Due to current events, wanted to share a writing inspired by the upcoming Social Justice: It Happens to One, It Happens to All exhibit at St. Mary’s College Museum of Art. The essay addresses the history of gun culture, social justice, and the role of artists. Art can recover tools of power to promote positive change. The goal is to inspire to take action through creativity.
My featured artworks America Red, White and Blue record how patterns of power and inequality can be spread through distance and speed. Using a Mossberg 500 shotgun as a vehicle of mark making, paper was placed on a target 7 yards away. It repurposes a weapon into artistic commentary by altering function to explore identity, ideology, and equality.
Social Justice: It Happens to One, It Happens to All. St. Mary’s College Museum of Art. Moraga, CA. September 18 – December 11, 2016.
The “American Dream” concept and national identity reflects a bias and perspective eager for an honesty alarm. The beneficiaries of this utopia conquered and enslaved to protect a narrative of compliancy. Artists have the responsibility to encourage dialogue for positive change. A dream for some is difficult to imagine and art has the power to activate.
Social justice seems to ebb and flow like a river of common sense and distortion. For example, the Second Amendment allows citizens to keep and bear arms. Even if an American is on a terrorist watch list, it is no obstacle to purchase a firearm. This “freedom” offers no apologies and reason. In a political climate of virtually no agreement, 86% of Americans support this law but politicians stand in perpetual inaction (Jordan 2016).
On June 12th 2016, 49 people lost their lives in Orlando to what the media repeatedly declared as the deadliest mass shooting in history (Lizette Alvarez 2016). An inconceivable tragedy positioned on a long list deeply rooted in our culture and history. In East St. Louis in 1917, 100 African Americans were killed by violence (Gross 2016). In 1890, 250 Native Americans were massacred at Wounded Knee in South Dakota (Wishart 2011).
Injustice continues to happen to not just one, but to us all.
Understanding the past strengthens the future platform for meaningful change. Art has the ability to rebuild the framework of trust and justice. Artists must guide and reclaim the “American Dream” at home and globally. The pursuit to happiness includes freedom without prejudice and oppression. This is the ethos man must strive for.
Jenny E. Balisle
Gross, Ariela. Orlando Mass Shooting Not Deadliest in American History. June 14, 2016. http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/06/14/orlando-mass-shooting-not-deadliest-in-american-history/ (accessed June 21, 2016).
Jordan, William. 86% of Americans support law banning gun sales to people on terror watch list. June 16, 2016. https://today.yougov.com/news/2016/06/16/86-percent-americans-support-law-banning-gun-sale/ (accessed June 21, 2016).
Lizette Alvarez, Richard Perez-Pena and Christine Hauser. Orlando Gunman Was ‘Cool and Calm’ After Massacre, Police Say. June 13, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/us/orlando-shooting.html (accessed June 21, 2016).
Wishart, David J. Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. January 1, 2011. http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.war.056 (accessed June 21, 2016).