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Violence Series

During winter's dead-zone, warming myself by the television and listening to the nightly sounds of gunfire; I painted a series of light-filled canvases covered with the playful and happy children of summer (The Explorers Series). The promos for the Evening News boasted of a near record-breaking murder rate, "Sixty-eight murders this year, tune in tonight to see if it will be sixty-nine!" I still painted the cheerful children bathed in tidewater and warm sunlight. Across the street, a neighbor shot his half-brother. Up the street bullets tore into children at the new middle school. I tried to escape into the paint with children, water, and warm weather, but every night winter's cold, the news and gunfire broke into my world. "We are heading for a new record. Seventy murders this year, tune in tonight to see if it will be seventy-one!" Backyard neighbors fought and the single crack of a small caliber handgun brought silence to the block. All was quiet for another winter's night. Uninvited memories froze in my mind: burglars whipping my eighty year old neighbor, a man around the corner found tied to his attic rafters, and then private, personal pains. As the nights grew longer and the days colder, the subject of the paintings changed. A painted world of innocence became a world without shame. The healing sunlight turned into acid nights. With these paintings, I was trying to rid myself of this demon that had invaded my studio. 

After almost fifty violence paintings, I was able to return to my earlier series of innocent children, but the daylight was gone and now they waded in the night. New Years Day the news reports one man was shot by another who wanted to be recorded as the first murderer of the year. Violence surrounds us; it always has.

-- Ray M. Hershberger, 1992



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