Art exhibit ‘Unloaded’ at UICA starts conversation about guns

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — A traveling art exhibit is tackling a controversial subject matter head-on in West Michigan. It’s called “Unloaded,” now on display at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in downtown Grand Rapids.

This unique exhibit looks at the impact guns have had on society throughout history, and it’s aimed at starting a conversation.

The exhibit features works from more than 20 artists sharing their experiences with guns, and it has been making its way around the country .

“The common thread that runs through most of the pieces is that they are individual artists’ reflection on either what is happening around them or an experience they have had directly,” said Heather Duffy, exhibition curator at UICA. “The pieces all feel really personal, especially because the artists offer a statement for each piece. It feels like you can almost hear their voice and what they are trying to communicate.”

The pieces are not intended to be pro-gun or anti-gun. “The commentary seems to be primarily around the availability, the use or access,” said Duffy.

Zachary Johnson says this exhibit is unlike any he has seen before.

“I like how varied it is, because I have a very limited experience in my life with guns.” said Zachary Johnson. “When I thought about this exhibit, I just think of certain things, but I think this exhibit opens up the conversation in just so many different ways that guns interact with Americans’ lives. You see suicide or the military, which are things that really didn’t pop into my mind, or the loving nature people have for guns that come into play. I like the wide variety. I think people are going to come to this with a lot of different experiences and the show is going to give them a lot of experiences to mix with their personal histories.”

One piece stuck in Johnson’s mind: “It looks like a bunch of guns from far away, and when you come close it is just sticks” said Johnson. “It reminded me of how cool and fun and exciting guns seem as a child and to children. There is something so dark about the piece because of what guns can do, but then there is the innocence of childhood, so that one struck me.”

Different displays raising different emotions on a subject that in West Michigan stays relevant.

“As much as we wished that this show would come to us and it would no longer be relevant, I know that we all remember a very recent event in Kalamazoo, so it is sadly relevant to us here in West Michigan” said Duffy.

There is also a part of the exhibit where visitors can share their thoughts and opinions as well as answer some questions that are provided. Those answers will be compiled and included into the exhibit as it continues.

“Unloaded” is on display at UICA now through May 15.

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  • Gene

    Some guns (as well as other weaponry) are works of art unto themselves. It is more rare now, but in the past form was just as important as function in top quality arms. And even in more recent arms function can sometimes lend itself to positive aesthetics where appearance is concerned. The German Luger from WW2, for example. Arguably the best 9mm handgun ever made, even by today’s standards, and one of the most instantly recognized handguns in history. It is aestetically gorgeous. The lines, angles, tapers, and shapes, not to mention the quality of the designwork itself, truly make it a work of art apart from its main intended purpose.

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