Home > Feature > All of Our Guns, Part 1

With the embarrassing news this last week that some open-carry bozos planned to stage a mock mass shooting on UT Austin’s campus over the weekend, and the anti-climatic reality of it (my husband referred to it as “like something out of Spinal Tap”) I’ve been thinking more about getting rid of my own revolver, a .38 Special, which I’ve kept loaded under my bed for all of the years I’ve lived in Texas as a grown up. I’ve also been thinking about this state and our country’s increasingly toxic political and actual relationship to guns, and in turn I’ve been thinking a lot about depictions of guns in art. Artists have tackled the subject in as many ways as they make their work. And why wouldn’t an artist want to grapple with one the trickiest killing machines mankind has created? It’s symbolically so (cough) loaded that it’s like a red flag to a bull.

In the modern age, there are the now-iconic Warhol and Rosenquist and Man Ray variations, and a number of examples from closer to home. If you give yourself less than ten minutes to compile a mental list of international and regional artists who’ve dealt with guns in their work, you rack up an impressive number really quickly. (According to some historians, artists have depicted guns one way or another since the mid-12th century.)

With this, I’m not even counting the bounty of chilling war and street and news photography of guns and gun violence, and I also don’t mean graffiti just now, or illustration, or art made primarily with spent bullet casings, of which this native Texan feels there is little to recommend.

Here are some artists’ gun-related images off the top of my head. Feel free to list more in the comments, especially Texas artists. There are so many good ones out there that I want to do a Part 2. (And there’s so much out there generally that there could easily be a Parts 3-25, but I won’t go that far.)

Let’s just get these first handful out of the way now. But I couldn’t leave them out.


Andy Warhol, Gun, 1981



Man Ray, Compass, 1920



Claes Oldenburg, Ray Gun Wing, 1972 (detail)


James Rosenquist Guns Play Guns

James Rosenquist, Guns-Play-Guns, 1996


And bring up the rear of this particular vanguard with:

Andres Serrano Colt D.A. 45

Andres Serrano, Colt D.A. 45, 1992



Robert Longo Bodyhammer 38 Special

Robert Longo, Bodyhammer .38 Special (Open Chamber), 1993


and of course:

Chris Burden Shoot

Chris Burden, Shoot, 1971




Robert Mapplethorpe, Cock and Gun, 1982


A few from the wayback machine:


Francisco Goya, El Tres de Mayo, 1808




Frederic Remington, A Dash for the Timber, 1889


Can’t leave this out:

Harold Edgerton

Harold Edgerton, How to Make Applesauce, 1964


Closer to home:


Margaret Meehan, Flutter, 2011



Sterling Allen (approx. 2007)


Robert Pruitt

Robert Pruitt, Untitled (9 mm), 2011



Camp Bosworth, Plata o Plomo, 2011 (this is a working bar)


Michael Bise

Michael Bise, Uncle Corky, 2011


Marshall Harris

Marshall Harris, The Hand That Feeds, 2011


Clay Stinnett

Clay Stinnett, 2014


El Franco Lee Ii

El Franco Lee II, Drag Race, 2014


Big guns by big guns:

Rebecca Horn

Rebecca Horn, High Noon, 1991


Cornelia Parker

Cornelia Parker, Landscape with Gun and Tree, 2010


Sarah Lucas

Sarah Lucas, Yes, 2012


Mat Collishaw

Mat Collishaw, Bullet Hole, 1988


Jake and Dinos Chapman

Jake and Dinos Chapman, M16, 2014


Yinka Shonibare

Yinka Shonibare, MBE, How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Ladies), 2006


But wait! There’s more. We really haven’t even scratched the surface.

Rineke Dijkstra

Rineke Dijkstra, Omri, Givati Brigade, Golan Heights, Israel, 2000


Bromley and Kendal

Sandra Bromley and Wallis Kendal, Gun Sculpture, 2000


Mel Chin

Mel Chin, Home y Sew 9, 1994


Raymond Pettibon

Raymond Pettibon


R. Crumb

R. Crumb


Sophie Crumb

Sophie Crumb


But let’s not dive into comics and near-comics. We’ll be there all year.

Moving on.

Ryan Humphrey

Ryan Humphrey


Ashley Bickerton, Bad, 1988

Ashley Bickerton, Bad, 1988


Maurizio Cattelan

Maurizio Cattelan, Bidibidobidiboo, 1996


Disgusting excuse for art, though he’s apologized profusely since then:

Tom Otterness

Tom Otterness, rare still from Shot Dog Film, 1977

(He actually shot the dog.)

Deserved takedown of Otterness by unknown artist:


Anonymous, placed in 14th Street subway station, NYC, 2014


That’s all for today. Let me hear from you.




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18 Responses

  1. Austin Macclure

    I’m not a gun person. But I would hazard a guess that publishing where you hide your pistol is a bad idea. Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on guns vis a vis art, rather than that you’re thinking about it. Although, I don’t think it’s particularly fertile ground.

    Policy-wise, everyone semi-literate and above are on the same page. Firearms useless for hunting are proliferate and ill justified. And recreational shooting is for dullards with the occasional exception such as Hunter S.

    I can get behind freak power. Arm minorities. Otherwise, the topic is discussed ad nauseam. And here it’s only tenuously related to art in Texas and little more than a listicle.

  2. Bad Man

    Arm minorities? Many of them are already quite well-armed, unfortunately, as a perusal of the daily local crime news from many North American cities will reveal.

    1. Rainey Knudson

      And yet, almost all domestic terrorism incidents are executed by white people with guns.

      (By “domestic terrorism” I mean mass shootings.)

      1. If by mass shooting you mean what the news claims happens more than once a day then you mean what the FBI means then you mean 4 or more victims and those are by a landslide majority unknown shooters so you are basically making shit up.

  3. I am a painfully shy person and I hate to speak up for myself or blow my own horn but I have spent too much effort, too much money, too much, time, too much thought and I feel too deeply that my work is important and should be seen that I feel compelled to should say something about my work and share an image.

    In order to encourage others who are also struggling to have their work seen and heard I want to say that although there have been very many times that I have been censored, ignored, passed over or stood up or been insulted on behalf of my work that I have also had so many wonderful, brave, incredible people in my life stand up to support my work and I am eternally grateful to the people who have done so. It means everything to me but not just to me;

    We are seeing results from our artistic efforts to raise awareness about the stray animals in Oak Cliff. Our efforts are a pittance but we are proud to have been a part of the symphony of voices that have greased the rusty gears of bureaucracy that are only now beginning to turn and we couldn’t have done what we did without you.

    The problem isn’t solved, not by a long shot. Still, if you read the news you might have noticed that they have begun to ramp-up efforts to patrol certain areas in Dallas for stray dogs. They are finally stepping up, thanks to you and I hope that the community continues to be vigilant in seeking a solution.

    Thank you so much to everyone that helped us when we were censored by the people in Bishop Arts who compelled the owners not to allow us to paint the mural to raise awareness about the stray pet problem in Dallas. Thank you to the people at Petropolitan who gave us another location and thank you to everyone who came out and helped us to paint. Thank you to Home Depot and to Sherwin-Williams for donating supplies. Thank you to everyone who supported us in any way.

    I’m a full-time artist living in Dallas. I earned my second degree in Spain, at the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain, a school that may sound extremely foreign at first but will sound less so when I will mention that the sculptor and architect Santiago Calatrava graduated from there as well. You should be familiar with his work as he was the architect behind the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge here in Dallas, a bridge that struck me as extremely plain as I have lived with his dramatic City of Arts and Sciences complex of buildings in Valencia.

    My several hundred page MFA thesis there was inspired by the suicide of my best friend and concerned itself with a study of the causes of violence and of the depictions of violence in art and what it might indicate about human nature. The visual portion of my MFA evolved into almost a decade of work. I spent the greater part of my 20’s looking into these issues and creating a series of deeply and intentionally symbolic drawings and paintings.

    Here is one of them, a mixed media work that specifically deals with spree shootings. I cannot upload a photo here so I have to give a link. The image is available about halfway down on the page of this interview.


  4. Using guns in art. What does that do?
    It ties in with the status show that comes with purchasing expensive art (Warhol). They say ‘I am powerful’ (Warhols in Kickass). They can be used as a device to imply a narrative (Horn, Cattelan). To back up a character’s personality in a portrait (Crumb). Their iconic image acts as a warning to others that a person has the means to inflict pain (Lichtenstein). They are sexy objects (Longo), for those who would conflate sex and aggression (Pettibon). A show of virility and domineering control (Bosman) ties in with the power thing. Their inclusion in an image affects the mood, adding gravity (Colville).

    Sometimes the use of their image is purely formal (Humphrey), with inevitable subconscious associations (Allen). Used for their design and beauty as objects (Harris, Bosworth), they exist as a common thread through history, and a specific type can help date an image (Shonibare). When queered (Reutersward, Gober), and with altered display, they make statements about their place in society (Chin, Sachs, Donnett).

    In performance specifically, they are used for timing, marking a clear end – highly valuable in this form of art. The firing of bullets as punctuation in a joke (Signer). Or to evoke an emotional response in the finality of action (Otterness), for the shock value of inflicting real pain (Burden).

    They can be used as an actual tool in the creation of a work (Jackson, Higgins). As a method for creating a hole (Phillips) – just mark making after all (Art Guys), and scars – a sign of strength for enduring that pain. A sign that a thing has been physically damaged with emotional and spiritual repercussions (Prince).

  5. Etcetera
    Matthew Ronay
    Tracey Emin, Hate and Power Can be a Terrible Thing 2004 Appliqué blanket (love the quilts!)
    (after your beloved) Devin Troy Strother, A Black Chris Burden in, “Shoot me in the arm nigga,” 2012, acrylic and paper on canvas, 8 x 10 inches

    Connor Shea
    Ed Wilson, Child’s Play
    Peter Dean, Dallas Chaos II

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