Artist Shaun Leonardo ’01 Triggers Nonverbal Gun Debate

Shaun Leonardo ’01. Illustration by Chelée Ross ’12.

Shaun Leonardo’s newest work, Primitive Games, commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum, has brought together people with opposing views of gun control to debate the issue—just without words.

In a recent article, “Can an Artist Shift the Gun Debate?,” The New York Times reports, “With the dialogue on guns stalled, Mr. Leonardo suggests that the underlying problem might be words: If people can avoid defensive language and find an alternative way of conversing about gun control, maybe we can actually start communicating.”

Leonardo, who graduated from Bowdoin in 2001 with a major in visual arts, is known for his performance pieces that address contentious social issues, including the numbers of black and Latino men in prison, racial inequality, and police use of force. “While whatever real-world impact he is making is hard to measure, in art-world terms, Mr. Leonardo has become a growing force in the field of social practice,” the Times said.

Leonardo also visited the Bowdoin campus during the spring semester to facilitate a town hall event tackling the issues of migration and displacement. Click here to read more and watch a short video.

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