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BLOOM / FLORACIÓN

2025 - 2027

 

A public art project of men embroidering flowers on t-shirts with gun targets printed on them.

Bloom target 2.jpg

12,571

 

This is the current number of children 17 & under killed by guns in the US since July 17, 2015 when the Gun Violence Archive began tracking this data daily, last updated 6/22/2024. Gun death is the number one cause of death for children 17 and under in the United States.

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Bloom / Floración is a collaborative public art project culminating from over a decade of being focused on mass shootings in the US and producing work to reflect that focus. I am a father and my children are in public schools in Texas. Over the years, in particular since Sandy Hook in 2012, I have become deeply concerned  - horrified - about the role of guns in American life. What I learned was that child gun-related deaths are not just in schools. They are not just mass shootings. Children all across the US are dying at the end of a gun barrel, and often by other children or at their own hands. Children are also being hurt by gunfire in the US, leaving lifelong wounds, both physical and emotional, and countless children who witness these events are left scarred and traumatized for life. We have a profound problem in our society and we are not addressing it, and it strikes at the core of who we are and how we treat each other both within our society and outside the US. This is a uniquely American problem, and we are brushing it under the rug as if it wasn't real. It is. I believe this problem, in large part, begins with men and how we understand and transition from boyhood to manhood. Boys are groomed into adulthood by men who themselves often hold deeply flawed and traumatized ideas about masculinity, about strength, courage and how to engage with other boys and in particular how to engage with our own emotions. 

In mid-2023 I had an epiphany on this subject of gun violence and violence in general in American society while making the five hour drive back from Brownsville Texas to Austin. I had just installed an exhibition of my work at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art of six paintings that included images of people hugging and crying after a mass shooting. I was listening to a podcast interview with a woman who had written a fascinating book on the subject of the history of women making things in various cultures around the world, namely, the crucial, empowered and important role this "background" making played in our social fabric throughout the ages, across every society on earth. She spoke about women in the age of the Vikings, and this segment really struck me. She explained how Viking women would sew the sails used on the ships that the male Vikings used to reach Europe and eventually North America and how tough these sails had to be to endure months of grueling cold salt-water, ice and freezing winds. She explained how women would sit in large rooms, talking and sharing their life and day-to-day stories while making these giant, powerful sails, the very source of energy that allowed the Viking men to go on their voyages, the source of all their glory and pride. Without the sails there were no heroic Viking men adventures. The men would have sat still in the boats with nowhere to go, rowing tirelessly against an unforgiving sea. This was such a powerful message and metaphor for me, and as I sat with it I started to think about my own work, the hours of embroidery that I do to produce each artwork.

 

My work is without question a rejection of male stereotypes. I am a man who embroiders. Embroidering is traditionally perceived as women's work. Women stay home and sew. Men go out and hunt. This has been the paradigm of white patriarchy that has been ingrained into us since time immemorial. This is when I had my epiphany. Thankfully to feminism and more recently its evolution into intersectional feminism we have begun important discussions and transformations for understanding what it means to be a woman and we have also discussed how this is a freeing transition for men as well, but have we done enough to help men free themselves? Have men done enough? As a man, I can say, it doesn't feel like we've even started some days. I thought about how I could get men together to embroider in a way that was like the sewing of the sails that the Viking women made, a place of stereotypical feminine "making" combined with talking and sharing thoughts. I thought about how I might create a metaphorical - or perhaps not so metaphorical - new "source of energy" for a new kind of male sensibility. My thoughts then jumped over to a visualization of the AIDS quilt of the 80's, now comprised of over 50,000 panels. I remember living in San Francisco in the 90's and seeing the AIDS quilt during the height of AIDS. You could feel the quilt, the pain, the hurt, you could smell it, taste it, it was alive and it had a profound effect on me, and it has informed my artistic practice ever since.

Out of these ideas and thoughts, specifically the women making Viking sails and visualizing them producing the very source of energy that propelled men across the seas and then visualizing the AIDS quilt, came the idea for Bloom / Floración. I envisioned men getting together to hand-embroider flowers on some kind of easily embroiderable material with gun targets printed on them, each flower representing a child killed. The total number of flowers produced being equal to the total number of children 17 years and younger who have died from gun violence in the US since July 17, 2015 when the Gun Violence Archive began tracking this data. As more children tragically lose their lives up to whatever point in time of making Bloom / Floración those children will be added to the artwork until the artwork end date. Therefore, the number of flowers embroidered will grow up until the last day.

 

The process for creating this artwork has two components:

 

1) I will sit in public spaces with t-shirt with gun targets printed on them and embroider flowers on the t-shirts and invite men to join me to sit down and embroider flowers on a t-shirt that they then get to keep, and we'll talk about men and violence and what we need to do about it, how we need to change, just like how I imagine the women who made the Viking sails spoke about their lives, their needs, their way in the world. I believe that if men are given this space and opportunity we can begin to evolve our notion of what it means to be a man, to rethink and reframe the idea that masculine equates with physical, violent power and aggression and perhaps find a new power, like the wind in the Viking sails. I want to do this in the public to make it as honest and democratic as possible. Any man can join, no questions asked, and we are visible, seen, in the public taking this act, this leap of faith to change. 

2) I will schedule gatherings in non-profit, public and art spaces that make themselves available to the project.

I have not set an end date to this public artwork because I want it to live freely and organically. When it is ready to end that will make itself apparent.

I decided to title the piece "Bloom / Floración" because, of course, flowers bloom, and because I want the hearts of boys and men to bloom, to open to kindness, sensitivity, love, to allow men to explore their full range of emotions and in so doing find a new way of understanding the world and our role in it. And so, this is what the flowers symbolize in the work in sum, both remembrance for the children lost to gun violence and the opening of a new male consciousness and potential so that no more lives are lost in this way. 

I will be producing a documentary film by the name "Bloom" made up of footage from the gatherings over the course of the project.

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