After the single-shooter massacre in Orlando, a New York City-based artist started a painting project. Organized in a private Facebook group, this artist assigned Senators who have a track record of voting ‘no’ on reasonable gun regulation in America to willing artist-participants. These 54 Senators have helped prevent even the most mundane collection of data to understand how American citizens use guns. It’s a move that drives the American Medical Association bananas; medical personnel see guns’ bloody consequences in ER’s every day.
The organizer’s provided theme: blood on their hands. I signed up for Senator Howard “Ron” Johnson (R-Wi). I’m a Wisconsin resident. Ron has received an A rating from the NRA and 1.3 million bucks from gun rights groups in his single term as a Senator.
I come from a family of people who work in health care, including doctors. I’ve heard what bullets do to the body. I spent about a year working in a hospital in Pittsburgh, I loosely understand what a gunshot victim means to an ER’s workload, how it reshapes the staff’s ability to treat any other person in the ER that moment.
Its bizarre to me, the silence around the consequences of using guns. But / and then – in our daily news, we see and hear anectdotes and incidents which pile up into uncountable extremes very quickly. How many mass shootings? How many people injured?
One phenomenon of the Internet is our new capability to cut through that silence. Two survivors of the Orlando shooting ~ Patience Carter and Angel Santiago ~ discuss their survival process in a media essay produced by the New York Times. I think the immediacy of personal survival narratives fuels calls for reasoned approach to regulating guns in America.
See all the portraits at Senator Portrait Project : Senators Who Have Enabled Gun Violence
New York Daily News ran many of the images in a piece on July 5 2016.
At the same time as the Daily News piece came out, our organizer was approached by a lobbying group, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV). NYAGV asked about portraiture of New York reps to the House in Congress. Our organizer asked for volunteers; Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) was included in the call. As a Wisconsin resident, how could I not?
I get Speaker Ryan’s lifestyle, the whole hunting-fishing thing. I grew up here. I only mildly resented those who got out of school for a week for hunting season because that week was easy peasy schoolwork and no tests. The call for discussion is simply that. A call for discussion. Who am I to attempt to control the outcome? Enforced silence gets us nowhere. That’s what each of these politicians has done, by refusing to consider discussion of something very important to the American public.
Each image started as a digital composite. Both politicians’ portraits include text layers naming their financial relationships to the gun lobby, as well as their ratings by the NRA. Those spiraling texts, created using Processing, were then composited into manipulated portraits of each man.
Scale set by the organizer meant that inkjet prints were made on 8.5″ x 11″ photo paper. I mounted each print onto firmer supports before varnishing and painting ~ I love any excuse to break out Sennellier pigments. In House Speaker Paul Ryan’s case, his role asked for gold leaf. . .
[ thoughts prayers ] was also printed and delivered to the Speaker by NYAGV’s Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett. She delivered artists’ portraits to the New York politicians who voted AGAINST universal background check legislation, and the Speaker.
So why the heck am I boxing and shipping these 2 paintings? They’re now finished, mounted on cradled wood 9″ x 12″ panels. Well . . .the organizer’s working on a show, a fundraising exhibition for NYAGV. And apparently now someone volunteered to make a film of all the pieces?
Let’s keep talking about guns and what’s going on with them, for all of us!
Want to see more work? Visit the public Facebook page for the group.