Richard T Scott, Hearts of Men, 2013-16

This painting is about gun violence in American history and is deeply personal to the artist, having survived a school shooting at his high school in Georgia. ‘Brother Against Brother’ is a slogan used to describe the predicament of many American Civil War families, some who literally had one brother on the side of the Confederacy and another on the side of the Union. In this painting we see a self-portrait of the artist representing two brothers on opposite sides of the war – the brother on the side of the Confederacy has been shot and lays dying, while the other brother comes to his side to fend off attacks from his fellow Union soldiers by swinging his rifle like a club. The half-nude woman is the personification of Liberty who is brought to her knees in despair. The drummer boy at the bottom who looks directly at us reminds us of how young teenage boys fought in the Civil War. The artist says “that mythology of the noble hero has something to do with creating the groundwork for our relationship to guns today, and how a teenager who is angry and frustrated with life would choose to bring a gun to school.”

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