WORDS / KODY FORD
For generations, guns have been a ubiquitous part of Southern culture. A tool for securing food. A tool for protecting family. In recent years, the limits on guns in America have become a political hot potato. While most people have opinions on the issue, Guy Bell, of DRAWL Southern Contemporary Art, is out to shine light on the cultural cornerstone of Southern life.
“Art is a great vehicle to engage people of all backgrounds in this debate,” Bell said. “The hope is that people who don’t normally look at art will give it a chance because of the subject matter, and those who don’t normally care for the subject matter will engage because of the art. As much as it seems to be about issues surrounding 2nd Amendment, The Gun Show is in fact about exercising the 1st Amendment.”
Encouraging discussion is the true agenda of the show. Bell recalls a time when he and his friends could gather for drinks, talk politics and, even when things got heated, pay their tabs and leave as friends. He feels the 24/7 news cycle and the tribal nature of social media discourages such discussions in recent years, which is why he’s allowing artists to submit their take on guns and gun culture in America.
DRAWL is partnering with the Oxford American Magazine for the exhibition.
“[The] OA is a fabulous publication with a finger on the pulse of what is happening now in Southern contemporary culture,” Bell said. “It was evident during the first meeting that this event was going to ask some great questions. Who better to help frame those questions than one of the nation’s leading literary magazines? They have offered to host an authors’ panel discussion to help provide greater context to the themes present in the work.”
The Gun Show is being curated by Chad Alligood, a Georgia native and the curator at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
The Gun Show awards ceremony and opening reception will take place at Cache Restaurant on Friday, May 20, 2016 at 6 pm. A private VIP reception will begin at 5 pm in the Cache Lounge. Tickets are $50 general and $75 VIP. The evening will begin with the awards announcements, followed by a reception of hors d’ oeuvres by Chef Payne Harding and seasonally inspired specialty cocktails to celebrate the winning artists and the opening of The Gun Show Exhibition 2016. All artists selected for the exhibition will be invited to attend the opening event and many of the works will be on display.
Tickets are available for both general admission and VIP levels. To reserve tickets in advance, contact 501.680.1871. A portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit Oxford American programs and outreach. The month-long exhibition will take place at DRAWL beginning the following Monday.
DRAWL, a gallery located at 5208 Kavanaugh Blvd. in Little Rock on the second floor, focuses on promoting contemporary Southern Arts and culture. Their artists range in experience from the emerging to the established. According to Bell, they insist on maintaining a stable that is equally represented by both men and women.
Bell described the gallery’s aesthetic: “We believe that the art created in the South is unrivaled in both its originality and presentation. It is about mastery of technique and thoughtfulness of experimentation. We select art and try to promote work within the context of not only the regional scene, but also what is happening nationally. Conversely, we also want to be a small part of the force countering the assumption that following the trends started on the coasts is the only way to be considered relevant.”