It seems like everyone’s got an opinion about guns. I’ve recently penned a couple columns from my perspective as a psychologist to add my two cents to the debate.

Sometimes when things get really hot in such a controversy, it helps to step back and look at things from a different perspective. What about the artistic value of firearms?

The most immediate things that probably come to mind are the craftsmanship used in manufacturing the gun, and/or the way a gun is uniquely fitted to your own body. If you have a shotgun fitted to your arm length, you know what a difference it makes in accuracy. A fitted shotgun becomes like a new appendage.

Maybe you are lucky enough to have engraving on the stock or barrel of your gun. Some of artwork engraved on guns is spectacular. Depending on what the images are, they may even be good luck charms to help you improve accuracy.

Guns can be works of art, but what about guns actually being used to create art?

Liz Paterson of Cerrillos, New Mexico is both an artist and a sport shooter. Clay is one of her favorite artistic mediums. One day, an idea popped into her mind when she was target shooting: “what would happen if I shot a brick of clay like they do for ballistics tests?”

Her friend Peter Bassin thought that sounded like fun, and so they pooled their guns (a derringer, a .38 pistol, a .45 pistol, and a 30-30 carbine), got some chunks of modeling clay, set them up in a place with a good backstop, and started blasting away to see what would happen.

“I expected to make holes in the clay, but what really happened was a surprise. Each different gun had an effect on the clay based on the size of the bullet and its impact, and what they did to the clay was something very different with each shot,” Liz says, showing me some of her bulls-eyes. “The clay exploded on both sides, and the results were shapes that I never expected.”

Liz and Peter had a great time, creating all kinds of strange forms with the help of their arsenal. As Liz looked at their targets, the shot clay blocks did indeed each have a personality.

“One block we shot twice, one at the top, and a second shot in the middle. It looked like an angel with wings, so I called it ‘the angel.’ “

Liz took her “trophies,” the ballistic blocks of clay, and fired them as she would the pots and sculptures that she otherwise makes.

Regarding her ballistic works of art, she began applying the mind of an artist to her creations. Some pieces were unique in their own right. Others reminded her of Indian pueblos, so she made little ladders to go along with them.  Others seemed to want to be stacked one on top of the other, resulting in human-like figures. Others looked like homes on other planets. Still others looked like caves and animal burrows, so she made clay bears and mountain lions to go with those pieces. She even transformed some clay blocks into bookends.

The result was an exhibition shown at the Spirit in Art gallery in Madrid, New Mexico, which she owns. Madrid is a free-spirited art colony of about 350 people and 50 shops clustered together on the Turquoise Trail (NM14) about 30 miles south of Santa Fe, a community that is perhaps best-known for being a location for the feature film Wild Hogs. The exhibit was a definite hit.

“We sold most of the pieces,” Liz says, showing me a few that are left or that she is so attached to that she did not want to sell them.

If you want to buy one of her creations, you can contact Liz at Spirit of Art. She has a few pieces left, and you might even be able to twist her arm for some new ones. But if you are adventurist, you might see what you could do with your guns and some blocks of modeling clay. This may be a new budding artform.

The moral to this story is that guns may have uses that you may not even dreamed of. Can you imagine a national ballistic art exhibition–“The Spirit of the Gun?” Truly, a holy show.

Images by James Swan

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