Under The Gun at NEON District’s Work | Release is an evocative exhibition bringing light to the effects of local gun violence through the work of contemporary artists. This is understandably a controversial and emotional topic, but the exhibit serves as a forum to discuss the matter and make the subject personal by bringing it up close in a dialogue begun by artistic demonstration. Under the Gun is designed to rethink the subject with different views, to look at the person behind the gun and ultimately to find a means to end gun violence, starting locally.
Illuminated by glowing neon lights, the exhibit is shaded by several perspectives. A wall of darkened photography by Jeff Hewitt, The Consequence of Sisyphus, stands with images of those indirectly affected by self-inflicted gun violence. Family members give their stories and memories of lost loved ones, bringing into examination the mental health of those who have perished by their own hands with the machine. Adjacently, another photographic display in light contrast is Nancy Floyd’s She’s Got a Gun, a study and collection of gun owners’ stories and their relationship with their guns.
Martínez, Bullet Rug (Map#4 cal.40, US)
A glass-blown replica of a World War I machine gun made of water pipes by Robert Mickelsen repurposes the weapon and contemplates its design for a peaceful use. Shards of scrap metal and awash driftwood found on the beach in Ocean View were compiled by Sam Hundley to make a 9-foot figure holding a handgun. On a nearby placard, the question is asked of the artist who carries a gun, is he good or bad? It’s not so easy to tell if your mind is already made up.
Flipping through the viewer handbook, there’s a 33-part diagram of a Glock with the names of its corresponding parts. There’s even a gaming word find in the program to better familiarize with the terminology in the world of guns. To view more statistics, a TV monitor maps out the locations by neighborhood and street names of 48 Norfolk homicides in 2016. Some of these killings happened right down the street.
Noah Scalin, Pulse
There is hope. Sponsors of the event come from members of the faith community, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Grace Episcopal Church and Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Beyond the exhibition, resources such as a brunch with police officers, activists and faith leaders, a women’s empowerment workshop, suicide prevention workshop and forum for mental healthcare are available to attend in Norfolk. The artists and community have gathered for the vision at Work | Release, and the momentum is there for the cause to make the gun violence stop.
Under the Gun will be on view at Work | Release Thursdays-Saturdays through February 4.