For years, Eilene Carver has watched the TV news coverage of mass shootings across the country.
Each one has a different story. Each one hurts to watch.
After so many, she needed an outlet for her feelings, and that came through a paintbrush.
Carver, a Flower Mound resident, has painted 30 pieces over three years as part of her “Target” series – many that both tell the story of a particular shooting incident and the story she sees behind it. Others simply symbolize the issue.
Those pieces will be on display from June 23 to July 29 at the MCL Grand Creative Arts Center, 100 N. Charles St. in Lewisville.
Many incidents led to Carver’s decision to create this series, beginning with the 1989 Cleveland Elementary shooting in Stockton, California, where Carver lived near at the time.
But the tipping point for her was the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
“I hope to focus on the impact to the individuals who lost someone and the impact this has on society,” Carver said.
Carver said these types of events have become too commonplace in society.
“This week, there have been two shootings and a bombing,” Carver said. “What effect does this have on us as a society and as individuals?”
She hopes she conveys that through her art.
One piece she painted related to the Stockton shooting is called “Red Shoes, Stockton (for Oeun Lim).” She admits this story got to her.
“The teacher at the school, Julie Schardt, went to the yard to identify the students, and when she went out there, she knew who one of the girls was because of her red shoes,” Carver said. “They had developed a connection over her Christmas shoes. These were just kids outside on the playground.”
The piece features a pair of red shoes at the forefront with the teacher’s public statements in the background.
Another piece is called “Next?” This piece takes a look at how school shootings have become all too common, causing many to become desensitized to them.
She illustrated this feeling by fading school names and overlapping pins to block out past events.
Eventually, Carver’s idea evolved from school shootings into a larger issue of targeted violence, such as the sniper attacks July 7, 2016, that killed four Dallas PD officers and one DART officer.
This piece, titled “Black and Blue,” aims to honor the officers who were killed while providing protection for the protestors who were exercising their right to call for change.
“It’s not just about the officers. I desired to consider both sides of the issue,” Carver said. “The stream of conscience narrative, surrounding the state of Texas, echoes what I hear voiced by the bruised souls on both sides of this conflict, such as ‘race,’ ‘conflict’ and ‘Ferguson.’”
The painting focuses on the number five – for the officers killed and for the five key people involved in events that led up to the Black Lives Matter movement.
In “Black and Blue” Carver streamlined key phrases she consistently heard in news reports at the time – “race,” “conflict” and “Ferguson.”
But she admits, “If people lean one way on this issue, they may not like this.”
Carver said her work usually features symbolic still-life pieces with dramatic lighting and color.
But Carver said she took a different approach for this series.
“This is more confrontational,” Carver said.
Many of these aren’t focused around a single object but a “collaged target,” which sometimes leads to an uncomfortable composition. They include aggressive strokes and a purposed visceral surface. The palettes in these pieces are often darker than what she’s used to creating.
“There are uncomfortable marks surrounding the subject,” Carver said. “Then I come in and develop the image creating my usual melancholic mood.”
She points to “Red Shoes, Stockton” where she came into focus with the shoes but had “uncomfortable marks” around it.
While Carver said the art will be available for purchase, she hopes her pieces land in the hands of people who understand the message she’s trying to convey.
“These paintings aren’t about a solution,” Carver said. “I want to raise awareness. The goal is for us to look deeper. I’m not against guns, but violence is the heart of the issue. In a lot of these stories, someone wasn’t stable. And people knew it and didn’t speak up.”