Curator’s Eye

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We asked curators of leading twentieth-century and contemporary design collections to discuss one object that they feel is particularly noteworthy. Here is a gallery of their choices.

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The figure is a symbolic portrait of the countless victims of gun violence in the United States

Joyce J. Scott (1948-) HEAD SHOT, 2008. Glassbeads, mold-blown glass, threat, and bullet casings. Chrysler Museum of Art / Ed Pollard Photo, Courtesy Goya Contemporary Gallery

BALTIMORE NATIVE AND MULTIMEDIA artist Joyce Scott makes sculptural works out of beads—a material traditionally used for decoration or adornment—that convey complex and often difficult political and social messages. The Chrysler Museum of Art’s recent acquisition, Head Shot, directly confronts the issue of gun violence in the United States. Since the work’s creation in 2008, it has taken on deeper, more urgent meaning in the wake of the high-profile shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, as well as numerous mass shootings.

Head Shot is a hybrid structure: a transparent green liquor bottle in the shape of a hand clutching a gun stands in for a human figure, while a head made out of glass beads rests on the muzzle of the gun. (Scott created the beaded head using an improvisational, freeform stitching technique that enables it to stand on its own without a supporting structure.) The bottle is filled with empty shell casings, tangible evidence of a real gun. In Scott’s piece, the gun has gone off—though not visible in the photograph, the beading actually depicts the subject’s brain exploding out the top of the skull. Depicted in mid-shot, the figure is a symbolic portrait of the countless victims of gun violence in the United States, particularly within the African-American male community. While Head Shot is provocative and has a visibly challenging message, Scott’s multilayered and expertly crafted work drives us to look more closely at the issues it tackles—and is a commentary on the power of art to open lines of conversation and communication about grave social problems, and even to prompt change.

Diane C. Wright
Carolyn and Richard Barry Curator of Glass
Chrysler Museum of Art
Norfolk, Virginia

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