I am a portrait artist. I have been interested in drawing faces and people ever since I could hold a pencil. Although I love making portraits, it can sometimes feel like it somehow isn't enough to capture the images of people in my world when so much of the world seems to be falling apart. So I ask myself, as an artist, how can I contribute to positive change? How can my art bring more to the table?
These thoughts can be overwhelming, when there is so much at stake in the world right now. So as a portrait artist, I asked myself, "Whose faces need to be seen?" What I landed on are the faces of gun violence...those who died at the hands of gun violence. Data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) tells us that on average, 96 people are killed each day by guns in America. 50 women are shot per month by their intimate partners, and the presence of guns in cases of domestic violence increases the women's risk of being killed by 5 times.
With these statistics, I would have thought that a google search for 'women who died by gun violence' would have led me to lots of photos of such women. Apparently, the internet is more in love with seeing women holding big guns. I guess this is a "thing". Gun culture is broad, thick, deep, and strong. It is daunting to imagine change when it comes to guns. I continue to hang onto hope though, and I hope that my "Bang! Bang!" project will shed some light on this issue in an artistic way so that it becomes accessible to people from all backgrounds.
The project will be small portraits of people who were killed by guns. The portraits will be installed in a free-form grid-like pattern, and the installation will grow over time, as more and more portraits are added. According to statistics, there are 13,000 gun homicides per year in this country. With numbers like that, I should be kept busy for a long time!
I feel quite fortunate that I don't personally know anyone who died because of guns, but with yet another school shooting recently, it is clear that this problem is very serious and a constant threat. If you are a black woman in America, the numbers are far worse.
For this project, I am inviting folks to send me photos of people who have died by gun violence. If it is someone you know, that is the most powerful. If you have a story to tell to go with the photo, even better. Also, please share this story with anyone you know who knows someone who died because of guns. I am ready to get to work on this project to create a piece that will be a visual reminder of the impact that guns are having in America. Please help me send this important message through art.