Using a Gun in Whole or In Parts - The Meaning of Materials
August 26, 2016
In the previous post Boris Bally made a comment that is worth further consideration:
"I am surprised how many metalsmiths have chosen to keep the gun as a whole, rather than to manipulate or reconfigure the gun’s materials. Certainly a big part of this was the barrier of working with a frighteningly ‘loaded’ (metaphorically) and often unfamiliar object."
I am thinking about Boris's statement. I see both sides now.
When my gun arrived in the mail for this exhibition Imagine Peace Now I had never touched a gun before. I was definitely planning on taking it apart or cutting it apart. Both were easy options using my metalsmithing skills....but then taking the gun out of the box, even a small gun seemed threatening. I thought, maybe the gun was scarier, more frightening, more lethal, if it was whole.
By putting the gun on the handle of my check writing machine, it meant that the viewer had to metaphorically grab the handle of the gun every time they were calculating or "Checking the Cost of Gun Violence."
But does using the entire gun in every artwork look or feel equally scary.
In the image right these guns by Sharron Massey are decorated with enamel or paint. They say: "new normal," a powerful message, but do the guns look scary and threatening?
Do you think you might have to grab these guns? or use them? Is this your "new normal?"
In the artwork shown (left and below) by Stacey Lee Webber the guns are cut lengthwise. The colors of the different gun metals are very interesting. The frame echos similar metallic colors. The photograph with grey sludge concrete on the wall seems far more poignant. I see the frame on the wall as a memorial to the victims of gun violence on the street. A memorial of death.
Despite the fact that the guns are cut in half, they still hold a powerful resonance.
So a whole gun really isn't the point. Half a gun can send a powerful message.
Here are two more examples in this discussion about guns whole or in parts and the meaning of materials.
A necklace by LeeAnn Herreid is made from one gun trigger with additional gun parts that were molded and cast to create duplicate parts. The necklace uses gun parts in an attractive decorative way. The photograph is neat and consistent with quality photographic standards but leaves me a little empty. It doesn't grab me with the threatening issues surrounding gun violence. Does the "pretty" perfection get in the way?
Contrast this to a necklace by Boris Bally made with gun triggers. (right) While very similar as a comparison it seems more "steely," harsh threatening.
Boris often photographed work in this Brave series on "gansta" guys. The message was clear. Jewelry from the street made from actual gun triggers. The parts of the guns, the triggers themselves still carried powerful meaning.
In summary, my first assumption that the whole gun was scarier isn't really true. Parts of a gun, a slice or a trigger can still carry a powerful message.
Creativity really is an art more than a science. One principle can not apply to all situations, and nuance can make all the difference between good and great interpretations.
View the Kickstarter campaign for an exhibition catalog by Boris Bally. At the time of this post, 37% of the needed funds had been raised by 135 generous backers. Thank you to those who donated in the final 9 days, raising over $50,000 for this important project to be immortalized in print.
Stay tuned for updates about the upcoming exhibition locations for Imagine Peace Now. If you run a gallery or exhibition space, perhaps you might want to contact Boris Bally about the traveling show schedule.
This post was updated on December 13th, 2021.