Western Wild

Western Wild
painting from an animation

Friday, November 18, 2016

From a Personal History of Gun Violence : Western Wild

 'Western Wild' is a film combining and exploring the iconography of the American West and contemporary topics. It is inspired partially by the author Karl May and my personal history. This controversial, eccentric and  extraordinary German author wrote about the American Wild West, the Middle East and South America from his native Germany, having never been out of his small village. Escaping a childhood of poverty, a mid-life of  criminal persecution and imprisonment  and numerous mental issues, yet decorated with a high intellect, he is most known for his moralizing Westerns starring Winnetou and his alter-ego Old Shatterhand.

Former President Obama is quoted as saying“This is unique to our country. There is no other advanced nation on earth that tolerates multiple shootings on a regular basis and considers it normal and to some degree that's what's happened in this country”. In my year of researching into Karl May - gun violence, riots, racial injustice, church burnings and hate crimes have escalated almost to a daily occurrence. Living between Pennsylvania and the Netherlands; I- like Karl May - author works on America from Overseas.

 My personal history with firearms and gun violence is deep and varied. I grew up near one of the bloodiest battles of America- Gettysburg. Lasting three days in 1863, there were 51,000 casualties. Ending less than a decade before this was the longest and largest historical genocide lasting from 1500-1800 of 150 million American Indians.

 As a child I remember be woken up by the sound of a revolver as my father shot birds eating his garden from the bedroom window. I helped load the shotgun gun shells that killed every thing that moved; our dinner plates would be lined with the lead buck shot balls that we’d managed not to swallow. We made our own flintlock rifle from scratch and had the equivalent of an artillery cache in our living room. In elementary school the kid brought a pistol to school in a paper lunch bag that was luckily apprehended.  Our neighbors up the hill ran a gun shop and the owners son was in school with me until the age of 14 when he threw his shotgun into his truck, causing it to fire one cartridge into his torso: killing him instantly. Two brothers played Russian roulette and one brother shot the other through the head in our fields where we could be found playing on weekends.

My membership in the Fish and Game Club lead to my first commercial art commission of drawing a huge life size Elk target for a shooting contest. Two women were shot and one killed by a ‘mountain man’ who as an abandoned child, grew up in the woods and lived in a hole in the ground off the Appalachian Trail. For college I moved to Baltimore, which had an average of 300 murders per year. An artist in school with us was shot in the back as a gang initiation across the street from my loft. Everyday I could follow trails of blood around the city from the crimes which took place the prior night. My life was almost taken once at close range, but I evaded this by asking for the masked man to either do it now, but don't make me late for my cabaret job.

In Western Wild we witness is a phantasm of the movie screen, which open up into chambers of forgotten histories, restless fragmented dreams, lost honor and blind hope.

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