Artist Alton DuLaney couldn't be mad that University of Houston officials censored his gun art from an exhibit at the Blaffer Art Museum — they basically made his point for him.
Despite the fact that students will literally be sitting in English class with loaded guns on them in just three months, apparently DuLaney's exhibit, showing an unloaded revolver with a cartoonish banner that says "ART" protruding from its barrel, is all too threatening right now. Unlike private schools, UH is required to implement the new campus carry law slated to go into effect this August whether it likes it or not (from the looks of its restrictive campus-carry proposal, it doesn't like it). But even if DuLaney's exhibit went up in August while students were packing heat on the sidewalks, the UH Office of General Counsel has, interestingly, said that DuLaney's gun art still likely wouldn't have been allowed. (Yeah, we're still waiting on the office's further explanation for that.)
Now, the ART banner is the only item behind the glass, but DuLaney said the gun's absence may say more than its presence: “It proved my point about how controversial this object was,” he said.
DuLaney had planned to make a statement about the power of guns by juxtaposing the revolver with the "bang" comic-book-like graphic that says "ART." That cartoonish element reminded DuLaney of how guns are so omnipresent in Texas culture that, even for kids in this state, toy guns are part of growing up. He was wondering: If he transformed the gun to look this way, would it still have as much power? After UH's decision, the answer was, well, apparently yes.
“There's an obvious implication of power that this thing has, that this inanimate object has when combined with ammunition and intent to create damage,” DuLaney said. “So I wanted to create a piece that said all of that, but that was diffused by being cloaked in a statement of art."
The UH Office of General Counsel posted a two-paragraph explanation directly beneath DuLaney's display case for why the school banned the gun from the show, citing the Texas law that bans guns on campus (until August). Never mind the fact that someone else created an entire exhibit of prison shanks and nunchucks that are evenly laid out in a seven-foot-long display box — that's apparently fair game.
Which is pretty funny to DuLaney, given that, even if people were carrying deadly weapons on their way to class, his gun art (but not prison shanks) would still be off-limits...behind a glass case.
At the time he thought up the display, conversations were swirling around campus carry, some with heated intensity. DuLaney says his display is intended to be neutral, but that he was hoping it would still “fan the flames of dialogue” amid controversial debate. At UH, it was apparent just how touchy the subject had become among faculty after one professor even directed faculty in a presentation to “Be careful discussing sensitive topics,” to “Drop certain topics from your curriculum” and to “Not 'go there' if you sense anger.” “There's a weariness or fragility to having that conversation,” DuLaney said, hoping his artsy gun would eliminate some of that.
But guess we won't find out.
The exhibit is open until May 14 at 4173 Elgin Street.
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