BY Garth Johnson | October 31, 2009
Alabama artist Walton Creel takes aim at “gun culture” with his “Deweaponizing the Gun” series
“My main goal was to take away the destructive power of the gun,” says artist Walton Creel, “…To manipulate it into a tool of creation.” This sublimation of violence into art began with failed experiments on canvas. The more typical surface for art-making crumbled under the assault of multiple bullet strikes. Creel’s breakthrough happened when he tested his rifle on painted, reinforced aluminum. The metal held up well under fire, and the amount of paint dislodged by each impact suggested that he could create a line, an artistic gesture, on the aluminum surface.
He comments, “The gunfire itself dictates how and what can be done. I use .22 caliber bullets and have to take into account the size of the bullets as well as the energy of the blast behind the projectile. The bullets dictate the size of the images I make and the blast knocks the paint off around each bullet hole: this all has to be planned for when I am designing a piece.” Creel holds his rifle directly against 4 x 6 white aluminum panels and fires as many as 5,000 bullets per panel to create his a finished piece.
Because he made his discovery on wooded land used for hunting, it seems logical that his first subjects are game animals: stags, possum, and rabbits are prime hunting targets in his Southeastern home.
Having grown up in a “gun culture,” as he describes it, he was curious to see the reaction this body of work would elicit from friends and colleagues. “Hunters and gun enthusiasts that see my work tend to be excited about it. I think they see my work in a far less political light that most people. The images of wildlife, and the medium of gunfire, are familiar to them because they grew up with both. They of course see that I am using the gun as a tool, but I believe they probably see it as more of a craft than any sort of artistic statement.”
He plans to continue his exploration of loaded guns as power tools, and has his next series all planned out. It will not be about wildlife, but he’s also not willing to talk about it. “I am just waiting for the ammunition to arrive.” When the shooting’s over, perhaps he’ll let us take a look.
For more information, visit www.waltoncreel.com