Updated: Oct 20
The decision to work with the vintage Texan Jr. cap gun in the painting, Anatomy Lesson (shown below) came as an extension to the western-themed series that includes Escape and Object. I was completely drawn to the intricately etched scrollwork, thinking how satisfying it would be to accurately render the elaborate detail. It's fairly realistic and surprisingly heavy for a toy gun. It seems like it would be very dangerous for a kid to carry around these days because in the wrong situation it could be mistaken for a real gun. That particular danger aside, I suspect the painting will send different kinds of messages about danger depending on how a viewer feels about guns in general.
I never played with guns as a kid but all the boys I knew were completely obsessed with every manner of gun – toy and real. As an adult, I don't much like guns, so it was a bit out of character for me to want to spend so much time painstakingly detailing the Texan Jr. in a painting. Still, I thought the gun was beautiful and I was very determined to see where it would lead me.
Composing the still life for Anatomy lesson, was a two week long process of trial and error to discover what objects felt "right" alongside the gun. Most of the objects I tried just clashed with the gun or tended to come off as trite. And worse, the gun dominated the composition in a way that made everything else seem like an afterthought. Finally, by laying the gun down and framing it with a backdrop of printed materials that boys I knew as a child might have read – science textbook and comic books – the piece came together and a story began to emerge.
The last part of any of my paintings is the naming, which can take some time. For me, the name is as much a part of the painting as any of the objects in it. Ultimately, Anatomy lesson turned out to be a work that examines how many people feel empowered by guns while not necessarily seeing how vulnerable they are to them.
Anatomy lesson | Oil on linen, 24 in. X 30 in.