It seems that we hear news about new murderous attacks with guns daily. In fact, one in 20 U.S. students is directly impacted by violence — either as a victim or an offender.
To grapple with the problem, Pittsburgh’s Society for Contemporary Craft developed a new exhibit, ENOUGH Violence: Artists Speak Out. Through 48 contemporary works by 14 artists from the U.S., Italy and Scotland, it explores how violence affects our lives and asks what we can do to combat it.
The artists, who work in clay, metals, fabric, photography, and found objects, focus on issues of violent crimes, gang violence, war, terrorism, and domestic abuse. Selecting crafts to explore a serious social problem is an unusual idea because most people associate these media with decorative and functional objects. The artists’ reaction to gun crimes expressed in these media provides us unusual and fresh ways to see the problem.
This exhibit contains works by two artists who work with found materials. It contains three pieces by Rhode Island metalsmith Boris Bally, who has been interested in anti-violence art since the early 1990s. In 1997 he curated a show at Carnegie Mellon University that challenged artists to create sculptures out of decommissioned handguns obtained from buyback programs.
“Loaded Menorah” is made entirely of disabled weapons. In it, nine revolver barrels rising from a tangle of weapons have mouths finished in light polished silver cups to receive the Chanukah candles.
“I am reminded of the famous picture of George Harris sticking carnations into gun barrels during a 1967 anti-war demonstration at the Pentagon,” he said.
Minnesota fiber artist Beth Barron says her work is a monument to the human spirit and a “wish for wholeness.” She created “Implosion” from Band-Aids found in parks, playgrounds and sidewalks. For her, the found Band-Aids become an enigmatic metaphor: Do they represent pain or healing?
While working she said she has time to contemplate how we heal ourselves “…after personal or social devastation, whether our healed scars protect us in some new stronger way, and how fragile or resilient we will be once we have been wounded.”
It took about a year to complete “Implosion.” Barron hand-sewed each Band-Aid to a ground cloth, stiffened on the back with matte acrylic paint “to keep the knots from being untied.” She sometimes spent 10 hours a day working, although she sometimes skipped days before getting back to it.
The exhibit also includes a physical space in The Society’s Drop-In Studio for visitors to create their own personal talisman to take with them. A public Tumblr collection allows people to tell their own stories about their experiences with violence and participate in suggestions for creating a solution.
Visit the Society for Contemporary Craft’s website for more information about the exhibit, which closes March 22, 2014.