Artist Bradley McCallum will present a gallery talk in conjunction with the exhibition #UNLOAD: Guns in the Hands of Artists on Wednesday, September 25, at 5:00 p.m. in the Walsh Gallery in the Quick Center for the Arts.
In this live pour, I intend to link performance and object, and to bridge my 1996 work The Manhole Cover Projectwhich cast 228 utility covers from 11,194 guns that were confiscated by Connecticut law enforcement to New Orleans’s current effort in transforming weapons into art. During the performance, I smelted guns taken from the streets of New Orleans, along with gun shell casings, and pour the iron-infused brass into a sand-cast impression lifted from the pattern that was used in The Manhole Cover Project. Part alchemy, part historical reference, this transformation and symbolic tracing of a past work aims to remind us that the national conversation around gun violence and ownership has not changed. The object fabricated in this performance fused the present with the past — the metal disc made from the impression of the manhole-cover pattern was penetrated with firearms taken from the streets of New Orleans, to create a touchstone that aims to contribute to the civic discourse concerning gun ownership that is active in this local community.
The epidemic of gun violence that shaped the urban cities in the 1990s and was a focus of my work for a decade is still active. The mothers who have lost children to gun violence twenty years ago are joined each year in small and large cities alike. Our national policies have not changed, and even the most reasonable efforts to enact gun legislation face huge obstacles. Our national attention focuses only momentarily when major tragic acts of violence are in the headlines, but for the thousands of families who have lost loved ones to gun violence and incarceration each year, the impact of this public health crisis continues to be felt. As artists we can contribute to this essential discourse and to contribute to long-overdue change.
Image: Bradley McCallum, Smelting: A Gun Legacy, 1996-2014. Smelted decommissioned guns. 23 x 23 inches. © Bradley McCallum. Photo by Neil Alexander, Courtesy of Jonathan Ferrara Gallery.