How Art and Guns Coincide
Over the course of the year, the nation has seen a fair share of tragedies from police brutality to domestic terrorism and mass shootings. Mass shootings have become some sort of phenomena plaguing American culture since 1966. Nearly a third of the world’s mass shootings took place in the United States of America; in other words the U.S holds 5% of the world’s population yet it has had 31% of mass shootings. The definition of the mass shooting varies, however the Gun Violence Archive describes mass shooting as any incident occurring where four or more people are wounded or killed. This year, the nation experienced one of the deadliest shootings in history, the Orlando night club shooting. Four years ago, the Sandy Hook shooting happened, during which 27 were killed. Five years before the Virginia Tech Massacre killed 32 people.
The issue become increasingly prevalent as of late, not stopping at mass shootings but extending to violence that occurs within the side streets of Baltimore City neighborhoods. Gun Violence and mass shootings even lead to the loss of young children’s lives. In 2014, three-year-old McKenzie Elliot was shot in a drive by shooting on her porch. Although, it may seem like a constant tug of war, a Baltimore artist has seen enough and expresses her stance on gun violence via oil paints.
Kimberly Sheridan, a widow of a veteran is artist to use their medium to take a stance and send a message. Sheridan is a self-taught who began painting at age 30. On April 14, 2013, she began painting victims of gun violence. Sheridan says, “That is when Congress just wouldn’t even bother to bring back background checks to committee. They didn’t even bring it to the table. It wasn’t important. But 90% of Americans wanted it… after Sandy Hook.” Sheridan does not receive anything for these but has a particular mission in mind.
Her mission is to paint the one million victims of gun violence. Her work has been displayed in Liam Flynn’s ale house with the exhibit, “Million Gun Victims March.” Sheridan says she, “becomes someone else. I forget myself, it’s not about me. As each subject arrives on canvas, [I] kind of shut down certain parts of the mind and try to imagine as close as I can what this person was really like, what this person really wanted to do when they were still alive.” Sheridan describes herself as being exasperated at seeing victims of violence. The only option was for her to paint.
“I see if these pictures can act as a bridge over an emotional gap that all their deaths leave behind. The gap is still there, but at least you can be a different space, cross over to a different side but the gap will always be there but you’re not trapped by it. That’s what I’m trying to do.” The families that she can are contacted and later given the canvas after display. Her work includes victims ranging from old to young and somewhat familiar faces. Sheridan painted Freddie Gray’s older brother.
Sheridan also paints “suicide row”– photos to the misunderstood victims of suicide. Her message is simple– oil paintings commemorating the tragedies of victims’ while raising questions hen and how many more? When will this be seen as an issue that needs to be resolved? Whether the mission is a call to action for gun violence or a statement about brutalities plaguing society, art has a voice and a mission.