Armed Disposal features:
Bren Ahearn, Codi Barbini, Natalie Baxter, Erika Diamond, Amy Khoshbin, Katrina Majkut, Karmimadeebora McMillan and Margaret Roleke
May 7 - June 6, 2020
By SALLY BROWN DESKINS, July 2020
“How many of the world’s problems would be solved, or at least greatly reduced, if women had true parity with men? …Change begins with illumination — attention, pointing, identifying and generally shining lights in dark places. News organizations play a role in this. So, increasingly, does social technology communication. And so does art.”
- Roberta Smith (1)
Katrina Majkut’s embroidered “2 S &W M&P 9mm,” depicting two pistols in a yin-yang position, evokes the troubling authentic duality around the issue of weapons and gun ownership in the United States, in the Victori+Mo curated group exhibit, Armed Disposal.
Using the media of embroidery, Majkut joins the long line of feminist artists who use traditionally deemed domestic or feminine and therefore inferior media to both conversely empower both women and elevate the media (2). A prime example is Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, where the renowned feminist artist (and her some 400+ volunteers) used embroidery to honor women’s achievement throughout Western history via placesettings (3).
As of late, embroidery is embraced for its empowering artistic element, and the physicality of the continuous process of stabbing the canvas, expressing disappointment or frustration with curren institutions, through the repeated aggressive movements, with strong textual elements (4).
Utilizing the traditional craft of embroidery, Majkut’s pistols transform what are hard, heavy objects (and a symbol of violence for many) into something beautiful, soft, almost in a traditional figurative pose of embrace, reminiscent of prominent romantic art of the past, like Rodin’s The Kiss (similarly, the sensuality of the sensuality challenged the heaviness of the marble media; and subject matter caused a stir) (5).
Are they just objects? Majkut’s depiction as resting objects, with aesthetically interesting and sinuous line detail on a white fabric-- which we may be accustomed to seeing in mothers' kitchens, hung with ribbons, adorned with flowers-- a differing perspective of guns typically seen with violent or aggressive depictions in mass media. Majkut’s pistols’ embrace and mirrored pose evokes the massive national passion for these objects and the ease with which passionate political beliefs become and the potential slow descent into madness that can happen with such infatuation—(also beyond the subject, the lovingly passionate couple in the aforementioned Rodin sculpture, actually depicted doomed adulterers in Dante’s Inferno.
Still—there is no easy resolution with Majkut’s portrait; the pistols in forever- rotation, like a dizzying spiral of lines, teasing your mind with ideas; are they objects that can be handled properly or as a hobby? Will they always be objects of violence and unending conflict? Will the US ever solve their battle with gun ownership? Majkut’s seems to say, I don’t know, but let’s not talk in circles.
Complex issues around gender and race can be examined via Majkut’s work and others in the exhibit: Amy Khoshbin’s “Big Shot” collage presenting the complexity of international issues around gun consumerism and violence; or Erika Diamond’s “Axel Vest” of Bulletproof Kevlar fabric, pleather, metal studs and chain, giving a new life to this life-saving piece of fabric itself; or Natalie Baxter’s various brightly printed fabric guns with playful names such as “Kiki”, “Dolly P.” and “Raffi” seem to satirize the dangerous ease or dismissal for which discussions and policies around weaponry can take.
The exhibition proves provocatively educational in its intent to offer “critical perspectives on how viewers can empathetically and constructively engage with the health epidemic issue of American gun violence with the intention of creating change.” Providing no answers or resolutions, the work illuminates, provokes discussion, which, as Smith quote alludes to above, can ultimately lead to change.
Armed Disposal, dedicated to the memory of Ahmaud Arbery and those lost to gun violence, can be viewed virtually and in-person at the gallery in New York through August 1. Visit https://www.artland.com/exhibitions/armed-disposal for more information and to view the virtual exhibit. WM