Guns are dangerous, and right now the United States is tearing itself apart trying to figure out how to think about these deadly weapons, one side viewing them as rightfully-owned tools and toys, and the other seeking to eradicate them entirely. Colorado artist Ravi Zupa finds something of a middle ground in a new show, Strike Everywhere, at Black Book Gallery in Denver, that feautures paintings, tarot-like illustrations, custom matchboxes, and an alluring set of sculptural firearms called made from deconstructed typewriters.
The series of typewriter guns, collectively called Mightier Than, are central to the show. They would be fascinating for their intricate craftsmanship alone, lending the works a steampunk-like feel. Zupa collects them at estate and garage sales, and Black Book Gallery owner Tom Horne helps him collect them on Craigslist. Each one is unique, and Zupa must figure out how to transform its disparate parts into lock, stock, and barrel. "I sit on the floor and spend time doing a reverse puzzle," Zupa tells The Creators Project. "I try to get things apart without doing damage, but that isn't always possible." Once the typewriter is disassembled, he builds the gun from illustrations in old books and encyclopedias.
Perhaps the most alluring aspect of Mightier Than is its ability to highlight guns as beautiful design objects, with or without the stigma. Zupa relays a story about his young nephew's reaction to the works that explain this concept. At four years old, the boy asked him about the sculptures, and seeking to avoid "the gun talk" with another person's child, he responded, “What do you think it is?” The boy replied, “I don’t know. My mom doesn’t like them but I know they are beautiful.”
This is where Zupa's work is most valuable. It makes the viewer realize that it's ok to view guns as just that. Buckets of money and creative talent are spent streamlining the design for these pieces, which cost hundreds of dollars each. Mightier Than allows viewers to, like Zupa's nephew, appreciate the ways they look while removing their ability to do harm. As indicated by the old adage from which this sculpture series takes its name, "The pen is mightier than the sword," these typewriters and the ideas they represent actually can swallow gun adoration by offering a non-lethal alternative. Zupa says, "I think these sculptures do glorify guns to some degree but they don't glorify violence at all."
MTSMG - RYL 9 24 x 12 inches Antique typewriter components, stapler components, square bar scrap steel, scrap steel pipe and oak 2016
See more of Ravi Zupa's work on his website.