Spoils of War

Firearm Art Seized at Houston Airport

Despite being inoperative, Bran Symondson's AK-47 artwork was banned from entering the U.S. last week.

By Jeanne Lyons Davis August 15, 2016

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British artist and veteran Bran Symondson planned on showcasing his artwork at the pop-up exhibition Emerging Artists 2016 this past Saturday at La Colombe d’Or Gallery and in association with London's Maddox Gallery.

Little did the Amnesty International Media Award winner know, his artwork—three decommissioned, non-working AK-47s embellished with dollar bills and butterflies—would not make it past customs at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

"All the paper work needed was in order, but they still refused to release his art," said Marianne Bruvel, La Colombe d'Or Gallery director. After it was confirmed on Thursday that Symondson's three pieces would not be turned over, he worked for the next 30-plus hours to create a piece for Saturday's opening night. As luck would have it, he had a California commission for a similar piece, so that non-working AK-47 was overnighted to Houston, where Symondson raced against the clock to forge a new piece.

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Virtue of the Vicious

“It is unfortunate that I am unable to exhibit 'Spoils of War,' 'Beat of a Wing' and 'Virtue of the Vicious'–particularly as the pieces are created from decommissioned AK-47’s, which were captured on route from Afghanistan to Syria, completely harmless and unusable as weapons," Symondson said in a press release on Friday.

Symondson's “Spoils of War” is a non-working AK-47 covered in $1 bills. Within the magazine are empty rounds boasting items that create conflict around the world, including oil, gold and diamonds. “Beat of a Wing” is covered in butterflies and the magazine holds Symondson's interpretation of Mother Nature reclaiming earth, including sugar (representing overfarming), dead fish (representing damaged oceans) and sawdust (symbolizing deforestation).

“Virtue of the Vicious” is covered in real butterflies and resembles the Texas flag. Within the magazine, there are clear, empty rounds filled with Texas-specific items, like yellow rose petals, pink cloth with a blood stain to represent the jacket that Jackie Kennedy Onassis wore during the JFK assassination and small meteor rocks to epitomize NASA.

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Spoils of War

The pop-up exhibit, originally scheduled for a short run from August 9–16, has extended its run through the end of the month thanks to the overwhelming support and interest from the public. Other artists exhibited include Bradley Theodore, Lincoln Townley, Finn Stone, Simafra, Massimo Agostinelli and Dan Baldwin.

"It's ironic that the law permits U.S. citizens to go and buy a new, live weapon which I could, in theory, use to create one of my artworks from, which then could technically be used in its intended form but will not allow my pieces of harmless art into the country," Symondson said in a press release. "When discussing the issue in La Colombe d’Or Art gallery with a client, who is a U.S. citizen, he laughed and offered to purchase a fully functionally AK-47 online for me there and then.”

Thru Aug 31. La Colombe d'Or Gallery, 3410 Montrose Blvd. 713-524-7999. lacolombedor.com

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