In Dialogue

Jacob Cullers, Jason Montgomery, Rita Valley 
 
West Gallery: May 13 – June 11, 2022
 

 

Opening Reception: Friday, May 13, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

In-person Artist Talk: Friday, June 3, 6:30 pm, Moderated by Matthew J. Best

I found a dead deer on eBay. I wondered if the person I bought it from was the one who killed it. Of course, I do not ask.  It does not matter anymore as I cut holes into it. The holes show bits of an image. The images refer to acts of violence that have occurred in America by white males. I respond to the cut-out compositions by doing my best to mix and match the colors within it. I try and match the violence. It is impossible. By combining material, image and paint, the viewer is confronted with the work and then forced to make opinions based on their relationships with the materials used. I want to show the surface as a symbol, of the history and the brutality of the American white male, through the scope of conceptual painting.

The [de]range series was created to engage the gun violence epidemic in the US. As an artist, gun owner and a survivor of gun violence I fully recognize the complexity of the issue and how deeply rooted it is in US American culture. Given the epidemic of police shootings/killings of BIPOC individuals and the hundreds of years of systemic racism in the US, I firmly support those in the BIPOC community who believe that in the face of systemic racism their lives are made safer because of gun ownership. For this piece the shooting range targets were recovered from the Easthampton, Massachusetts Police department and used in firearm training for its officers. I recovered just over 100 such targets each with similar amounts of use.

With this exhibition, I take the stance that gun violence is a public health issue. I hope to help my audience recognize that a comprehensive public health approach is needed to address this growing crisis. For the sake of this exhibition I urge my audience to read the American Public Health Association (APHA) statement regarding gun violence as a public health issue: 

 

“A public health approach to preventing gun violence recognizes that violence is contagious and can become epidemic within a society. Primary prevention involves the use of core public health activities to interrupt the transmission of violence: (1) conducting surveillance to track gun-related deaths and injuries, gain insight into the causes of gun violence and assess the impact of interventions; (2) identifying risk factors associated with gun violence (e.g., poverty and depression) and resilience or protective factors that guard against gun violence (e.g., youth access to trusted adults); (3) developing, implementing and evaluating interventions to reduce risk factors and build resilience; and (4) institutionalizing successful prevention strategies.” 

I am an artist living and maintaining a studio in Connecticut; close enough to New York to dive frequently off the deep end into the vagaries of the art world, but distant enough to enable a life of bucolic scenery, complete with a Dog and Pony Show. I grew up as a self-professed "political firebrand" (despite politically indifferent parents who eked out working-class livings) and early on explored issues of inequality, the waging of war and financial disparity. These motifs continue in my work to this day, with the near collapse of our economy and the insane criminality of the 45th Non-President providing further fodder for my studio investigations. I trust- perhaps in vain- that my art practice will help to correct the wrongs so manifestly present in the world today, but I am not holding my breath.

 

All of my work is intensively hand-made: I am my own third-world sweat shop. I sew as a meditative practice, the individual stitches referencing any variety of art mark-making as well as the persistent notion of sewing as women’s work. I explore the uneasy relationship between the physical beauty of my work with the (sometimes) uncomfortable messages I am presenting. I call pieces from my fabric series “PSAs” (Public Service Announcements) as I see my role as an artist/activist to remind people of their duty to participate in our endangered democracy.

 

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