How Artists Use Artworks to Advocate Against Gun Violence

A Conference For Artist-Prenuers

How Artists Use Artworks to Advocate Against Gun Violence

Gun violence is a phenomenon that plagues many nations. The apprehension and paranoia that now grips many people in public spaces result from the long unabated precedence of wanton abuse and violence instigated by guns. The landscape marked with mass graves is a clear indication of the uncountable victims of gun violence.

Artists go beyond the typical, “thoughts and prayers,” using artworks that transcend social and cultural barriers to indeed lend a voice against decades of pervasive gun violence that remains unaddressed by institutions meant to protect and defend the citizens.  Art conferences organized across the world aren’t left out as artists utilize this medium to raise and spread awareness about the menace of misusing guns.

Many artworks evoke the right atmosphere for the discourse of uncomfortable political and social issues that revolve around guns. Many works stand out, but the few described and discussed herein effectively demonstrate the importance and immediacy in addressing the misuse of firearms. 

3 Prominent Artworks that Condemn Gun Violence

1.   Mel Chin’s Artwork: Cross for the Unforgiven:

Mel Chin’s artwork, first created in 2002 and later recreated in 2012, depicts eight AK-47 rifles drawn in a somewhat circular pattern that reflects the shape of a Maltese cross.  Chin painted the picture so that each rifle’s muzzle points directly into the mouth of another gun opposite it. So that if all the rifles were to go off, they would fire on each other. Mel chin’s artwork shows the pervasive unending cycle between violence and religion.

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2.   Jen Edward’s Artwork: A Loaded Conversation

Jen Edwards uses her skill in crocheting to create historical firearms that viewers in galleries can hold and feel and broach the uncomfortable topic of pro- or anti-gun policies. Her constructions meticulously portray the craftsmanship and history of each firearm. Edward’s aim of crocheting gun sculptures is so that gallery viewers can handle these sculptured replicas and dialogue with curators and other visitors about the sensitive issues concerning firearms and to feel at ease while doing so.

Under the supervision of guides, viewers can handle these crocheted sculptures with white gloves and examine the guns’ intricate parts. Edward’s approach changes the narrative of tabooed discussions on guns and the proscription in most galleries that prevent the touching of artwork. The crocheted sculptures in the hands of participants, cause them to exude an almost similar feeling of handling a real firearm. These participants’ experience then helps them openly talk about their perceptions and views about the consequences of guns.

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3.   Li Hongbo’s Artwork: Irons for the Ages, Flowers for the Day

Li Hongbo is a paper sculptor who uses handmade paper to create sculptures that metamorphose into something different when stretched or compressed. Drawing from the ancient knowledge and experience of the Chinese in paper sculpting, Li creates a honeycomb paper structure made of malleable solid sheets of paper. The honeycomb sculpture gives a view of dazzling colors of flowerlike papers spread out across the floor of the gallery. The beautifully colored, floral pattern exudes a bright, visual scene that holds and compels the attention of viewers when spread out.

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But when folded up, the rainbow-colored blossoms become a bunch of colorfully shaped pistols that shock and take viewers aback. The artwork juxtaposes the dual human desire for war and peace. The floral pattern tells of the boundless and liberating beauty and pleasantness that peace and tranquility brings. The compressed pistol-shaped paper structure shows the carnage and limiting effects that arise with the use of weapons as instruments of destruction.  Li Hongbo’s Iron for the Ages, Flower for the Days, is one of the prominent artworks featured in the SCAD Museum of Arts in Savannah, Georgia.

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Lessons to Takeaway

Upon scrutiny, we find that the artists of the artworks studied above do not profess an outright indictment of guns per se but are against the misuse of guns as instruments of violence. It is easy to associate guns with feelings of fear and apprehension, but guns were created initially as tools for protection and not for brutality. Guns are security equipment whose use should only be for defense and not for threatening or causing violence. Many gun owners attest to the many times they have warded off intruders and protected themselves against robbers. To ensure a gun is fully equipped to guarantee protection, gun owners may need to acquire additional accessories. Accessories may include scopes that allow them to see in the dark or braces to give their guns stability, so it fits right in their hands or shoulders when shooting.


The wanton abuse of guns is the reason for the widespread carnage and destruction plaguing the world right now.  In the wake of these unfortunate events, artists are now using artwork to raise awareness in addressing gun violence. And what better way to start a dialogue if not with artworks that depict pictures. The popular saying, “One picture speaks better than a thousand words,” is very accurate in this context.