Using art to fight bullets

As the world is left reeling in the wake of the latest American killing rampage Simone Paterson, more than some, feels the pain.

 Simone Paterson, whose latest work is on display at Maitland Regional Art Gallery and carries a strong message against guns in society.

Simone Paterson, whose latest work is on display at Maitland Regional Art Gallery and carries a strong message against guns in society.

In April 2007, as 33 people died in what is believed to be the deadliest shooting spree in American history, Dr Paterson was nearby.

"I'm an associate professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute where the massacre occurred and what happened that day has had a huge impact on me," she said.

"And what's happened now, in Santa Barbara . . . I'm getting teary just thinking about it,"

Dr Paterson is in town to install her latest work a gun mandala installation 108: everything, nothing, eternity at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery.

A piece even more poignant and relevant after Elliot Rodger, 22, killed six people in Santa Barbara late last week.

"I've created this mandala in an effort to use positive energy when everything is in such a horrific state," Dr Paterson said. "I make art to try and understand the world in which I live. I take weapons and make them into mandalas to try and bring the world back into balance."

Dr Paterson relocated from Newcastle (she was once director of the University of Newcastle's Watt Space Art Gallery) to America in 2005.

For her latest work, Dr Paterson photographed guns and transformed the images into intricate artworks.

"I've always been incredibly anti-gun but when I became an American citizen I had to sign a document saying I was willing to bear arms," Dr Paterson said.

"It's a totally different world and I have a lot to learn but something needs to be done, gun laws need to be changed and young men need to realise they don't need control and power.

"We need to educate young men in a different way, to respect themselves as human beings and to make them realise that no one person is more important than another."

Dr Paterson's exhibition is part of the Maitland Regional Art Gallery's winter program.

The line-up also includes ARTEXPRESS and The Sculpture of Nola Jones.

"There are five fantastic exhibitions on display this winter from the most emerging to the most established of the Australian art scene," the gallery's deputy director Brigette Uren said.

ARTEXPRESS is an annual collaborative e xhibition that aims to highlight exceptional works of art from graduating students of government and non-government high schools in NSW.

"Each ARTEXPRESS exhibition is unique as it reflects the students' individual explorations of concepts such as culture and personal identity presented in a wide variety of expressive forms."

The exhibitions will open on Saturday at 3pm.


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