By Rosie Alger
Elm Staff Writer
The Kohl Gallery is featuring another intense and provocative show that raises questions about timely issues in our nation. “Gun Show,” a sculpture exhibit by artist David Hess, explores a depth of emotions around the prevalence of guns in the US and the all too recurring episodes of widespread gun violence.
Invited by Kohl Gallery Director Alex Castro, Hess’ show will comprise of 60 of the 100 assault rifles that Hess himself has crafted from various items. Materials range from household to industrial.
“I’ve been working on this project for closer to 2 years,” Hess said. “I started building these assault rifles in my studio as kind of a response to these school shootings, but it set me into a whole other layer that encompasses all gun violence in America and killings from guns.” Regarding how he found out about Hess’ work, Castro said, “I have followed David’s work for years in Baltimore. He did the central staircase and the bird’s nest at the American Visionary Art Musuem, a building I designed.
The show will be one of the most unique of Hess’ work. “I hope people come away with a sense of a call to action, maybe even outrage,” he said. “We sort of take for granted that this epidemic is okay. Maybe there is something to be done about it, but people need to be more vocal. Things like guns in the hands of the mentally ill and domestic violence involving guns – all of that is not really talked about all that much. It’s part of the culture of violence that we live in. That’s something that’s not okay with me.”
Hess also sees the issue of gun violence as racially charged and thinks that white men especially have been too one-sided in voicing their opinions about gun regulation.
“After the Sandy Hook shootings, the head of the NRA came out saying, ‘the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, so we need more guns in schools,’ and so I wanted to question that,” he said. “I think that as a white person, looking in on a city and many places where lots of young African American people are killed every year by guns, I’m ashamed about the fact that I never really got more invested or conceptualized this problem on a deeper level.”
Hess points out that the NRA, our nation’s biggest proponent of gun rights and easy regulations, consists of primarily white men, who may be at a greater distance from this violence. “We think of things like voting and the Bill of Rights and things that are equal, that we all get privileges, but in this situation, it’s really not equal. Race and culture are a big part of it,” said Hess.
He did however, comment that the whole show is not solely about race. It is meant as a questioning of the current status on gun violence. “I want to ask: what do we think about this as humans and Americans?” he said.
Castro also hopes the public gets a lot out of the show. “I hope people will take away a sense that art can be issue-based and that, in this case, the issue affects us all.”
Along with the show, there will be a discussion panel that anyone at Washington College and the community are encouraged to attend. The panel will feature Josh Horwitz, who runs the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, along with Firmin DeBrabander, a professor at Maryland Institute College of Art and author of “Do Guns…”
“Gun Show” is opening Thursday Feb. 5 in the Kohl Gallery in Gibson. If you can’t make it to the reception that day, the show will continue through March 6, and the gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m. Students, faculty, and community members are strongly encouraged to stop in and get up close and personal with these questions that are causing America to think.