The right to bear arts on display in New Orleans gallery

The guns that were on display in a New Orleans gallery are silent now, but they spoke with unmistakable force and clarity while they were used as the raw materials in an art exhibit exploring the enormous toll violence has taken on U.S. society.

The exhibit, “Guns in the Hands of Artists,” which recently ended a month-long run at Positive Space The Gallery, offered a number of jarring images, including a blood-spattered, headless and armless marble statue on a hospital gurney. Around its neck was a necklace of mangled handguns; twisted remains of rifles and shotguns lay at its side. Its creator, Dr. Steve Lesser, a trauma ward doctor who has treated 9,000 gunshot victims, used real blood in his artwork.

On a nearby wall, a doll hanging from a cross was held in place not with nails but with two snub-nosed revolvers. It was covered with obituaries of young shooting victims and headlines about murders that took the artist, Chris Rose, a reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, only four days to gather.

The 75 works in the exhibit were created from nearly 75 tons of firearms that were either seized or bought by New Orleans police. Artist Brian Borello obtained the guns and gave them to local sculptors, painters and photographers to incorporate into their work. The exhibit was dedicated to the memory of 4-year-old Mikey Stewart, who was killed by a stray bullet in a city housing project two years ago.

“We want to make people think about [the consequences of violence],” gallery co-owner and director Jonathan Ferrar told The New York Times.

Lesser told The Times he used marble in his work because it has “that funerary quality.” The headless and armless marble statue represents society’s flailing response to increasing violence, he said. “She has no arms. She’s helpless  helpless as we all are in the onslaught of this senseless violence.”

Another artist, Madeleine Faust, said she fashioned a recreation of a man who pointed a gun at her face in an attempted robbery to bring closure to the event, during which she said she feared for her life. “I thought maybe this would purge me,” she told The Times.


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Published in Law Enforcement News
Nov. 30, 1996.
© 1996, LEN Inc.