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Swords into Plowshares: Peaceful Weapon Recycling

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And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. -Isaiah 2:4

The familiar Bible verse is repeated in the book of Micah. There are those who are doing just that, whether they draw inspiration from Isaiah or simply from a desire for peace and a safer world. Here are eight projects that make deadly weapons into something to inspire that desire in all of us.

1. Shovels from Guns

Artist Pedro Reyes collected 1,527 guns from the citizens of Culiacán, Mexico by offering coupons for appliances and electronics in exchange. He used the weapons for a project called Palas por Pistolas, in which Reyes had the guns melted down and recast into 1,527 shovel heads to be used to plant 1,527 trees all over the community. Culiacán, which has a high rate of gunshot deaths, also has a botanical garden that commissions artists for community enrichment projects.

2. Furniture from Mines

Naissaar Island in the Gulf of Finland had a large factory that produced marine mines for the Soviet Army. The explosives were burned when the Soviets left the island, leaving thousands of casings behind. Estonian sculptor Mati Karmin has used scrap metal as an art media for a large part of his career. He uses those marine mine casings to create furniture and other useful objects, like light fixtures, bathtubs, and fireplaces -Karmin even made a fully functioning toilet from a mine casing!

3. Reliquaries by Al Farrow

British artist Al Farrow uses guns, bullets, and other military items to construct religious buildings in miniature: churches, synagogues, and mosques, as well as full size religious items and symbols, such as reliquaries and menorahs. The art is a statement about the role of religion in war and other atrocities.

4. Throne of Weapons

The 15-year civil war in Mozambique ended in 1992. By then almost a million people had died as a direct result of violence, with millions more maimed, displaced, or starved. Weapons had been shipped to warring factions from countries all over the world. In 1995, the Christian Council of Mozambique set up a program called “Transforming Arms into Tools” to turn some of those weapons into art as a memorial and a reminder of the horrors of war. One of the sculptures is the Throne of Weapons by artist Cristovao Canhavato consisting of guns originating in seven different countries. Image by Flickr user rvacapinta.

5. Vest of Bullets

Ross Rodriguez works in 2-dimensional art: photography, drawing, and printmaking. But he stepped into 3D territory in 2005 when he created the work Bullet Proof Vest from 30-caliber rifle shells.

6. Memorial Sculpture

The Peace Art Project Cambodia was launched in Phnom Penh in 2003 to gather weapons from thirty years of war and turn them into works of art. The project was founded by artist Sasha Constable and small weapons specialist Neil Wilford, both British citizens. Students used scrap metal and recovered weapons to create everything from small sculptures to furniture to large monuments.

7. The Gun Sculpture

In 2001, artists Wallis Kendal and Sandra Bromley took 7,000 guns of all kinds, from small handguns to rocket launchers, and fused them into a monolith called The Gun Sculpture. The purpose of the piece is to encourage discussions about violence. The artwork has toured all over, most recently as an installation at the United Nations complex in Vienna, Austria, where it was part of The Art of Peacekeeping exhibit last summer.

8. Megatons to Megawatts

In perhaps the most encouraging recycling program ever, the Megatons to Megawatts project pays Russia for weapons-grade uranium and turns it into fuel for commercial nuclear power plants in the US. So far, the program has eliminated the equivalent of 16,000 nuclear warheads! In addition, the Russian Federation receives an influx of cash they desperately need and fewer worries about nuclear disposal, while the US has downblended enough uranium into fuel to replace three years of crude oil imports. Image by Flickr user Mike_tn.

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Ape Meets Girl
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Pop Culture
Epic Gremlins Poster Contains More Than 80 References to Classic Movies
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Ape Meets Girl

It’s easy to see why Gremlins (1984) appeals to movie nerds. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, the film has horror, humor, and awesome 1980s special effects that strike a balance between campy and creepy. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a pop culture treasure that inspired artist Kevin Wilson to make it the center of his epic hidden-image puzzle of movie references.

According to io9, Wilson, who works under the pseudonym Ape Meets Girl, has hidden 84 nods to different movies in this Gremlins poster. The scene is taken from the movie’s opening, when Randall enters a shop in Chinatown looking for a gift for his son and leaves with a mysterious creature. Like in the film, Mr. Wing’s shop in the poster is filled with mysterious artifacts, but look closely and you’ll find some objects that look familiar. Tucked onto the bottom shelf is a Chucky doll from Child’s Play (1988); above Randall’s head is a plank of wood from the Orca ship made famous by Jaws (1975); behind Mr. Wing’s counter, which is draped with a rug from The Shining’s (1980) Overlook Hotel, is the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II (1989). The poster was released by the Hero Complex Gallery at New York Comic Con earlier this month.

“Early on, myself and HCG had talked about having a few '80s Easter Eggs, but as we started making a list it got longer and longer,” Wilson told Mental Floss. “It soon expanded from '80s to any prop or McGuffin that would fit the curio shop setting. I had to stop somewhere so I stopped at 84, the year Gremlins was released. Since then I’ve thought of dozens more I wish I’d included.”

The ambitious artwork has already sold out, but fortunately cinema buffs can take as much time as they like scouring the poster from their computers. Once you think you’ve found all the references you can possibly find, you can check out Wilson’s key below to see what you missed (and yes, he already knows No. 1 should be Clash of the Titans [1981], not Jason and the Argonauts [1963]). For more pop culture-inspired art, follow Ape Meets Girl on Facebook and Instagram.

Key for hidden image puzzle.
Ape Meets Girl

[h/t io9]

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Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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presidents
Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
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Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.

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