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The wall of a downtown New Orleans art gallery has been riddled with bullet holes.
It’s not another act of brazen gun violence but rather a thought-provoking work of art. In each hole is a bullet casing, its back painted with the tiny portrait of a child under the age of 6 killed in New Orleans gunfire.
The persistence of urban gun violence has inspired more than 30 artists from across the country to contribute to the exhibit, “Guns in the Hands of Artists.”
The artists took the stocks, barrels, cylinders and other parts of dismantled guns slated to be destroyed through a city buyback program and transformed them into art.
The exhibit is opening Oct. 4 at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans, for decades one of America’s deadliest cities.
Although murder rates are down from recent years, shootings persist.
A pizza delivery driver was recently shot to death during a delivery. Over the summer, a drive-by shooting left two people dead and several others injured, including a woman and her two young children. Another shooting killed a woman on the city’s famous Bourbon Street.
New Orleans artist Sidonie Villere said she feels a mix of fear and anger for her hometown. She soaked five gun cylinders in hydrogen peroxide, salt and vinegar, to make them corrode — a representation of what she calls an “emotional corrosion” surrounding guns.
“I’m hoping when people see the piece, they see that there’s some kind of breakdown,” she said.
Artist John Barnes built a wooden sculpture in the shape of a historic New Orleans shotgun-style house with a real shotgun, sawed in half, running through its center. It includes signs “Get Off My Property,” “Turn Down the Music” and “We Are Here Now” — taking a shot at gentrification, vigilante-ism and “Stand Your Ground” laws.
“This piece is sort of playing off that energy of a response based on a perception with very little actual factual basis for the action,” he said.
Ferrara said the exhibit is not anti-gun. It is meant to foster dialogue surrounding guns. The first “Guns in the Hands of Artists” was held in 1996, around the time the city’s murder rate was on the rise. The exhibit was organized by Ferrara and New Orleans native artist Brian Borrello, who now lives in Portland, Oregon.
Borrello is contributing two pieces to the new exhibit, including a 9 mm pistol with a clip that arcs 7 feet in a circular shape that Borrello said shows “endless war.”
“It’s very scorpion-like,” he said. “Deadly beauty.”
Nearly two decades after the first exhibit, gun conversations now include the names Ferguson, Columbine, Sandy Hook and Aurora.
“We’re in the same place if not worse,” Ferrara said. “It’s an issue that affects all of us in New Orleans, but unfortunately, it’s an American epidemic.”
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