Getting Political?

Exhibition: Guns Loaded Conversations

  • Today we find ourselves living in a society in which gun violence feels commonplace. Yet an enormous divide exists between people who cherish their heritage of gun ownership and others who are concerned about the rising tide of gun violence. Artists have been a catalyst for difficult societal conversations throughout history. Guns: Loaded Conversations seeks to engage viewers of differing opinions to listen to each other and to encourage community initiatives that may inspire action in seeking solutions.

 I made a small quilt called "Everyday" that was juried to a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) global exhibition called “Guns: Loaded Conversations”. The quilt was a picture of my dad and his brother taken around 1913. The two little boys are dressed up as rough riders. Each is standing at attention with toy rifles. Behind the figures is script on a yellow pad with the words every day repeated. The bold text is from the Brady Center which studies gun violence listing statistical average number of children affected by gun violence every day.

When I posted the quilt to my social media feeds after the mass shooting in Boulder,  I thought it was an effective way to share how art can help provide understanding and be a catalyst for thoughtful dialog.  I started my post with the words “My heart goes out to Boulder” and then explained my connection to the city. I had met my husband in Boulder.  I went to college in Boulder and I still have many friends in the Boulder area. Although the quilt was made in 2017, the theme addressed what was topical.

I also had a connection to the shooter although I did not know him or his family. He lived and attended school in the community where I raised my children which is  30 minutes east of Boulder. He was a student in the district where I spent my career as an art teacher. This was the district that experienced the tragic shooting at Columbine high school in 1999. That was the year this young man was born. 

I used the memory of Columbine when I made “Everyday”. My purpose was to make a thoughtful contribution to a visual conversation about gun violence in America that was the theme of the exhibition. I was addressing an issue which some people may over look by pointing out that mass shootings are only one aspect of gun violence. Each day gun violence affecting children is tragic and more deadly than the mass shootings getting so much attention. 

Few of my art quilts that are political in nature.  Each of these quilts was made as a response to a call for entry where I felt a personal connection . When this quilt was exhibited I didn’t receive specific feedback from anyone who saw my quilt so I did not anticipate my  little post would receive a great deal of feedback. I was wrong.

  • There was a larger number of comments. Some were shocking to me. 

Many comments were about a desire to gun control violence through legislation. Other people were focused on mental health. There was a great deal of back and forth on my page and on social media  groups where I shared this post. Not everyone was respectful. There were individuals who wrote long comments that seemed to me, way over the top leading to that all too familiar online argument. 

One group's administrator took my post down and posted a rebuke of political art. Clearly political commentary in any form was not welcome. Latter the post was reinstated when members complained. The administrator was very nice and we exchanged a few messages.   Many people across my social media feed reached out directly to me in support. A few fellow art quilters shared the image.

Throughout the day I attempted to model respectful interaction hoping to add a calming voice. It was a big hoopla. 

In the end, I think that if you look at a piece of art and you feel uncomfortable,

the best response is to ask a question.

“What was the artist's intention?”

“What idea was the artist trying to convey?”

In my case, I was trying to convey the sadness I feel and others feel when a life is lost due to gun violence. 

Until next month. Take care of yourself.