Winston Wingo’s Gun Amnesty Memorial was added to USC Upstate’s collection in roughly 2005 and is made from stainless and Corten steel and dismantled guns. The creation of this piece is tied to gun violence awareness and a gun reclamation program that was in place at the time of creation.
Winston Wingo was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He earned his BA in art education in Orangeburg, MFA in sculpture in Clemson, and did his post-doctoral work in Italy. He has taught a variety of courses at multiple schools at both the collegiate and middle school level.
The first element of note about the piece is the sheer size. The piece towers over passersby and has an imposing presence on the space which prompts those walking by to investigate it, while also reinforcing the serious nature of the subject matter, gun violence. The size difference between the large trapezoidal and pyramidal pieces jutting out and the small firearms mounted to the sculpture itself provide additional visual interest and contrast while also prompting the eyes to move across the work.
The next element of note is shape. The geometric variation of primary structural elements not only caters to size contrast, but the lines serve as a guide around the piece. The thinner central pieces add contrast, but also serving as a visual break between the stainless sections. This is a seemingly intentional choice as it allows the viewer to see the smaller mounted detail elements present in these locations. These smaller detail elements are in fact dismantled firearms. Due to their placement they blend into the central sculptural pieces until the eye is drawn to them, at which point their more rounded and chaotic shapes contrast sharply with the refined geometric layout of the rest of the piece. This visual technique is effective at reinforcing the awareness of gun violence in the mind of the public and making a statement regarding how it is often overlooked unless reinforced.
Material is another fascinating element of the piece. During the period this sculpture was created, residents were given the opportunity to turn in guns that were obtained illegally, stolen, or broken without fear of prosecution. The guns obtained from this drive were used in the sculpture. While the size and shape of the different tiers provides visual contrast, the largest and most noticeable feature is due to material choice. The Corten steel being the mounting area for the firearms has corroded into a rust brown color along with the guns due to the difference in their material makeup, a phenomenon known as dissimilar metal corrosion. This color difference provides visual interest and hides the more disjoined visual elements of the firearms. This in conjunction with the other elements makes the mounted weapons here much more subtle and more of a revelation to the viewer, adding a level of dynamism.
Gun Amnesty Memorial shares stylistic similarities with postmodern works that focus on the idea of memory and how we shape it. Christian Boltanski’s The Storehouse from 1998 was built out of rough tin boxes that oxidized different colors over time, used industrial materials to provide contrast, and commented on the nature of the many deaths in concentration camps during World War II. The message from both pieces is that societies need to acknowledge such events and tragedies as well as remain vigilant to ensure that such things never occur again.
Each of the elements of the piece works well on its own, but it is when they are considered together that they reinforce the key point of the piece: the awareness of gun violence and the importance of solutions to rectify it. The size and reflectivity of material get the interest of passersby, the shape and color draw the eye across the piece, and the detail elements show a narrative about the potential to reclaim, repurpose, and redefine the nature of the weapons themselves. All the elements working in conjunction with each other make a visually distinctive piece that draws viewers to it, perfectly achieving the goal of raising awareness of gun violence.