The Bullet In The Eye Of The Beholder

… came from this pistol:

DeadOn… a piece, titled “Dead On” by photographer Jackie Black.

“Dead On” puts the viewer directly in front of a pistol floating in an abyss of darkness. Spend a few moments looking at this image.

In Jackie’s own words she is drawn to the pistols as a theme of her art because of their beauty. Not quite what you would have expected.  Some argue, that if she wanted to focus on the beauty of the pistol as an object, she could have presented it from a lateral perspective which would show its form and proportions.  Instead of a tame, catalog-style side view however,  she chose the energetic, frontal view which turns the pistol into a striking abstract shape of laconic perfection. Its single eye stares at you with such engaging intensity that you have an almost physical sensation of its presence.

The fact that there is no hand holding the pistol adds a surreal feel to the scene, of which you are now a part, whether you wanted it or not. Without the hand of the shooter, you are not facing a killer with his motivations and justifications – but the sheer phenomenality of the weapon and its unblemished, minimalist beauty.

A good piece of art always contains conflict at some level. This is as valid for the visual arts as it is for fiction, poetry, drama or music. In ‘Dead On’ the conflict is between the  pistol as a killing device and its irresistible beauty as an object. It is this tension between two extremes, which bursts into a myriad of associations and questions in the mind of the viewer. And this is what makes the depth of this artwork.

We are the only species on the planet, capable of creating beauty and tools – including tools for killing.  Where, in the complex puzzle of the human mind does the need for beauty, the appetite for killing meet?  How are they related?

If ‘Dead On’ triggered questions in your mind (pun intended) – please share.

   *   *   *

Jackie Black chooses difficult and often unforgiving subjects for her art  ranging from gender, death penalty, and arms, to children and animals. Her eye is both penetrating and loving and her visual idiom – austere and intense.  To learn about Jackie Black and see her moving, poignant and ultimately, beautiful work, go to

2 thoughts on “The Bullet In The Eye Of The Beholder

  1. Dr. Kevin

    It is interesting to me that people would look at a gun not even held in a hand or even next a person and feel threatened by such an inanimate object. In itself a gun doesn’t do anything. I could just as easily put a picture of a fork (without a hand or person nearby) loaded with food, pointed to the viewer (ready to take a bite?) and then see if people would think the fork is the cause for death from obesity related diseases??? Or, feel threatened or hungry??? The beauty of the artistry on the fine silverware fork may not be visible when the fork is pointed at the viewer, but we know it was created by the most powerful force a human has…the human mind.

    1. Boryana Post author

      Many thanks for your thought provoking comment!
      A gun’s primary function is to kill. In an artwork, an image of a gun pointed at the viewer will be perceived as symbolizing threat by anyone who knows what a gun is. The motifs for killing are something else. They can be many: protection, assault, suicide, execution, revenge etc. Which of them will be a person’s further association depends on their personal state of mind, life experience, beliefs etc. Like I said – the bullet is in the eye of the beholder.
      As for the analogy with the fork. A fork’s primary purpose is to put food in one’s mouth.
      A gun pointed at me at close range can produce a only a bullet, which is instant death. A fork, on the other hand, may give me a piece of broccoli, just as well as a piece of junk food. Neither of them is leading to instant death. Although a fork can be just as interesting symbol in an artwork, for its own reasons!


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