I spent a lot of time thinking about this project before I committed to making the work for it. It seemed much easier before I started the making process. I don’t mean the actual, physical making of the work was so taxing to figure out, I mean it has been psychologically difficult. It was easier when I was approaching the issue of mass shootings from a place of strong opinion and less knowledge. The project got much more difficult when I delved into researching mental illness, gun ownership, enforcement of current laws surrounding firearm purchasing and the details of each specific mass shooting.
I thought about the project in earnest for about a year and a half, but, if I wanted to be honest with myself, I’d have to go back to Columbine to find the source. Not that I had any intention of making art about such a thing back then, but that was one of the first shootings where children were the shooters AND the victims and when I first felt that the adults of society had really let down the next generations. We’ve let them down because of our unwillingness to talk about difficult things in a rational way or to compromise.
Each gown represents a specific mass shooting in the U.S. I don’t have enough exhibition space at WSG to have a gown for every shooting. I used my sewing machine as a drawing tool, creating a layering of line that describes the weapon (s) used during that shooting. I shocked myself when, after many drawings of guns, I admitted how sexy they were. The lines, the weight, the way they are designed to fit into one’s hand….
I can’t explain exactly where my ideas come from. I collect vintage handbags and appreciate them for their lines, use of material, the way they fit into my hand or over my arm. As I started designing and building the handbags with gun imagery, I realized how much I would want to own them if they weren’t already mine. The gold-leafed bullets as sequins, and gold- and silver-leafed guns on the handbags all seemed to make sense in a glorifying, distorted way.
I’ve continued my interest in using repurposed materials in this show. The acrylic is all repurposed, fabrics and materials in the purses are nearly all repurposed….even the evening gowns are repurposed. Initially I was going to sew the evening gowns from scratch, too, but it became important that the gowns had all ‘lived a little’, especially with the heavy messages they were being repurposed for.
It became clear that the evening of the reception needed to include live models for the gowns….young ladies at the beginning of their lives, full of potential.