“Don’t Shoot” — Art provokes student reactions

Wax sculpture of hand guns, the first part of Gerald Lovato’s art installation for a project in his CNM class. Photographer anonymous. Received to News Port, April 30, 2019.

In response to the seemingly relentless mass shootings in the United States, one Central New Mexico Community College student spoke out against the violence through his art.

Gerald Lovato, who was enrolled in Art Practices Two for the Spring 2019 semester, created an installation employing different art forms highlighting the effects of gun violence.

The idea for the project started with his 10-year-old son, who came home from school and asked for extra sharpened pencils. When Lovato asked him why, his son said, “So I can have them there so I can protect myself in case there is some kind of shooting.”

“I had an emotional response (to that conversation),” Lovato said. “When we were coming up with concepts for our different pieces in my art class, (mass shootings) was the one that I wanted to convey.”

Gerald Lovato showcased an installation speaking out against mass shootings and gun violence. Photographer anonymous. Received by News Port, April 30, 2019.

One piece of the installation was a crafted wax sculpture of hand-guns with wax-tipped red barrels. When lit, the guns appeared to be melting, creating a symbolic message about gun control.

Lovato’s installation included a live projection, showcasing his peers questioning lack of gun reform while behind them ran a projection of violent actions.

Perhaps the most impactful part of Lovato’s installation was a wall covered with newspaper reports of mass shootings. The display was splattered with spots of red spray paint to represent gun wounds. It included candles as a memorial to those who have died in mass shootings. All of this was positioned near the ground floor elevator on the CNM main campus, making it impossible to miss for anyone using that elevator.

During critique of his second piece, Lovato said the class fell silent when they first stepped out of the elevator, unprepared for aware of the intense installation they were about to face.

“I think this one caught a lot of attention because they were forced to be in the environment and it had a lot of reaction from it,” Lovato said.

For CNM nursing student, Alejandro Chavez, the elevator exhibit was shocking — it even caused Chavez to be late to class because of the time he took to study the art.

“I was surprised by it all, at first, and then after looking around for awhile I got very scared,” said Chavez, “It felt like a call to action, saying that something has to be done.”

Danielle Miller, Lovato’s professor in the department of Art and Art history at CNM, said she thinks Lovato’s ideas were exceptional, very personal but also spoke universally.

“I believe it pushed us to wake up and face the problem of gun violence in American culture — even if just for a few minutes — as the elevator doors opened, and we stood in a small space covered in images of school shootings,” she said.

Lovato printed and hung over 50 printed headlines reporting mass shootings. The printings were showcased outside of an elevator on CNM main campus. Photo by Madison Spratto. April 3, 2019.

Miller said the work was emotionally complex and difficult to experience. The purpose was to create an installation that the viewer could be immersed in, which Miller said he accomplished.

According to Miller, Lovato’s assignment was to make a site-specific installation on campus that is inspired by an established installation artist. He chose Pepon Osorio, a Puerto Rican artist known for his large-scale installations.

Covering such a controversial and sensitive topic Lovato said he put a lot of thought into how to convey his message. He said Miller told him to keep it personal and specific, and to stay focused on what he wanted to communicate.

According to the Washington Post, 1,153 people have died in a mass shooting incident since 1966.

The definition of “mass shooting” is ambiguous, but according to the Post, any incident that four or more people die at the hand of one (sometimes two) shooters is considered a mass shooting.

Alanie Rael is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port, she can be contacted on Twitter @AllyRael.

Madison Spratto is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port, she can be contacted on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.