Unlocked, unloaded, on display: Art exhibit examines gun violence with disabled weapons
Deeply troubled by the increasing presence of gun violence throughout the country, Rhode Island-based artist and teacher Scott Lapham told ABC News he wanted to do something to express his raw emotions over the issue.
So he became a licensed gun owner and bought a semiautomatic pistol.
But he had no intention of ever using it for violence or even glorification. Instead, Lapham said he disabled the gun, made a mold out of it and with his students created sculptures from glass, crayon wax, ice and other materials.
"We leave the idea of what the original thing looked like behind and think about the material that will tell a different message," Lapham said.
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That message is now on display for the public to view and reflect on at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence as part of a month-long exhibit called "Merge." Seven years' worth of artwork from Lapham's "One Gun Gone" project, including newly created metal sculptures from recently disabled guns, are featured in the exhibit.
Lapham said he and his students through the years have had major reflective conversations in creating the art pieces, and expects visitors to have similar feelings.
Lapham, who lost his stepbrother and four former students to gun violence, started "One Gun Gone" in 2016 with a glass sculpture based off the disabled pistol he purchased. For him and his students, the glass material contrasted the cold, dark and aggressive look of a firearm that he said is attractive to some people.
"We thought the fleetingness and the evanescence of life. It's fragile. If you drop it, it can shatter. The transparency also made our students think of ghosts. We wanted the material to have a different reality from a firearm," he said.
Lapham said that his students would return to that mold and create other sculptures from other materials. Several sculptures depicted the gun made out of crayons and crayon wax. Another was made to look like a pencil to signify how children are learning about the horrors of gun violence too early, according to Lapham.
In one art project, students used the mold to create an ice sculpture of a gun from a red liquid. They took photos of it melting to create a stark image.
Lapham said the one thing he maintained while working on the art was not glorifying or romanticizing the weapons. In fact, he said that many of the students had visceral reactions whenever they held the artwork after it came out of the mold.
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"We don't pick it up or use it as a weapon or as jokes. Everyone was uncharacteristically quiet," Lapham recalled. "I could see that they were feeling something that had more resonance than often happens in an art project."
"One Gone Gun" projects have been on display in few exhibits in the past, using art created from the mold of that pistol, a disabled AR-15 and a disabled and dismantled rifle.
For "Merge," Lapham collaborated with Boys & Girls Clubs of Providence, the mentorship program Princes 2 Kings, The Steel Yard, a metal-based art space, and the WaterFire Arts Center to expand the idea behind "One Gun Gone."
Over the last several months, a group of metal shop art students worked with eight firearms that were taken off the streets and disabled to create metal-based sculptures. One piece, for example, shows a series of houses, each one in a different state of decay, that leads up to the handle of a rifle.
Anthony Cordova, one of the high school students who worked on the recent artworks, told ABC News that he had an idea for a metal sculpture that used a disabled revolver surrounded by dying flowers.
"Away from the guns they are healthy flowers, but as life goes on and guns get involved, the flowers begin to die," he told ABC News.
Lapham said that the exhibit, which runs until May 28, will also feature conversations with gun reform groups such as Moms Demand Action, to discuss what can be done to curb gun violence in the country.
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Overall, Lapham said he hopes that the exhibit gives visitors a chance to think deeply about the effect of gun violence, even if they never knew someone who was shot or experienced a gun violence incident firsthand.
"I saw a pattern of people being in shock and grieving but not having a safe space, if you will, to discuss gun violence or how people felt about it," he said. "I wanted to create a space like that. So that a week or so after that people didn't go about their lives like nothing happened."
Unlocked, unloaded, on display: Art exhibit examines gun violence with disabled weapons originally appeared on abcnews.go.com