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Banned Booty | Whar be me Loot?

You’re late for your flight, and after snaking through the security checkpoint line, you breathlessly toss your shoes, belt, pocket contents and such into a plastic bin to be scanned by the TSA. Too bad you forgot to remove your Swiss Army knife from your keychain, and there’s no time for stepping out of line to try and save the oh-so-handy gadget now. Reluctantly, you surrender it to the TSA agent and sadly bid it farewell. Ever wonder what happens to your stuff after the TSA confiscates them?

September 11, 2001 changed the way the U.S. handles national security, and the process in which passengers are screened at the airport before being permitted to board a flight. Upon seeing photos of all the prohibited objects piling up from TSA security checkpoints, Steve Maloney couldn’t help but wonder about the fate of all this banned booty, either. Auto Europe recently had the opportunity to speak with Steve Maloney about his contemporary artwork exhibit Banned Booty that emerged from a collection of contraband he was able to obtain from the TSA in 2002. Determined to get his hands on some of the security checkpoint seized items, the artist diligently followed up on more than 30 phone calls and several e-mails in communication with the State of California government. Success was finally his, Maloney explains,


“Once I was able to connect and tell them what I wanted to do…. make art, and what I was willing to pay, a $1 a pound, site unseen, I had a deal.”


He has created several two-dimensional and three-dimensional works in years since triumphantly getting hold of a multitude of mystery boxes, which were chock full of illegal carry-on items. Some of the contents you would likely expect to find, such as knives, lighters, and scissors, but there were other items Maloney discovered that were just plain bizarre. When we asked what the inspiration behind the Banned Booty works was, Maloney said,

“I have always been curious about people and their stuff. So, when I saw photos of it piling up and growing bigger, I thought there must be some interesting things in all that booty and stories about the people who owned them. Why did they bring it and where were they going? So I was challenged to find it and make art out of it.”

Booty Bowler

When you look at the piece Booty Bowler, your eyes can’t help but notice the bowling ball, and before you are able to fully question why this item was confiscated, you spy something that is sticking out of one of its three holes. Maloney explained that when he was beginning this composition, he was drawn to a box of items that held the bowling ball, of course, but he also focused in on a child’s cap gun in another nearby pile. Upon sighting the plastic toy, Maloney reflected,

“I thought perfect … Because it makes no sense whatsoever it’s just me having fun with making my art. Now here we are … you discovered it and we are discussing it which is really cool. This makes my journey as an artist worth it.”

Sheer Madness

What is the most common item to make up the contents of Maloney’s TSA collection of contraband from 2001? Scissors, scissors and more scissors. We asked if there was a final count of shiny snippers in Shear Madness, a massive mobile of multi-color, plastic-handled cutting instruments painstakingly welded together with aircraft carrier cable, Maloney laughed,

“I thought about counting the number of scissors but gave up; there are thousands.”

Some of the more unusual items Maloney discovered while rummaging through these treasures include deer antlers, a wok, fur-lined handcuffs and quite a few x-rated butane lighters. Auto Europe couldn’t help but ask if the TSA has commented on the Banned Bootyexhibits. Maloney replied that he has received positive feedback. At Maloney’s most recent installation, TSA Director Shannon Garcia-Hamilton said,

“As we move further from that fateful day [9/11], one thing we must never forget is how fortunate we are to have the freedom in our country to express our diverse view points and opinions. That is not the case in all parts of the world. Artist Steve Maloney in his art captures a moment in our history in a creative and powerful way.”

Today, passengers have a much better idea about which objects they can and can’t pack in their carry-on, and it is also now standard to find eBay auctions selling items that have been seized at TSA security checkpoints. Maloney continues to dream up new compositions with his invaluable slice of history. He says that his present projects should keep him pretty busy for the next year,

“I have a huge scissor piece out of all stainless steel scissors, which will be in an area 14 by 20 by 12 feet. It is called Cirque des Ciseaux, and I recently bought a scrap helicopter. I am beginning to work on a sculpture that will be a pop piece called Ride-em Copter.”

See the Banned Booty – Palm Springs Checkpoint exhibit at the Palm Springs Air Museum, which is on display until May 31st, 2013. The best way to visit the Banned Booty installation is with a rental car from Auto Europe. Be sure to scope out Steve Maloney’s other exhibits and videos at

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4 Responses to Banned Booty | Whar be me Loot?

  1. What an interesting use of all that stolen booty. I was also thinking with all those scissors, they should be making donations to schools. I wouldn’t be surprised if they could supply a few schools.

  2. Cindy says:

    Thank you for you comment Natalia. Yes, I’m sure scissor confiscations from airports could supply quite a few schools’ supply needs. :)

  3. Delhi Guide says:

    Sheer Madness is sheer AWESOMENESS too! Impressed by the Great art-work. :)

  4. Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful post.

    Thank you for providing this info.

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