Armed with Art: A Loaded Conversation About Guns

Artist Charles Krafft left easel painting to make hand-crafted porcelain machine guns and paint dinner plates commemorating sociopolitical disasters. His porcelain guns were initially inspired by the war in Yugoslavia in mid 1990s, when he saw Bosnian militia with AK-47s marching around. But when his porcelain pieces began drawing in American press and art buyers, he realized that his works were “really about America and its fascination with guns.”

Krafft_Thompsonbird One of Charles Krafft’s ceramic guns. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist

Discussing his hope to make full-sized Scud missiles and nuclear bombs in porcelain, Krafft explained that his intention is to produce “life-size ceramic weaponry so gorgeous and patently functionless that it will bedazzle and confound everyone who sees it.”

Cold Metal

In contrast to Krafft’s comparatively dainty satire pieces, Artist Jameson Ellis’ reconstructed guns are not only fully operational, but improved versions of the original. Ellis’ aesthetic is meticulously attentive to details. The artist-turned-mechanical-engineer describes the technical thought-process that goes into re-creating these guns, such as “the ergonomic considerations, carefully rounding over all the parts with sharp edges, and fitting it to my own body.” But the artist acknowledges the underlining sense of danger, and explains that there is always “the risk it could be used against anyone, even me.” As part of his 2010 “Hunt & Chase” show at Salomon Contemporary in New York, he shot his hand-constructed AK-47 through the gallery walls.

As if answering a question he has had to ask himself, he explains that he built the rifle for “a constellation of reasons, including questions about who we are as Americans, and as creatures who attempt to exert our will through our tools.”

Maybe it is human nature, but it is difficult to pull our eyes away from the gun.

The ocean versus the waves

Ellis, a father and an artist, describes the emotional impact of the recent Sandy Hook tragedy and its news coverage. “I have a six year old daughter in 1st grade and an AR-15 I redesigned and built by hand in my studio. I have been profoundly distressed; Sandy Hook has compelled me to think about both deeply.”

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