Helmets are a recurring image in Gladwell’s art. Worn by skaters, motorcyclists, and “car surfers”, they point to human anatomy pushed to extremes. In his Afghanistan art, helmets serve as a symbol of war’s immense danger:
They have this direct connection to a soldier’s body. They’re a piece of technology that is the last stand in protecting a major organ. If everything else goes, but if you can support the brain – in the skull protected by the helmet – at least that’s something.
Through his paintings of helmets Gladwell also explores the way individual soldiers adorn their bodies and environment in conflict zones. The paintings display several personalised embroidered patches, which soldiers often make or buy to customise their body armour.