The square

_MG_2352.JPGThe Columbine High School shooting happened when I was 8 years old. I heard somehow that 12 students and one teacher were killed and remember immediately going to my bunk bed and crying for a while. The event was such a horrifying shock for the country that years later we watched a documentary about it in history class during my freshman year of high school. It’s not the same now. The country has experienced several mass shootings in schools and other places during the past few years with more victims than Columbine, sometimes several times more.

One of those shootings killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school last month. Several of the school’s surviving students have since become a political force, pushing Florida to tighten some laws for purchasing guns and calling for marches around the country and beyond. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in them yesterday, including several hundred in a couple parts of northwest Arkansas.

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_MG_2332.JPGMy coworker Ashton Eley reports in today’s paper that more than 400 people gathered for the demonstration in Bentonville’s square, where I took these photos. (And if you want to see more photos, our photographers have a gallery of great stuff.)

Teachers, students, parents, grandparents and others together demanded such policies as providing more complete mental health services in schools, supporting research into gun violence, banning assault-style rifle sales and confiscating guns from domestic abusers (which has some conservative support and happens in several states). Volunteers helped people register to vote, and teenagers coming of voting age swore they would soon wield their votes for the gun-control cause.

Police and sheriff’s deputies meanwhile paced around the square and watched from the surrounding buildings. A few counter-protesters came out, too, including black-clad members of a white nationalist group started by an Arkansas neo-Nazi. Other counter-protesters, including a group in blue called the Freedom Crew, vehemently distanced themselves from such racism and said they were there simply in support of the Second Amendment. Folks on this side of the debate generally see tightening gun laws as burdening a constitutional right or a dangerous limit to personal liberties.

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_MG_2505.JPGThe debate’s an old one, but it does seem different after the Parkland shooting. I’ve seen veterans and doctors speak out about the unique devastation assault-style rifles can inflict on a human body, which I don’t remember before. Others rightly point out complications: School shootings are still rare, and most firearm deaths in this country happen because people turn their firearms on themselves. Many of the youngest among us say they won’t just go to their rooms to cry, that their voices will be part of the debate. We’ll see what happens next.

Dan

Warhol, Wyeth and Co.

IMG_9411In Netflix’s Daredevil series, an art gallery curator tells the villain, “It’s not about the artist’s name or the skill required, not even about the art itself. All that matters is, ‘How does it make you feel?'”

I hung onto that thought while going through an exhibit of Andy Warhol’s nature-based work at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art up in Bentonville. The array of vibrant animal images is arresting, and the pink, symmetrically arranged blossoms of “Daisy” are pleasant. But this is Warhol, Mr. Pop Art himself, and that means some weirdness. The screen-printed image of a Great Dane named Cecil mounted next to its real, stuffed namesake is unsettling, and the room of pink cows — well, just look.

IMG_9425The only thing that matters is how it makes you feel. Art can crack open your mind and expose what you think and why by making you feel something. Museums talk about “challenging the viewer” so often it’s a cliche, but I think this is what they mean. A stuffed Dane named Cecil is uncomfortable because no matter how skillfully it’s made, it’s not the dog anyone loved. The animal portraits seem downright conventional by comparison. Still, Warhol saw the beautiful in the bizarre, and that’s something to behold on its own.

IMG_9437Warhol shares Crystal Bridges’ spotlight these days with another artist I’d never heard of before named Jamie Wyeth. He and Warhol were contemporaries and friends — they even exchanged portraits of each other in their own styles — but Wyeth tackles art very differently. He sketches, paints and watercolors with truly fantastic detail and color, and he wasted no time getting started; he made one portrait titled “Shorty” when he was a teenager with stunning skill, to my non-expert eye.

I usually meander through exhibits looking at a piece here and there, but with Wyeth’s I could hardly move until I had completely taken in the piece in front of me. I didn’t take many photos there. You have until Oct. 5 to see for yourself.

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IMG_9471A museum full of art always abstractifies my photography. I don’t want to take photos of the art because it feels like cheating. Instead I try to capture its place and how people act around it. I stupidly let my 1D Mark III camera die before going to Crystal Bridges last weekend, so I had my trusty old G10, a camera far less forgiving of low light and high ISOs. That meant I also had to find the stillness in the constant churning.

See what you think of what I came up with. Hopefully it makes you feel something.

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IMG_9491I’ll end with a metallic visitor on my living room window: IMG_9400Thanks for looking!

Dan

 

Alight

_C1_9671Photographers better than me at my university’s student newspaper taught me lots of lessons, and one in particular stuck out this Independence Day: If something’s been seen and photographed a thousand times, get closer. Things always look different close up. I could only get so close this year, and a telephoto lens went the rest of the way.

A funny thing about fireworks: Zoom in far enough, and they start looking a little like sea creatures. Urchins, sea spiders and corals of fire lit up the northwest Arkansas sky Friday and Saturday nights. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many fireworks in one weekend, with a big show at Fayetteville’s Northwest Arkansas Mall (where the photo above was shot) one evening and an even bigger show in Bentonville the next. We somehow dodged storm clouds for two perfect evenings in a row.

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_C1_9380Last year I was across the highway from the mall; this time, it was up to the front.

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_C1_9729I moved around too much during some shots, but even those occasionally left a cool image:

_C1_9684The plan the next day was to go to the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers, but organizers wouldn’t allow a camera in there and had some other odd rules, so some friends and I ditched them in favor of the show in Bentonville’s massive Orchards Park complex. Shows are always more fun when everyone’s sitting, ooh-ing and clapping together on the grass.

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_C1_9866This guy was sitting by himself, right in front of the stage where a band was playing marches and other July 4th-type tunes.

Overall, I’d say Bentonville’s show was bigger than Fayetteville’s and had more colors, a nice display of chemical handiwork. Its finale was a blazing fireball of too much color to even capture.

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_C1_0105I ended the night with a few fireworks of my own; I’m too paranoid about misfires into my face to get anything big, but fountains look cool, right? Speaking of, I saw a lot of people around town holding Roman candles in their hands; if you do that, for future reference, it’s extremely stupid.

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_C1_0293Happy 4th, everybody! Thanks for looking.

Dan