Evans's intent is not to "jam messages down anyone's throat" but rather to encourage viewers to reflect upon the state of their culture. "We live in a gun society. There's a difference between TV and reality, and now reality is mimicking those things." Evans says.
"While I have chosen to highlight killers in this exhibition, it is not intended to enshrine these people as heroes, but to discover why seemingly normal people people like you and me snap and go off the deep end."
of killers is beyond imagination
People kill people. It's a fact. And it's the eerie and heartbreaking theme behind Brad K. Evans' installation at Pirate Art Gallery. "The Gun Show" is a tour of killers, their motives and their victims. And it isn't pretty.
On a tour of the gallery, Evans says that he isn't making an "anti-gun" statement. "Guns are in the forefront right now, and we're afraid of what people are doing with the gun," he explains. "I'm just thinking about violence here. We live in a gun culture and we always have. People want you to pick sides - and that's not what this is about."
The exhibit (which finishes its runs this weekend), includes such killers as Patrick Sherrill, the postman who murdered 14 co-workers and gave birth to the expression "going postal''; John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln; John Salvi, who killed a receptionist at a Boston-area Planned Parenthood clinic; and, of course, Columbine's Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
The Harris/Klebold installation is particularly chilling - with two trenchcoats hanging from wooden crosses. "They changed the psychic landscape of our schools," Evans says. "I was beat up a lot in high school. I can see how they got there, but what they did is still beyond my imagination." The entire exhibit is beyond the imagination.
Gun show: As legislators try to close loopholes in the gun laws, Boulder artist stages prank to fuel debate
This Friday, some poor gun collector or criminal looking for loopholes in the state's gun laws is going to get snookered. He'll show up at the corner of 37th and Navajo Streets in Denver expecting a gun show, because that's what he will have seen advertised in the classified section of the Denver Post or on flyers distributed all around town. Instead he'll find Boulder artist Brad Evans' latest exhibition, 'Gun Show, ' which will be on display at PIRATE: A Contemporary Art Oasis through Feb. 6.
The walls will be adorned with unbiased information about guns and a series of displays relating to various high-profile gun incidents that have occurred recently. These will include facts about each case and an object culled from an area trash dumpster that in some way relates to the perpetrators of the gun incidents. Among those featured will be Mark Barton, the Atlanta stock firm killer; Honolulu Xerox killer Bryan Yusugi; Boulder-accidental-death-while-cleaning-gun guy, Forrest Leigh; and, of course, the Columbine boys. For the Littleton buddies' display, Evans found a pair of trench coats and a pair of crosses.
The would-be gun buyer will also likely run into a handful of anti-gun activists. In promoting the show, Evans also sent press releases to various anti-gun organizations, including Save Colorado. 'I hope to bring together anti- and pro-gun activists who come thinking the show is not what it is, ' Evans says. 'Then they'll have to deal with it. ' Evans places himself square in the center of the gun debate. He's neither for nor against gun control. 'I feel like an unbiased newspaper reporter, ' he explains. 'I'm trying to show facts. '
His hope for the exhibition is to facilitate a balanced debate. 'The show is a way of looking at how the pro-gun and anti-gun groups are disseminating information that's bloated in both directions. ' In preparing for the exhibition, Evans did a great deal of research. In studying the issue, Evans found that guns are not the menace to society anti-gun groups portray them to be. 'I found that 40,000 people die every year from guns, while 400,000 die from cigarettes, ' he says. 'By putting that information out there for people to see, I'm hoping to discharge some of the myths about having guns and not having guns. I want to show that if you take guns away, people will still find ways to kill each other. So it's not really guns that are the ultimate deal. ' But at the same time, by offering displays dedicated to various gun killers,
Evans will also show what happens when certain people get their hands on guns. 'I don't want to make these killers out to be heroes in any way, ' he explains. Evans also hopes to host some panel discussions about gun control issues. He says he's been working with Boulder County public information director James Burrus to amass a panel of experts. Joe Miller
Before Gun Show even opened, Brad K. Evans was fielding phone calls from the Colorado anti-gun organization SAFE. He'd heard they were planning to demonstrate outside Pirate, the art gallery where his installation debuted on January 21. "I think it's ironic that they're protesting something they don't know about," Evans said the night before the opening, when he was still taping the outline of a dead body on the floor and before he'd hung the wooden crosses on the wall with the black raincoats in the Harris/Klebold corner.
He anticipated trouble with that particular segment of the show because "it's sensitive, it happened here and kids were involved." But protests based on knee-jerk ideas about an art installation titled Gun Show only demonstrate the importance of mounting such an exhibit in the first place. For Gun Show, Evans painted a blood-red band, just above eye level, against hospital-white walls in Pirate's main first-floor gallery. As it runs across the walls, the band provides a background for stark white letters that spell out the names of thirteen killers. On the floor underneath their names, Evans assembled items representing their crimes.
Under the name "Barton" (for Atlanta day trader/murderer Mark O. Barton), for example, sits a desk with a computer monitor and phone. Next to the McDonald's logo under the name "Huberty," 21 Happy Meal bags represent the people gunned down by James Huberty at a McDonald's in San Ysidro, California, in 1984. A postal shirt and mailbag evoke the workplace massacre committed by Pat Sherrill in 1986 (the Edmond, Oklahoma, post-office worker shot and killed fourteen people, then himself). "It was the original workplace massacre," Evans said. "Little did he know he would invent such a thing." Since Sherrill's rampage, at least eighty other people have been killed in similar incidents; the latest such killings occurred in November when a Xerox employee in Hawaii killed seven co-workers.
Evans's intent wasn't to argue any one side of the gun debate but "to reflect what's going on in society today. I imagined that this would be like a newspaper, presented in an unbiased way. I've had calls from both SAFE and the NRA asking if I was pro-gun, but I don't really have an opinion. It's more about the results." Evans is a former newspaper designer who now works for a visual design company; that background shows up not only in his reportorial approach, but in his potent use of graphic symbols, as well: the McDonald's logo, a Star of David, a Nazi flag. And those images are as familiar as the ones visitors will see when they first walk into the show and encounter a large mirror.
The accompanying text reads "People Kill People" -- but it's unlikely that the words will be misread as championing any NRA slogans. That should calm down the folks at SAFE. There's little comfort, however, in a discovery Evans made while collecting artifacts for the installation. He's traditionally raided dumpsters and secondhand stores for objects to incorporate into his work, and when he went searching through thrift stores for black trench coats, he found them empty of the Columbine killers' chosen attire. "I don't know if Harris and Klebold popularized them or what -- you'd think there would be lots of black trench coats, but there weren't," Evans said.
The sick idea that there's been a run on black trench coats just reinforces what Evans discovered in the course of putting together the show. "It's amazing what these people have done. There's a lot of wacked-out people who end up with weapons."
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