I like art. And I like guns. So, what happens when you put guns in the hands of artists?
Well, the result is — whether intentionally or unintentionally — political art. Art concerned with an agenda beyond the aesthetic value of the pieces themselves.
Take for instance Jonathan Ferrara’s new book, “Guns in the Hands of Artists,” which is a compilation of a gallery exhibit he began commissioning in New Orleans in 1996. The exhibit consists of 180 decommissioned firearms that have been rendered in various artistic expressions: sculptures, photographs, paintings, video and mixed media.
Ferrara’s impetus for the exhibit was to start a conversation about guns in America. Through art, Ferrara believed that his dialogue on guns would retain an emotional appeal that wouldn’t be overshadowed by facts, statistics, and rhetoric.
“We want more than the screaming match. We wanted to take the conversation out of the polarized rhetoric into the realm of art as a possible means for a productive dialogue,” Ferrara said.
“If you talk numbers or stats or you just listen to the vitriol, you lose the emotional content that should be a part of this conversation,” he continued. “Art captures the emotional best, and hopefully, it makes you think.”
According to CNN, forty percent of the artists who contributed are gun owners and forty percent are victims of gun violence. It appears Ferrara is attempting to create a balanced conversation. However, if you listen to the presentations about the exhibit and the book, it becomes clear that the artwork is a function of the anti-gun agenda.
Should one be surprised by this? No. Not at all. It is a bit sad, though. Because Ferrara indicated that part of the objective of the exhibit was to put a mirror up to society and reflect back the reality of guns in America. If that’s the case, then the mirror is broken because positive themes of gun ownership, including patriotism, civic duty, tradition, family, hunting, competitive shooting, are left unexplored.
In my humble opinion, a “productive dialogue” on a divisive issue can only begin when both sides are fairly represented. “Guns in the Hands of Artists” fails to live up to that standard. More fundamentally, it fails to acknowledge that the very tool that is the center of condemnation and scorn in this exhibit is the very tool that keeps us safe and keeps us free.
Funny, but “guns are bad and evil” — until they’re used by a young mother to protect her children from a home invader or until they’re used by police to stop a mass killer from ramming his car into students on a college campus or until they’re used by our soldiers fighting abroad to eliminate terrorists.
Guns are used every day to save lives, stop crime and eliminate threats to America. This is the other half of that mirror that needs artistic representation. Because without it, we lose sight of what preserves and protects our ability to make art in the first place.