together to create a flashy testament to western style.

Asked if he was sad to give up the family saddle, Steve just smiled. He knew his father would be pleased it had been given a happy life in such a fun work of art. Let us know what you think about Ride-em-Copter. What would you do with a helicopter as your canvas?