Bombarded with violence in the media and American society, "a lot of kids don't even flinch at the sight of a gun," says 24-year-old photographer Sean Potter. His Mediation II exhibit at Old Colorado City's Domino gallery makes this uneasy association impossible to ignore.
One untitled black-and-white photo shows the artist's .357 Magnum revolver standing upright against a plain white background, only the barrel in crisp focus. The cylinder lies open and empty. Within the already-stark image, the empty barrel almost takes viewers' imaginations hostage. In another piece, the same photo has been duplicated and inverted four times, each gun a different sunny color, à la Andy Warhol.
"There's a nice contrast," Potter says, "between the childishness and bright colors and the subject of the weapon."
Potter says the inspiration is more aesthetic than political, though he wanted to explore the commercialization of weaponry as Warhol did politicians, celebrities and Campbell's Soup. In another piece, Potter shot an eagle-eye view of gummy bears and bullet shells upon an illuminated table. Light radiates through the candy, while the dark shells are silhouetted.
Though his photos may disturb some viewers, the self-described "Army brat" who moved to Colorado Springs in the fifth grade says his work isn't about taking sides: "Rather than making an actual statement, I take a subconscious feeling and try to either convey or evoke an emotion."
This search for audience opinion happens elsewhere in the exhibit. The show includes a few of Potter's landscapes and erotica, along with some self-described "strange photos." One such startling image is of Potter's right eye and cheek, the artist touching the blade of a knife to his eyeball.
The artist, who works nights at the airport, says he constantly challenges himself in his art and hobbies. He dabbles in sideshow tricks like sword-swallowing and fire-breathing, which he learns from watching performers on TV and at the Renaissance Festival.
"When you think of certain photographers, you immediately think of a certain image or style, and I kind of want to break out of that," he says. "I don't want to be limited to a certain aesthetic."
Mediation II's strong Pop Art aesthetic suits Domino, a retro home furnishing store. But beyond the style, Potter shares the Pop movement's edgy look at normalcy in society, which today comes soaked in violent video games and other media.
"You could pick out any 12-year-old-boy," he says, "and I think he'd be able to identify an AK-47 if he saw one, which I find kind of strange."