Lethal Medium Packs a Powerful Message

By Sara Vandegrift, Special to the Independent


3 weapon side113With gun control a subject of renewed national debate, sometimes irony is the best way to take on such a serious issue. Artist David Palmer has taken this particular approach, crafting the likenesses of the world’s biggest personalities on none other than the backsides of bullets.

Longtime citizen of Laguna Beach and lifetime artist, 59 year-old Palmer has already created a name for himself through his “Fallen Heroes” series, which includes works depicting The Beatle’s John Lennon and India’s Mahatma Gandhi upon others. All of the subjects dedicated their lives to bringing people together, but had their lives cut short by firearms before their work was complete.

His most recent work, an image of the Statue of Liberty, clearly reflects his patriotism and is his first non-living subject. Four months in the making, it was recently completed in honor of Independence Day, and is on exhibit at Lu Martin Galleries, 372 N. Coast Highway.

A native of Knox, Ind., Palmer studied fine art at Ball State University and moved to Laguna in 1976. He claimed that he “wanted to get away from the slightly morbid factor of people who have been assassinated.”

Palmer claimed that he “wanted to get away from the slightly morbid factor of people who have been assassinated.”

The face of Lady Liberty is stunning, imprinted upon thousands of bullets, all suspended in resin and colored using everything from flames to airbrushes. Palmer asserts that, above all, he desired to paint this symbol of America in a flattering light, using the bullets mainly as an emotionally-charged “contrasting effect” and a reminder of why we should appreciate our country.

Palmer’s most famous piece is of former President Abraham Lincoln. It was recently purchased by Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, where it will soon be displayed beside the very gun that killed Lincoln.

Though – upon first inspection – his work suggests both violence and a very strong political statement, Palmer assures he is not creating art to promote the use of firearms. He instead wishes to raise questions in viewers’ minds and spread a message of remembrance for how far America has come.

“We have liberties here in the United States and they weren’t free. We paid the price – and our forefathers paid the price – and we’ve done all the things to do in order to acquire something that no one else has in the world,” Palmer commented.

The unique nature of the medium is what adds an element of irony – as well as a shock of emotion – to Palmer’s art, catching the eyes of those that breeze past the work of other artists.

Said Palmer, “As all artists do, I want the piece to speak for itself. It has to be an instantaneous response. When you’re a movie director, you have 90 minutes to win somebody over. When you’re a musician, you have three minutes to win them over. But when you’re a visual artist, you have a nanosecond of peripheral vision to obtain their interest. That’s what has encouraged me to continue with this medium: the fact that people respond….People inherently go up and touch it. People know they’re not supposed to touch art, but I’ve seen hundreds touch my artwork, which is really a great compliment.”


Indy intern Sara Vandegrift will attend UC Santa Barbara in fall.

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