GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Moved by the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting in May, a Danish artist decided she would create a piece for ArtPrize that illustrates the number of lives lost in mass shootings in the U.S.
“We heard a lot about that in Denmark and about the statistics…,” Junette Bay, the artist behind “The right to bear cute arms,” said. “…I read a lot about mass shootings in America and I heard a lot from podcasts and about how many weapons there is here.”
Bay is a designer, muralist and street artist in Denmark. She said that her ArtPrize entry is “very different” than what she normally does.
“The art that I do is very cheerful. I use pastel colors and patterns and people always tell me that it is very uplifting to look at my art. But when I heard about this happening in America, I felt that I was not going to do a piece that was going to be uplifting. So I wanted to do something a little more serious,” Bay said.
During her research, she said she wanted to depict an AR-15 because “it is the most commonly used for mass shootings.”
“I tried to get a replica from Denmark but that is not possible. So I ordered a replica from a California company that (makes) props for the movie industry,” Bay said.
She painted the replica AR-15 with her signature style of pastels and patterns. She said the contrast between the cheerful colors and childlike patterns and the deadly weapon gave her a constant knot in her stomach.
“I was feeling sick really because the light and cheerful colors and the object that is designed for killing, combining theses two, just feels so wrong,” Bay said.
Along with the AR-15, the Danish artist created 3D printed bullets, each one representing a different mass shooting that has happened in the U.S. this year. As of Sept. 19, there were 573. The bullets have the words “thoughts and prayers” on them.
“(These) words are used a lot here, and these are just words. It doesn’t seem like there is any action behind the words,” she said.
She said she’s excited to hear people’s arguments for and against guns as well as their personal experiences. Since installing her artwork at the DeVos Place Convention Center, she said she has received a lot of feedback from visitors.
“I’ve seen some of the reactions and some of them almost made me cry,” Bay said. “There was some teachers coming up to me and saying, ‘Thank you for doing this,’ and also younger people are thanking me.”
ArtPrize is an international art competition that takes place in Grand Rapids through Oct. 2.