Under the theme “Firearms in Schools” for the SPACES America’s Well Armed Militia project, Graves instinctively needed to embody both the gun holder and the victim, whether it be a student or teacher on either end of the gun. The common denominators are the gun and the life. A silent moment of chaos and simultaneous consciousness ceasing to exist is frozen in Graves’ body of work titled, “A Life Is A Life.” This series are five canvases paired with five anatomical pork hearts, closest anatomically with the human heart, encased in resin that were shot by Graves with five different common guns owned by Americans.
“A life is a life” – quote from NPR interview with 19 year old D’Angelo McDade, executive director of Chicago anti-violence group the Peace Warriors, about his work with student activists from Parkland, Fla.
“In the most visceral portion of the show, Chicago artist Michelle Graves explores mass shootings in schools.
Her work is comprised of five canvases violently splattered with red paint, plus five pig hearts that were shot by the artist with commonly used household guns and encased in rectangular blocks of clear acrylic. Each heart is suspended in front of one of the canvases, creating the illusion of blood spraying from living flesh onto the adjacent surface.
It’s a shrill expression of rage about the phenomenon of school shootings, couched in an artistic idiom that put a grisly new twist on Abstract Expressionist painting techniques.” –Litt, Steven. Gun rights explored in provocative ‘Well Armed Militias’ exhibit at Spaces, Sept 15, 2019.
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One of the hearts for the America’s Well Armed Militia project didn’t survive so I had to shoot another one with a Benelli 22 gauge shot gun. I hit it dead on in the first shot. In the end of the video, my brother-in-law said, “Well, there’s nothing left of your heart.” I nervously laughed in the seriousness of this project and also proud that I had good aim with this powerful thing. My nieces and nephew helped me find the pieces while we talked about gun dangers and safety. . . #gunsafety #guneffects #gunart #benellishotguns #americaswellarmedmilitia