In the first seven months of the year, police say, 2,394 people were shot in Chicago.
Chicago-based sculptor Garland Martin Taylor is taking it personally, and taking matters into his own hands.
Taylor’s newest piece is “Pflight.” The title combines “fight” and “plight,” and refers to black families fleeing the violence of their neighborhoods.
Taylor’s piece uses bullet casings decorated with his own hair.
“I’m not an activist,” Taylor said. “I respond to what’s around me. I’m creating what I saw and what I felt. The message is strong and urgent … Stop the killing.”
“Plight” is at the Weinberg/Newton Gallery, 300 W. Superior St., as part of “This Heat,” an exhibition that also features the work of two other Chicago artists, Cheryl Pope and Krista Wortendyke, responding to gun violence, which escalates in summer.
Pope presents two videos from her ongoing project “Just Yell.” Wortendyke documents the Chicago homicides during the summer of 2010 in a 65-foot piece called “Killing Season Chicago,” according to the gallery.
“Pflight,” which Taylor describes as “beautiful and ugly at the same,” has more than 20 bullet casings decorated with feathers and pieces of Taylor’s hair covered in acrylic paint. The bullets hang from the ceiling on guitar strings.
“The bullets can be interpreted as angels” that represent lives lost — “or as a threat — bullets have to be dodged,” Taylor said. “It can be both. It speaks to the idea that this piece is a monument of death.”
Taylor will lecture at the gallery from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. “This Heat” is open through Sept. 24.
“There was an urgency to this show that was compelling,” Gallery Director David Weinberg said. “We felt we had to make a statement.”
For the show, the gallery, which focuses on social justice, partnered with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.
Taylor is selling the bullets for $100 each, and giving half of that to the anti-violence group.
“There is no simple way to describe this piece,” Taylor said. “But that’s the point. Every time someone sees my work, I want them to choose what it represents to them.”
“I want people to ask themselves: ‘Am I a part of the problem, or the solution?'”
Meg Noe, curator of “This Heat,” says the piece provokes mixed emotions. “The work is not heavy, but it’s not light,” she said. “People come through and the shadows the bullets cast on the wall, and they feel a connection to the work.”
That work will continue even after the exhibition is over, Taylor said.
“Pflight will grow,” he said. “Gun violence is a big problem. My first job is to make a work of art responding to my time. If I’m going to do that, it needs to be aesthetically viable.”
Taylor has made 300 bullets so far, and plans to have roughly 900 by 2018 — as long as he takes care of one important detail.
“First,” Taylor said, “I have to grow out my hair again.”