Deborah G. Nehmad uses paper as a type of surrogate material for human skin, and, therefore, by extension, for the human body. On her website Nehmad writes: “…the processes I employ – I repetitively burn, etch, scrape, score, stamp, puncture, type, apply pressure, write and draw – and materials I incorporate – heat, paper, gut, glass, ink, thread, soot and metal – offer a visual vocabulary that seems to parallel the way pain marks a body.”
In her current work Nehmad uses her method to step back and look more broadly at gun violence in America, trying to create a graphic representation that might affect the viewer more viscerally than graphs or statistics. Using handmade Nepalese paper Nehmad burns holes and makes stitches to represent individuals killed through the use of guns. Nehmad represents deaths by homicide, suicide as well as deaths caused by the police. The deaths of children due to gun violence (through homicide and suicide) are also graphically represented to differentiate them from other types of gun-related killings.
For the central image or background of her graphic representations of the numerical effects of gun violence, Nehmad uses giant circles. The irony is intended – the circles can, obviously, represent gun range targets. Yet, circles can also represent a type of unity. The blotches caused by the burning and stitching marring these circles can represent the type of harm being done to our communities. We live in a culture where our education does not extend to teaching each other how to handle our rage or how to address factors more humanely that might otherwise cause us to fly into a rage. Our popular culture, in fact, encourages rage. The consumerist nature of our society also allows us to purchase the means by which we can more easily act out our rage. The pieces suggest that the whole emphasis of our society involves ignoring or denying a type of humane personal development that can resolve conflict and, instead, embraces violence as the best solution to all of our problems. We see this in individual social interactions as well as the overarching ‘ideology’ of American foreign policy.
The show points to a problem right at the heart of contemporary American society. It’s easier to attack and lash out than it is to view the other as a fellow human being worthy of respect and compassion. We teach malice and not compassion or understanding. In fact, it’s more profitable when folks attack and lash out so these unnecessary deaths depicted in these pieces will undoubtedly continue for the foreseeable future. In this show guns become symbols of the absolute refusal to believe that it is possible to live like decent and compassionate human beings. The images show the effects of this refusal to even attempt to establish a humane ideology as the basis of our culture.
Deborah G. Nehmad
April 9 – May 9, 2015
Kim Foster Gallery
529 W. 20th Street, groundfloor
New York, NY 10011
Writing by Daniel Gauss
Photography provided by the gallery and the artist