Artist Sonia Rentsch created this striking series of sculptures for January Biannual (photographed by Albert Comper and art direction by Olivia Nichols), using natural materials like leaves, sticks and seed pods to mimic the form of guns and other weapons. Titled "Harm Less," the images stir thoughts of beauty and violence within man and nature.
This type of art always grabs my attention. As children, we're often finding bits of nature that mean something to us, be it a stick that looks like a sword or a rock that we believe was an arrowhead. That is one reason I loved Richard Shilling's Land Art series, which shows how this search for form and beauty in nature doesn't need to (and shouldn't) stop when we grow out of childhood.
With Rentsch's focus on weapons, I'm also reminded of Brett Van Ort's photographs of abandoned mine fields as idyllic landscapes, preserved thanks to the fear of what lay beneath the dirt and underbrush. Van Ort challenged us to see the dark side of beauty, recognizing that these serene, lush landscapes were only preserved and beautiful because the violence of man had made them too dangerous for anyone to venture into.
Rentsch's works are similarly complicated in that they are beautiful, but also potentially disturbing. With gun violence in the news and a environmental degradation and pollution changing the climate, it is easy to project symbolism onto these images. You can also get a sense of her own intention from her title for the series, "Harm Less". But what makes Rentsch's work so effective as art is that just as we may see the forms as making an anti-violence or pro-environment statement, it is clear that we can also find beauty in the form of a gun, as well. For gun enthusiasts and collectors, there's no doubt the craftsmanship of weapons has an appeal. But while the ingenuity of man has led to some incredible and incredibly dangerous creations, like with all tools, what matters most is how we choose to use them.
Thanks to Sonia Rentsch for sharing her work!