Natalie Baxter, My Super Sweet M Sixteen, 2015, Fabric and polyfill, 20 x 60 x 3.5 inches
March 2 – April 23, 2016
Institute 193, Lexington
Floods of recent media coverage have turned the public’s attention to increasingly common mass shootings and conversation to the politics of gun control. Feeling powerless to act within these cycles of destructive outbursts and stagnant Congressional proceedings, Natalie Baxter found an outlet in making her own guns.
OK-47 is a series of sewn and stuffed sculptures, many of which are modeled after actual weapons used in recent US mass shootings. With fabric from New York City’s Garment District or her roommate’s Goodwill pile, Baxter turns images of these violent weapons into soft and brightly colored caricatures. Though she now lives in Brooklyn, New York, Baxter grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, a place that introduced her both to gun culture and to sewing. One of her gun-owning acquaintances, her Appalachian grandmother, taught her to quilt when she was young.
Firearms are traditionally viewed as objects of power and masculinity, but Baxter is unsettling this image by using a historically feminine craft technique to create non-threatening, non-functioning, and (frankly) flaccid translations. Her guns are more than plush toys, since treating them as such and thrusting them into the hands of children would only serve to familiarize and endear the image of a dangerous weapon. Baxter hopes that the works will act not as a statement for or against guns, but rather as catalysts for open-ended discussions about violence, gender, and ways in which humans relate to one another.