“Justice Get Your Gun” • oil • 40hx30w
This painting is at Gallery Route One at Point Reyes Station, CA from January 9 to February 1, 2015 in an art exhibit called, “Reaction.” I will discuss some of the images in the painting in this post. The painting documents the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and its effect on gun legislation.
I use the figure and symbolism to create a narrative. First, I looked at references to “Justice” personified. Noticing she held a sword as well as the scales, I modernized her to owning a gun instead.
Justice is based on historical figure Annie Oakley. In the 1800’s Anne Oakley supported her family by becoming an expert hunter and later became famous performing as a sharp shooter. The name of the piece is based on a musical about her called, “Annie Get Your Gun.” The imagery of the teacher-like gun toting Justice occurred to me when an NRA spokesman suggested teachers should be armed.
“Talk, Talk, It’s Only Talk” (from the song “Elephant Talk”, by King Crimson)
Another reference is a song called, “Elephant Talk” by King Crimson. I always think of it when legislation is being introduced. The song lists words about talking, in alphabetical order. I considered a list of words about guns and the making of laws. They became the words of a spelling test on the white board behind the figure.
At the time of this post the word “control” is changing to “safety” with legislation for background checks for gun buyers being more the focus than restricting the actual guns. (See New York Times article “Fight on Guns Is Being Taken to State Ballots”, by Jennifer Steinhauer, January 2, 2015.)
Her hand covers the word “cost.” Consider the multiple uses for this word in regards to legislation, lives and freedom.
Justice wears a blouse with blue flowers. They are forget-me-nots, in honor of the 26 people killed at the school. Her belt buckle refers to the Second Amendment. It is at the visual center of the artwork and the center of argument in the gun control debate.
The dog wears a tag with his name, “Tommy Gun M1921.” This is a reference to the Saint Valentine’s Massacre in 1929. Automatic weapons have been on American streets for almost 100 years. I thought of the dog as a symbol for guns. There is a lot to consider with the symbolism of dogs in paintings as they have been used over the centuries. I will let you ponder that one and how it relates to this work and your personal views on gun laws.
The teacher’s desk has a history book with a black cover. The name Sandy Hook is carved into the desk underneath its shadow. The use of red and black is my expression of the violence and sadness of what happened.
As an artist, I felt compelled to react to and record this horrible event in our current history in the hopes that it would not be forgotten and some action would be taken to save lives.