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Trigger Happy America

noe tanigawa
noe tanigawa

Call it coincidence as many do, but April has a reputation for violence among terrorism experts.  Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in April, as was Abraham Lincoln.  Hitler was born April 20, 1889.  Patriots’ Day, commemorating the first battles of the American Revolutionary War, is April 19.

On April 19, 1993, seventy-six people were killed in a standoff in Waco, Texas. On the same day two years later, Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City.  April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School outside Denver, two students killed thirteen people and themselves.  There are many other examples.  Violence, specifically gun violence, is the impetus behind Deborah Nehmad’s art work.  

Deborah Nehmad’s three part series, “WASTED,”  grabs you first because the works are bold, graphic, like a bull’s eye.  Also, they’re tactile, paper, waxed, crumpled, dyed, printed, and perforated with holes burned by a titanium screw.

“My work is incredibly time consuming, obsessive, there’s a lot of repetition involved in making the work, and so for me to devote the amount of  time that I put into the work, I have to care deeply about the issue I’m addressing.”

In this case, gun violence.  In "wasted (i)," Nehmad burned 86 hundred holes across three panels indicating the number of children killed by guns in 2003-5.  Red threads form a cross hair over each hole representing a homicide, black thread indicates suicides.  Other pieces reflect adults killed, and all killed since 2006, when the federal government stopped keeping records.

noe tanigawa
Credit noe tanigawa
Deborah Nehmad, “wasted (ii)”, (detail) graphite, scraping, beeswax, pyrography, thread on handmade Nepalese paper.

“Just seeing what was happening and the gun industry lobby’s buying its way into power revolted me.  One of the things the gun lobby was successful in doing is prohibiting the government from keeping data about deaths by guns in 2006.  So the last available data collected on a national scale was the years I chose.”

  Hawai‘i residents who lived through the “Xerox shootings” on Nimitz Highway in 1999 will never forget it.  November 2, 1999, 8am, Bryan K. Uyesugi, 40, also known as "Byran," went to the second floor of the Xerox building on Nimitz Highway where he worked.  He shot and killed seven fellow employees before leading police on a chase and standoff in Makiki.

“It affected all of us.  (The community felt) violated, scared.  It’s a terrorist act.  Australia—they had one mass shooting twenty years ago, they banned guns and they haven’t had an incident since.  Now I frankly am not against guns, I am for sensible gun restriction policy.”

Mass shootings are defined as involving four or more victims---according to Gunviolence.org , eighty four people have died and there have been seventy-five mass shootings so far this year in America.  

Find more of Deborah Nehmad's work on her website.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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