Guns to Gardens exhibit displays discarded firearms converted to garden tools in Albuquerque, the United States, on Oct. 19, 2018. Gun law reform is a highly contentious issue in the United States. A new art installation at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in New Mexico seeks to explore the issue, not in the usual legislative or political manner, but through an anthropological lens. (Xinhua/Richard Lakin)
by Richard Lakin
ALBUQUERQUE, the United States, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- Gun law reform is a highly contentious issue in the United States. A new art installation at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in New Mexico seeks to explore the issue, not in the usual legislative or political manner, but through an anthropological lens.
The exhibit looks at global gun violence, and how an international perspective might influence U.S. gun policies.
David Phillips, co-curator of "Gun Violence: A Brief Cultural History" at the museum told Xinhua that culture is a valuable way to look at any problem, including gun violence.
"Very often, something that seems like a fixed part of a given society or unsolvable problem within a society, if you look at the other societies around the world, they have solved that problem," he said.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is a work of art by American artist Ann Lewis, titled "This is Who We Are." Devorah Romanek, curator and exhibit designer at the Maxwell Museum explained that this piece is a representation of how many children are killed each day in the United States through gun violence. The startling figure is 8.8. So the artist took eight sets of porcelain children's shoes hanging them in a row to express the statistics.
"It really makes it much more human and a way of understanding that this is not just a statistic but a reality that so many children are killed each day in the United States with a gun," she said.
According to Romanek, the gun culture in New Mexico, a southern state in the United States with a border with Mexico, is born out of the legends of the Old West that were created in novels and movies.
"There is this romanticism of being an adventurer in the West, the image of gun slinging cowboys. This myth of the cowboy as a hero takes hold and subsequently you see this in a lot of popular culture and certainly in film," she said, adding that the proliferation of these myths was used in advertising to sell guns.
Although the gun culture is popular in the southern state, there are organizations that are strongly against gun violence.
Participated in the exhibition, the organization New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence displays garden tools that had been fashioned from discarded guns.
Miranda Viscoli, co-president of the organization said that her organization has been doing a program called "Guns to Gardens" where they do gun buybacks, dismantle the guns and welded them into gardening tools.
The idea, explained Viscoli, is to "take a tool that is used for killing people and dismantling it and turning it into something positive." At the same time, the program helps the communities get unwanted guns out of the street.
"In New Mexico, we average losing two children a month to gun violence. For a state that small, our numbers are off the charts. They're pretty much half and half suicide and homicide," she said.
While the museum hopes that the exhibit will inspire people to pause and consider the grim statistic represented by the dangling baby shoes, the highly polarized debate about gun offers no imminent solution. The group campaigns for gun reform laws during legislative sessions, but it is an uphill battle.
Viscoli said that when there is a gun violence prevention legislation trying to be passed, "people show up armed and loaded."
"People are becoming too intimidated to go and speak for gun violence prevention legislation. New Mexico has the worst gun violence in the country and we have some of the weakest gun laws and that correlation is no coincidence," she said.