Ann O’Lear: The Reno Gun Show

Our movies have always glorified violence to the point of being erotic. Film history has depended on gory images and violence to capture the imagination of audiences, young and old. Recent studies by researchers at the University of Yale theorize that violent and erotic images have the capacity to overload the viewer’s brain for a split second and cause them to feel ‘stunned’. This is interesting for it draws a parallel if not a connection with eroticism and violence.

Film Noir has experimented and explored themes of eroticism and violence to create an effect among the viewers that no other genre could. In fact, violence and eroticism are strangely linked, and are almost connected to each other. The act of sex is also an act of violence for both the participants, and the same neurotransmitters are released during intense sexual orgasm and intense pain. Pain is pleasure, may perhaps be scientifically proven. Violence and eroticism are so closely intertwined that they share a co-dependant relationship.

The idea of destruction and the idea of production are closely linked, because of the relationship between the life and death forces within our unconscious. Libido and Thanatos cannot be separated nor can they be differentiated. It thus isn’t a surprise that weapons which cause bodily harm have always had a sexual connotation to them. The arrow has always been a powerful and virile symbol. So has been the gun. The gun represents humans’ need for violence and sex, instincts that are evolutionary from the days of being savage hunters.

Gun perhaps is the most erotic symbol of our times that it is almost pornographic when represented through art. However, this human obsession with the gun has been the cause for tragic deaths and maimed bodies.

Ann O’Lear is an American artist based in Reno, Nevada. She has worked as an Artist-in-residence in that state and has traveled widely from schools to schools and has taught art to children who do not have regular art teachers. Having led a bohemian life she took great interest in her husband’s boxing matches. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Designing but her work is related more to the primal instinct of violence, guns and eroticism.

She has undertaken a project called ‘The Reno Gun Show’ which explores the themes of guns being agents for transformation, eroticism, and entertainment. Guns have been the symbol of not just American popular culture, but have continued to have a strangle-hold over most of the male populations across the world. In fact guns can be seen as the symbol of male virility, and a boy that holds a gun understands that he is initiated and is no more a boy and is a man. The Reno Gun Show consists of charcoal drawings on Masonite panels.

She uses Spackle and Acrylic gel to coat the panels and uses the charcoal to draw. With her bare hands, she blends these drawings on the panel only taking a break for her wounds to heal. In fact, she sees a connection with the pain she feels and the artfulness of the drawing she creates. Her drawings do not explore the tragedies that continue to unfold because of this erotic weapon but explore the connection of guns with masculinity, eroticism, fashion and the male figure.

In order to create these visually enthralling drawings, she has met gun owners between the ages of 10 and 80. She explores the American obsession with guns in spite of the damage it has caused to the American society. The Reno Gun Show is about the American collective memory tied to gun culture and the fascination of guns being manly and erotic, at the same time, while being able to kill. One of her series within the series is “The Aristocrats of Violence” which include “Flintlock”, “Colt .45” and “Smith and Wesson 29”. These depict popular heroes from American past and present who are not only sex symbols but are associated with guns.

Bare chested men carrying various sized guns have been the symbol of the American film and this symbolism was adopted by the European and Asian films too. The gun toting pimp and the handsome cowboy who twitches his fingers to pick up the pistol from his side-pockets have continued to mesmerize people regardless of their gender, age and sexual orientation. In one of her drawings a man uses a gun to almost mimic foreplay and that strikes the note between violence and eroticism.

While it is now apparent that universally people have found the gun to be a major sex symbol, it is not just the shape of the weapon but the idea of what it does, that makes it so erotic. The ability take someone’s life is closely related to the ability to procreate. The ability to defend oneself with a gun also makes the weapon a saviour, a hero a male sex symbol. Ann O’Lear, in her charcoal drawings, has captured these emotions and evolutionary association humans have towards the gun.

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  • Lise

    Great drawings-some of your best stuff yet

  • brian

    press on Annie