Re-creating images 'with what destroyed them'

Laguna artist creates portraits using thousands of used bullet casings for his 'Fallen Heroes' series.

January 12, 2012|By Imran Vittachi
  • Laguna artist David S. Palmer creates portraits of famous people who were killed by bullets. He stands with his John Lennon piece that's made with used .40-caliber bullet casings. Other portraits include John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.
Laguna artist David S. Palmer creates portraits of famous… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

The image of Abe Lincoln stared out blankly at pedestrians on the sidewalk from a glass case by the art gallery's entrance.

From a distance, the portrait of the slain president resembled a bed of raised nailheads. A closer inspection revealed that the bottoms of bullet casings formed the contours and shades of his bearded visage.

The likeness of Lincoln, by artist David S. Palmer, greeted visitors walking into the Lu Martin Galleries in Laguna Beach on the night of this month's First Thursdays Art Walk.

His Lincoln is one of several such portraits of famous people whose lives were cut short by killers' bullets, which the low-relief sculptor calls his "Fallen Heroes" series. John Lennon, John F. Kennedy and Tupac Shakur are the other portraits in this series of highly unusual artworks created out of thousands of used bullet casings.

Look closely and one can see the words "40" and "S & W" engraved in their bottoms and repeating themselves over and over, signifying them as .40-caliber Smith & Wesson casings.


"I have re-created their images with what destroyed them," Palmer said.

He doesn't own a gun but said that he is neither pro-gun or critical of those who speak out against firearms. Through his art, he wants to show how these weapons prevail in American society and culture.

Although he continues to create portraits of famous people by using bullet shells as part of his mixed material pieces, the 58-year-old Laguna artist said he has moved on to less morbid subjects. Still, he hasn't stopped creating likenesses of people associated in some way or other with bullets and the gun culture.

Take Palmer's latest finished piece, titled "The Duke," his bullet-casing portrait of John Wayne.

Displayed in one of the gallery's main showrooms among a collection of oil paintings of beautiful lands and townscapes, Wayne's likeness seemed to draw the most interest among the visitors who stopped by Lu Martin Galleries on the evening of Jan. 5.

"When Dave told me about his idea of using bullet casings to produce unusual art, I was a little skeptical," said Lu Martin, the gallery's owner.

"I consider our gallery a place where people can relax and find beauty in every corner of the gallery," she added. "So to me, bullets conveyed negative emotions .... But when I saw the John Lennon piece and witnessed people of all ages responding to the likeness and the beauty of the art, I changed my mind."

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