Pictured: Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords & artist Bonnie Lautenberg. Photo courtesy of News Travels Fast.
By Rachel Galvin
Gun violence continues to be an everyday occurence in this country, and activists continue their fight for gun reform. Among those activists is former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her Giffords foundation. Giffords knows about this issue personally. She has been struggling through the years to recover after being shot in the head in 2011 at a constituent event in Tucson. The shooting also killed six people and injured 12 others.
Giffords, who has been actively touring the country to get her message across, stopped on March 11 in Miami at the Miami Jewish Museum for a special private event, which kicked off the 10th anniversary of the foundation. At the event, artist Bonnie Lautenberg unveiled her latest piece entitled “Guns Kill,” which she created for Giffords.This piece was part of her Lady Liberty: A Bonnie Lautenberg Retrospective, which was already on display and will be up until May 14.
Within the exhibit, there is also a piece called “Tears of Roe,” which looks similar to “Guns Kill” and was used as a model for it basically. The pieces both have the Statue of Liberty as the focal point, but the background of “Guns Kill” is filled with AR-15s and the words “Killers.” The Statue of Liberty holds a tablet and upon it is written the names of towns who have experienced horrific gun violence. This was created before places like Nashville suffered this type of tragedy. Upon the statue’s crown are the words “Guns Kill.” And like “Tears of Roe,” the Statue of Liberty has tears streaming down her face.
“It saddens me deeply that the list of so many places keeps growing where Americans continue to lose loved ones to gun violence,” says Lautenberg.
She created the new piece when she saw how moved Giffords was by her “Tears of Roe” piece when she visited her home, with husband Mark Kelly. Now, the artist’s newest piece has been chosen by the foundation to help with fundraising. Prints sold go directly toward their efforts.
Giffords had a chance to greet everyone at the event, which included local dignitaries. Florida Representative Debbie Mucarsel Powell talked about how her own experience with gun violence led her to seek a position within Congress, as her father was killed by shooting when she was 24 years old. Others who were also personally affected by gun violence were also in attendance.
Giffords spoke briefly about how her experience had a profound impact on her life. “Our lives can change so quickly. Mine did when I was shot,” she said, adding, “But I never gave up hope. I chose to make a new start, to move ahead, to not look back. I’m relearning so many things: how to walk, how to talk and I’m fighting to make the country safer. It can be so difficult. Losses hurt. Setbacks are hard, but I tell myself move ahead. I’m finding joy in small things: riding my bike, playing the French horn, going to the gym, laughing with friends. The small things add up.”
She continued, “We are living in challenging times. We are up for the challenge. My own recovery has taken years. Many, many people have helped me along the way and I learned so much. I learned when people care for each other and work together, progress is possible. The world is possible. But change doesn’t happen overnight. And we can’t do it alone. Join me. Let’s move ahead together.”
Taking a stance against gun violence is more important than ever as violence seems to happen every day, but also because of a bill that just passed the Florida House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate that will eliminate the need for people to take a class, prove competency or need a permit before carrying a firearm. Many, like Giffords, feel this is a step in the wrong direction.
Lautenberg’s art exhibit included some pieces that were recently displayed at the Boca Raton Museum of Art in an exhibit called “Art Meets Hollywood” that showed a thematic connection between two seemingly unrelated photographs, of a film and of a piece of art both created within the same year. In addition, she also had photographs of celebs like Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, and more.
For more information on the new exhibit and the museum, visit www.jmof.fiu.edu. For more information on the Giffords Foundation, visit https://giffords.org.