A Powerful Message

Susanne Slavick, (Re)Setting Sights, 2002; screen prints on Stonehenge; 22” x 30” each.


J. Fatima Martins

In the exhibition catalog for “Unloaded,” artist-curator Susanne Slavick writes what we already know to be true: “The American intimacy with guns has many roots, largely stemming from the culture’s glorification and protection of individualism and personal liberties.”

“Unloaded” is a traveling exhibition that, since 2015, has already been installed in six venues, the most recent presentation at the Bolivar Art Gallery at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. After its showing at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the Maine College of Art in Portland, it travels to Atlanta and Minneapolis.

The use of weapons in art is not new. Modern and contemporary artists have been taking firearms of various kinds and using them as either raw material in their artwork or as inspiration and motif subject for centuries. Some artists use firearms as tools to create a form by “shooting” objects and using the process of destruction via guns as a method to make unique visuals.

While many artists use the gun motif because it’s “cool” and it sells, there are others who approach the subject with great seriousness. These artists depict the firearm form to openly confront the anxiety over ownership and cultural violence, as well as the strange admiration that people have with weapons as symbols of power.

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