Blood Money

Made by Uday Uppal

A Banksy-inspired piece that explores and reveals the truth of the National Rifle Association.

Created: September 8th, 2016



Recently, gun violence has received increased attention in the United States. However, progress on gun reform is still being halted by the amount of power the National Rifle Association (NRA) holds over the country's politicians. I want to bring attention to the NRA's true goal behind their relentless campaign against gun reform, money. Every mass shooting causes a widespread feeling of insecurity, which the NRA abuses for profit by manipulating the public into believing that more guns would solve the problem. The organization stands on the pedestal of blood money, which is what I attempt to reveal with my artwork.



Banksy uses his artwork to serve as social commentary on issues with contemporary society. This is what I have tried to replicate in my work by appropriating his distinct graffiti street-art style to serve my own purposes and communicate my message. Banksy has a powerful technique in which he not only paints the message, but also the person or persons who may be writing the message (an example of which is shown below). I tried to appropriate this technique and adapt it to my artwork as well because it adds much more meaning to the piece. Additionally, a lot of Banksy's work displays stenciled images in black with text in red (which can also be seen in the example below). This is another technique I adapted into my work to make it look more like Banksy's, and also because the bright red attracts the eye to the message. I chose to appropriate Banksy not only because he focuses on social and political issues, but also because one goal of this project is to make artwork which we could monetarily profit from, and Banksy look-alikes can often sell for quite a high price. 

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When I first began this project, I wanted to reveal how much power the NRA had over the country. I had seen Banksy's "One Nation Under CCTV", and had decided that I could do something similar. I found a bumper sticker that said "One Nation Under God" and proceeded to work with that, crossing out the word "God" and replacing it instead with "Guns". I wanted the painters to be young children to represent innocent life lost to gun violence, specifically the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. However, the product I ended up with (shown below) was not something I liked compositionally, and I believed it did not put across the right message. Everyone already knows the NRA has power, but what I wanted to reveal was the fact that they profit from gun violence and thus have an interest in halting gun reform. I decided to go deeper and directly vandalize the NRA seal itself. I crossed out the word "Rifle" and replaced it with "Blood Money". I also simplified the color palette and rearranged the composition to end up at the product that finally satisfied me and my inner critic (shown under the product section).



My final product (shown below) looks very much like a Banksy piece. I decided to use a plain white brick wall, and even turned down the contrast and brightness so that it would distract as little as possible from the graffiti. I then found the NRA seal, an image that does not belong to me, and moved it onto the wall, using the "multiply" mode to make the contours of the bricks show through. Then, I proceeded to use a bright red brush to paint over the word "Rifle" and write "Blood Money" on the side instead. I experimented with multiple brushes and handwriting styles until I found text I was satisfied with, and then even added some paint drips to emphasize the "Blood" part of the message. Finally, I looked at many of Banksy's pieces and other references (shown below) as I drew out my "stenciled" child painter, standing next to an overflowing bucket of red paint and holding a paintbrush dripping red. I worked very hard to make the figure look like a sad, innocent child in order to better evoke a sad response and communicate the right message. This piece was created using Pixlr's web application.



I am very happy with the outcome of this project. It very clearly looks like street-art, and is similar to a Banksy piece as intended. It successfully appropriates from Banksy's work while still having enough of a personal message to stand apart in its own right. The final product truly encapsulates the ideas I set out to communicate, and acts as an effective outlet to distribute that idea to the general audience. It is definitely a much clearer message than the one put across in my first attempt. Additionally, I believe that the artwork is visually pleasing, and that besides just having a strong, clearly communicated message, it is also compositionally and chromatically sound. The work satisfies the requirements of the project in that it borrows from a contemporary artist, includes an image that does not belong to me, and also can be used for monetary benefit as explained in the above sections. Even my inner critic is satisfied with the outcome.


Personal Reflection

This was one of the few projects at the culmination of which, my inner critic was actually satisfied. Generally, as I work and develop a piece, I constantly accept and reject ideas, and even when I feel I have finished, there is a part of me that isn't completely satisfied with the product. Here, however, I had no such doubts at the end. I believe the reason for that is the fact that when I was developing my first piece and realized I did not like many parts of it, I decided to completely scrap that piece and start anew instead of trying to modify and salvage what I could. This I believe was critical in being able to produce something I am fully satisfied with. As I move forward, I will focus on recognizing such feelings and putting in the effort to restart if I feel the need to do so. It is true that this is a more time-consuming approach, but it is also a far more rewarding approach. Perhaps, in order to reduce the chance that I will need to restart, I should plan out my project and composition better before I even begin.

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A Banksy-inspired piece that explores and reveals the truth of the National Rifle Association.