The Gun: a Trigger for Art

BY Tom LeGro  February 19, 2013 at 2:20 PM EDT



Editor’s note: Some of the images may be graphic for some viewers.

In the wake of the December 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., a series of specials from PBS NewsHour, FRONTLINE, Washington Week, NOVA, Need to Know and more will look at gun laws, mental illness and school security. The weeklong “After Newtown” programming began Monday, Feb. 18, on PBS.

Here on Art Beat, we’re contributing to the coverage by looking at some of the ways the gun has been depicted in art, from movies to paintings to photographs. We asked artist George Blakely, a professor emeritus at Florida State University, to curate and narrate an online gallery of sorts that would present some examples — some famous, some not-so-famous — of the gun as image.

It’s a topic that Blakely is very familiar with. In 1997, he curated “Bang! The Gun as Image,” an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts at Florida State. Works in that show, including by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Mapplethorpe, were displayed along with many artifacts depicting the gun — toys, jewelry, books, bumper stickers, hats — to show just how pervasive that weapon is in our culture, no matter what your perspective is on the debate over gun control.

In the catalog for the exhibition, Blakely writes: “I am presenting not my thoughts alone, but the material to provoke your thoughts. My objective is to hold a mirror to our society; we see ourselves and our issues reflected in the artists’ dialogues of ‘The Gun as Image.’ The range of artists’ political positions on the topic is wide and the implications of their imagery diverse. What you choose to do with the ideas and the images from which they are derived is another creative act: what opinions are you going to take and with whom will you discuss them?”

We think Blakely’s question holds valid for the slide show above, as well. You can share your thoughts in the comments section below.