Despite what the holy texts might promise about peace and love, the reality of religion is bloodshed and warfare. From Charlemagne converting the Saxons by the point of his sword, to Muhammad forcing the Middle Eastern tribes into Islam by the scimitar, religion has been the cause of countless deaths and human rights violations throughout our history. The book of Joshua in the bible tells stories of genocide and mass murder at the hands of the Israelite, and today the Islamic State is committing the same atrocities in the name of their god as well.
Al Farrow‘s exhibit, Divine Ammunition at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Seattle, exposes religion for what it actually is, ammunition for our hatred of one another. Farrow is based in the bay area California, and has had many exhibitions around the world. His most recent series dives into the topic of religion and violence with beautiful attention to detail and a chilling atheistic quality. Farrow uses human bones, ammunition, and firearms to form wonderfully dark depictions of religious symbols and iconography. Each of the three major world religions are represented in the forms of cathedrals, mosques, and synagogues. Mr. Farrow told us in an interview that he was able to acquire all of these weapons through collectors and gun shows.
As for acquiring the materials, I go to gun shows to buy and sometimes meet people with old gun parts and military antiques. I buy most of my shell casings and bullets online. I don’t buy ammo, just the elements, so I don’t have to deal with removing the dangerous parts like gunpowder and primers. I have always been limited in what I can buy, and there is a lot more that I would like to use.
The exhibit really forces visitors to ask some hard questions about religion, warfare, death, and human nature. Someone like myself might view the artwork as a statement that religion causes violence, and another person might come to the conclusion that humans hijack religion for their own power struggles. Is the foundation of religion built on violence? Is it just physical damage that religion inflicts? Is religion itself a weapon?
Another really cool detail about the sculptures is that each temple or church is made up of separate types of weapons and ammunition. This is especially evident in the use of the Uzi when creating the Jewish synagogues. The way I saw the art, each religion may offer different types of theology, but the result is ultimately the same. An Uzi kills a person just as dead as an AK-47, and Christianity or Judaism is just as destructive as Islam.
Each piece comes with its own discussion and is charged with controversy so there is a lot to unpack, but whatever your viewpoints, this exhibit is very thought provoking. I asked Mr. Farrow about his motivations for the series and whether or not the artwork is intending to challenge us to question these relationships between religion and violence.
All of the themes are intended. I am trying to get people to think about these things. I’m not concerned with what they think, just that they think. I actually feel very successful about how these sculptures create dialogue even between strangers. People seem compelled to talk about them.
Everyone who has the chance should go down to check out Al Farrow’s Divine Ammunition, Mr. Farrow told us that he is going to continue in this style for a while.
So far I’m still very excited about religious architecture but due to recent political activity I have started working on a version of the White House in my signature style. It will probably take most of the year to complete.
I can not wait to see that.
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Sculptures by Al Farrow ©
photographs by F. Duncan II and Catharine Clark, 2017 © .
Born and raised in San Diego California, I grew up loving the action horror and sci-fi genres. The first R rated film I saw was Predator back when I was 8 years old. Aliens blew me away as a youngster and I made a M41-A pulse rifle out of paper towel rolls and rubber bands. I ran around for hours avoiding face huggers and blasting xenomorphs in my back yard and I am bringing that big imagination to Nevermore Horror.