ArtRage’s Deadlocked and Loaded exhibit takes aim at gun violence

ArtRage tackles gun violence in America

The social justice gallery addresses systemic issues in hard-hitting new exhibition.
Published: February 26, 2021
Ahmaud Arbery 25 and Unarmed and Trayvon Martin 17 and Unarmed by Gigi Salij
"25 and Unarmed" (Ahmaud Arbery) (left) and "17 and Unarmed" (Trayvon Martin) (right) by Gigi Salij features Arbery and Martin's heads atop a target practice sheet. The portrait represents the crimes that claimed their lives.

Every American has seen the implications of gun culture in our country, from pro-Second Amendment Americans who proudly tote their weapons, to the innocent lives put in harm’s way because of the inevitable pain that follows a bullet leaving the chamber of a gun, often leaving a tragic mark on the lives of those affected. ArtRage’s exhibition, Deadlocked and Loaded: Disarming America, aims to confront these issues head on.

Curator Karen M. Gutfreund, whose work deals with feminist perspectives focusing on underrepresented populations, created a multimedia exhibit showcasing the ways in which gun violence has created irreversible damage in different communities. Since coming from a feminist background, Gutfreund is no stranger to activism. Her previous involvement includes being the Northern California Representative for The Feminist Art Project as well as a curator for UniteWomen.org.

A particularly moving example was artist Michele Pred’s Security Storm, featuring an umbrella with bullets raining down from it. According to Pred’s artist statement, this piece asks us to consider what it means “to be protected” as well as “providing that protection.” This theme seems to be the epitome of gun violence in America — targeting the very people it’s supposed to protect. It’s a reminder of the divisiveness in America when it comes to those for and against gun rights. There’s a fine line between the purpose of the Second Amendment – to protect citizens – and the gun culture perpetuated by a large portion of the country.

Security Storm by Michele Pred
Michele Pred’s "Security Storm" poses the question: what does it mean to be protected in the United States?

Another heartbreaking depiction of the rampant gun violence plaguing our country is a piece by artist Ann J. Lewis, titled This is Who We Are (#2) – an installation that hangs porcelain baby shoes that have been shattered, representing the number of children that will be killed by guns in a week.

In recent years, gun violence protests have been closely tied to the Black Lives Matter movement as protestors demand reform in response to unfair killings of innocent Black men, women and children, often by police, and this exhibition does not hold back in showcasing the brutality people of color face on a daily basis.

Two of the most publicized killings of unarmed Black men in America, Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery, are included in  25 and Unarmed (Ahmaud Arbery) and 17 and Unarmed (Trayvon Martin), a piece by artist Gigi Salij, who has the headshots of both men placed on top of a gun target practice sheet as well as documents detailing both of their cases. In her artist statement, Salij said these portraits do not represent the men, but instead the “crimes that claimed them.”

 

This is Who We Are (#2) by Ann J. Lewis
Ann J. Lewis, titled "This is Who We Are (#2)" visually represents the number of children who die from gun violence each week in the United States.

America is a country constantly at war with itself — from the systemic racism in nearly every facet of life, to the rise of gun advocacy closely tied to white nationalist groups. The Deadlocked and Loaded exhibition investigates how Americans can’t escape the violence following them around every corner. Marginalized groups have a target on their backs, and the work showcased by Gutfreund makes it clear that this country must change if gun violence is to be eliminated. 

Deadlocked and Loaded: Disarming America will be on view both in-person and online until April 18. ArtRage has presented this exhibition in collaboration with Point of Contact as well as the Community Folk Art Center, and the works in this exhibition span across all three institutions. 

Avatar for Natasha Breu

is a contributor to The NewsHouse and graduate student in the Arts Journalism and Communications program.