Annie Get Your Gun

May 19–June 16, 1995

X Press Article
Gone hunting for the iconology of firearms by Kirk Finken of X Press: Ottawa 1994

When a woman poses for the camera while holding a gun, what goes through her mind? And what power does the image hold? Lynne Marsh brings these questions to light, gives them a studio frame, and clicks the shutter. With eight life-size color prints, Marsh provides us with a fascinating analysis of gesture, symbol, and culture.

Marsh handled a gun for the first time last year while pheasant hunting with a group of men. When presented with photos of the hunting party, she was struck by her image, ” as powerful as those of the men, yet foreign.” She then invited some women friends to take part in her photographic experiment, allowing them to dress and pose with the guns as they pleased.

The result is a complex dialogue which is as much iconoloy of firearms as it is iconography of female personae. In the faces of the subjects we read personal malaise, cultural self-hatred, and urges to be violent. One woman’s pose reads defiance and anger, her eyes and facial tension telling of a difficuly life. With the handgun tucked in her waistband, there is fantasy to fulfill her anger. Another feels discomfort holding the gun at her side, her eyes tell us she is disinterested and disdainful of the object of violence. In this sense the props force a projection of ego that wouldn’t occur without.

“Foreign” or inappropriate, is the idea that stays with us after leaving the photos. Juxtaposed are objects signifying destruction with humans who embody creation. The guns become our cultural absurdity, not because they’re used for pheasant hunting, but because they are designed and used for killing other humans.

Annie Get Your Gun: Notes about the Exhibition: 1995

In November of 1992, I went on a hunting trip on which I was the only woman in the group. I did not do much hunting in the sense of stalking the prey, instead I was completely preoccupied by the gun I carried. I was handling and using a gun for the first time. I studied how they positioned themselves with the gun, how they hung it loosely over their arm, pointing it downward, how they gripped it tightly across their chests and how they pulled it towards their bodies to aim. It was a language of gestures I mimicked.

Afterwards, when I saw a photograph of myself taken on the trip, I was struck to see that the image was powerful—yet foreign. The work is a response to the experience of seeing myself hodling a gun and attempts to reconstruct an exploration of the self when a desire for empowerment is aroused.

Annie Get Your Gun was a project in which 12 women (myself and other artists also concerned with concepts of identity and representation) came to my studio, one at a time to be photographed with guns. We identified ourselves in the way that we wanted to be represented by choosing our guns, clothing, accessories and poses.

My intention through this work is not to glorify the gun or its users but to observe how identity can be constructed through relationships we maintin with certain archetypes of authority.