Thursday, August 30, 2012

Annie Got Her Guns: A 19th century morality tale. I think.

Annie Got Her Guns:
A 19th Century Tale of Self-Defense

mixed-media collage: antique engraving (Chatterbox, 1893) and
 illustration (Mother Goose, Volland Popular Edition, Donahue & Co., 1915);
vintage illustrations (Anatomy of the Human Body, Lea & Febiger, 1959;
Art Forms in Nature, Dover, 1974); recycled catalog and folder; ink, watercolor,
marker, acrylic paint, acrylic UV  sealer.  7.5" x 9.5" on acid-free mat board.
Okay. Before you get your shorts in a bunch. I'm not pro-gun. I'm not a member of the NRA. But I am imbued with a wicked sense of irony. I came across this illustration in the Chatterbox, a popular 19th children's magazine. It accompanied a story titled "The Valor of a Girl." In short, it's 1820 and the eldest daughter is left alone in her family's home deep in the German forest while the rest of the family goes out.

A beggar knocks on the door and feeling sorry for him, she invites him in for a bowl of hot soup. She quickly realizes he's not who he seemed and throws the hot soup in his face. He flees. Then, another man knocks on the door, and when she refuses to open it he breaks it down. She grabs her father's rifle and shoots him. Shortly after that, yet another man appears, who she shoots and kills.

I couldn't believe I was reading this in a children's magazine. The collage is meant as a graphic commentary on the kinds of stories told to children - then and now. The story ends with the two surviving men in jail and the "kind-hearted" girl feeling sorry about the man she killed. It certainly demonstrates valor, but I'm on the fence about how the lesson "to be brave" is taught.

Look for it - along with the original text - in the upcoming exhibit "The Hunting Season" at the Thompson House's Shooting Gallery in Newport. It opens 7-11 p.m. Sat. Sept. 8.


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