‘Gun Country’ creating conversation at ArtPrize

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Artwork is about making a statement and having that statement interpreted by the viewer.

On the terrace of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, one such statement is being made.

It’s where 130 toy guns, painted black, are suspended to create an illusion.

“I painted the orange tips to make them look more like real guns,” said Michael Murphy, the artist behind ‘Gun Country.’ “I figured that since it was an artwork I could use my artistic license.”

“When you walk out on to the terrace, at first, it doesn’t look like the United States,” Murphy explained. “It just looks like a lot of guns. You kind of have to do this work to make it come together to see the illusion because it really doesn’t exist. There is no map of the United States.”

Murphy says he’s not trying to convey a specific message.

“The piece lends itself to a number of different interpretations and I think it’s important for the viewer to bring their own interpretation of the piece to the table,” said Murphy. “In my work, the illusion is generally a metaphor that relates to the meaning behind the work. It’s a riddle. I want people to try to figure out what I mean by it, but I’m not gonna tell you.”

gun country

This is actually the second time ‘Gun Country’ has been installed on the UICA terrace. Weather destroyed the first, forcing Murphy to reassess his environment.

One thing Murphy stressed is that his piece is not about police militarization, despite its new backdrop being the Grand Rapids Police Department headquarters.

“I would like to express my respect and gratitude to the police department here in Grand Rapids,” Murphy said. “The piece is not meant to be a jab at them.”

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6 comments

  • Sherry

    It speaks to me!
    It says, “Low-hanging fruit”.
    It says, “Obvious.”
    It says, “In 2 weeks a big pile of non-recycleable plastic is headed for the landfill.”

  • Chris Fredrickson

    “Artwork is about making a statement and having that statement interpreted by the viewer.”

    Who told you that? Rick DeVos? That is simply a false statement. At the very least it is not a full answer, and in its incompleteness it is misleading.

    Artwork is about MAKING art. VIEWING art is about deriving a statement through interpretation of the art. I don’t know how anyone expects the “public conversation” to be in any way productive if it is all based on ignorant statements like that one.

    Whether or not art makes a statement is irrelevant to whether something is art or not. There is no dependency between the two. Art can exist independently of a viewer, or even of an artist, so “meaning” is wholly and completely irrelevant to discussions of art itself. Unless you are trying to sell something of course, in which case look for “meaning” to be made into a very big deal.