What is behind your choice of this piece of art in response to the topic “Guns in American Culture”?
Artist Jonathan Clyde Frey: With the timeline I was interested in tracking the evolution of gun mechanics in relationship to gun laws. I designed the first timeline a few years ago as a way to think through the tension between protecting personal freedoms and living with their consequences. The horrific mass shootings in 2017 got me thinking about this issue again.
Why did this piece of art resonate for you or seem like it would give you an avenue into writing about this subject?
Poet Maureen Seaton: It’s a chart, a diagram, colorful, historical. It felt clearly aimed at some thing. I immediately thought of a bullet’s trajectory. Or like when someone cocks a finger at you and says, “Bullseye.” Frey’s art felt real to me, beautiful, cold, and terrifying. This week I drove two thousand miles, and as I started down the Florida turnpike, known as “The Less Stressway,” I found myself surrounded by billboards that weren’t there when I left the state 8 months ago. “Machine Gun America,” they said. Something new for the whole family beside Disney in Orlando, evidently. I was shot once when I was eight by a ten-year-old who told me to run and then fired his BB gun at me. His parents forgot to tell him not to shoot other kids. Frey’s image reminded me of running for my life.
What surprises you in the poet’s response to your artwork?
Artist Jonathan Clyde Frey: Maybe I am projecting, but I was surprised at how well the poem matched the timeline’s tongue-in-cheek playfulness and somber undertones.
What do you think is the role of art in regards to real-world, real-time events? In other words, what makes a “successful” occasional or political piece of writing or art?
Artist Jonathan Clyde Frey: I think a successful work of art often shows something familiar from a new perspective. I expect that most people accept guns as a natural part of life, and therefore just kind of take their existence for granted. However, I would consider it a great success if this piece helps someone think about the relationship between guns and culture from a fresh point of view.
Poet Maureen Seaton: I like to think that a “successful” piece of writing or art provides an experience—through image, sound, color—that resonates in the reader/viewer. It may resonate beyond any verbal communication, but there will be that startling moment of recognition, that small or large “A-ha,” when the piece and the reader/viewer experience the same “key.” This is human connection. If it happens with a piece of political writing or art, I believe it can change the world.
If the Broadsided collaboration were a piece of music, what would it be?
Artist Jonathan Clyde Frey: “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” comes to mind…. Although I was originally shooting for “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”
Poet Maureen Seaton: “Under the Pressure,” by The War on Drugs.
Read any good books lately?
Artist Jonathan Clyde Frey: These days I am mostly reading to my kids at bedtime, so I’ll endorse my current favorite, “Oh Say Can You Say?”, a collection of terrible tongue twisters by Dr. Seuss.
Poet Maureen Seaton: Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker 1974-1989, edited by Julie R. Enszer with an intro by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan.
Seen any good art lately?
Artist Jonathan Clyde Frey: Over Thanksgiving, I was in Columbus, Indiana, this small town with a rich architectural history, where I got to experience a design show called Exhibit Columbus. All throughout the city were site-specific architectural installations, so meandering around to view it all was a refreshing way to look at art.
Poet Maureen Seaton: The Rocky Mountains. I also love Alice George’s animated drawings:
Anything else? (Here, we invite the collaborators to invent a question, add a comment, or otherwise speak to what the questions so far have not tapped about their Broadsided experience).
Poet Maureen Seaton: I’d like to simply say that, although the collaborative experience is not for everyone (and I sincerely mean that), for those of us who are lucky enough to have fallen headfirst into it, it is one of the biggest joys life has to offer (and I sincerely mean that, too). So grab someone and create something. Thanks to Jonathan Clyde Frey for the experience of his art and to the folks at BROADSIDED for understanding the power of two.
Artist Jonathan Clyde Frey:
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.