In May, bilious boy scout George Zimmerman auctioned the handgun he used to kill Trayvon Martin, claiming it as “a piece of American history.” It was this statement that prompted 30-year-old artist, Natalie Baxter, to recreate the infamous Kel-Tec PF-9 pistol in the form of a colorful quilted gun and place it for sale on eBay.
Baxter, who is based in Brooklyn, is best known for her Warm Gun series, which involves over 150 hand-sewn and stuffed pillow guns, and its inventive approach to America’s complicated relationship with firearms. The soft sculptures allow viewers to approach the issues first through the lens of playfulness, and then gives them room to unpack from it what they choose.
“Everyone comes to view art with a different mind of ideas and perceptions, and just as the gun debate has proven to be complex and emotional for our country, what I hope I am doing is giving people a vehicle to unload their opinions on gun culture, violence, and masculinity,” says Baxter.
Since 2014, Baxter has managed to keep her art and her politics separate. The Zimmerman auction was a turning point for the artist. Baxter tells The Creators Project about her decision to openly challenge Zimmerman, “In a way, I don’t want to give Zimmerman more press, but here I am making work that deals with the emotionally complicated relationship our country has with guns, and this nut goes and sells a murder weapon with such pride—and even worse, people bid on it! How can I not react with the weapons that I have to do so?”
In response to Zimmerman, Baxter sewed a plush rendering of the gun in bright floral yellow, green and red fabric, which she titled, Racist McShootface, a nickname that originated from one of Zimmerman’s internet trolls. 100% of Baxter's auction proceeds will be donated to the Trayvon Martin Foundation.
The symbolic weight of the Zimmerman auction and Baxter’s artistic counter reveal an unexplored and often ignored side of the gun debate—one that extends well beyond the Second Amendment. How art, in the form of a droopy, pastel colored gun can probe these deeper social concerns, is up to the highest bidder.