There’s nothing funny about guns. Even the toy gun that releases a flower after the trigger is pulled is still a formidable object despite the unmistakable irony. However, Brooklyn-based artist Natalie Baxter has found a way to transform firearms into colorful sewn sculptures that makes one almost feel giddy.

OK-47, currently on-view at Institute 193 in Lexington, KY, is an installation of over 50 gun pillows stuffed and sewn from various bright and shiny scraps of fabric. Baxter has a true sense of color and even though the material may have a variety of patterns or iridescence or bold hues, it all combines very nicely as a single object and as an overall installation. There’s something about it that makes you smile and for some reason made me think of drag queens.

The more I thought about it, the drag queen impression seemed relevant for several reasons. Baxter chose a masculine weapon and transformed it into a feminine craft. Normally, a gun is thought of as cold, heavy and very serious and Baxter’s firearms are cheerful, soft and exaggerated. Their flamboyancy is the appeal even though they represent something completely different.  Baxter toys with gender one step further by making the rifle barrels of the AK-47’s flaccid, which is her final artistic act of emasculating a gun’s power.

Gun control is a politically charged issue. Although different in approach, artists like Al Farrow who uses deconstructed guns and real bullets in his sculptures and Natalie Baxter who uses fabric and batting in her sculptures are bringing the issue into galleries to create a compelling display and to point out that we haven’t yet found a solution.

OK-47 is on view through April 23, 2016 at Institute 193, Lexington, Kentucky.

–Julie Gross

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