Arts & Culture

UK Artist/Professor Garrett Hansen Wins South Arts Fellowship With Work on Gun Culture

photo of "Silhouettes" by Garrett Hansen
photo of ".40 Caliber" from "Void" by Garrett Hansen
photo of "Bullet #9" by Garrett Hansen
photo of detail of "Memorial - Kentucky, 2016" by Garrett Hansen
headshot photo of Garrett Hansen seated in front of shelves of books with plant

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 27, 2018) Artist Garrett Hansen, assistant professor of photography at University of Kentucky School of Art and Visual Studies, was named the 2018 South Arts State Fellowship winner for Kentucky. The fellowships recognize one artist in each of nine Southern states whose work reflects the best of the visual arts in the South.

“We are very proud to support Southern artists,” said Susie Surkamer, executive director of South Arts. “These State Fellows reflect the richly diverse arts and culture of our region, and each offers a distinct viewpoint with their work and background. The Southern Prize and State Fellowships are an important vehicle for artistic and professional growth of artists in the South.”

The South Arts Southern Prize and State Fellowships acknowledge, support and celebrate the highest quality artistic work being created in the American South. The nine fellowship award winners were selected by a jury from nearly 700 visual artists’ submissions in crafts, drawing, experimental, painting, photography, sculpture, multidisciplinary, and mixed media work.

As the Kentucky fellowship recipient, Hansen, a multidisciplinary artist, was awarded a $5,000 cash prize and the opportunity to compete for the South Arts Southern Prize, which was awarded to Paul Stephen Benjamin of Atlanta, Georgia. For a list of all fellowship recipients, including the Southern Prize winner, visit:

“It’s a true honor to receive this award, especially because my work comes so directly from my experiences here in Kentucky. As an artist I am committed to exploring this place that I have come to love and to find new ways of sharing what I have found,” Hansen said.

For South Arts, Hansen submitted his exploration of gun culture in the U.S. Roughly 40 percent of U.S. households have a gun and there are enough guns to arm nearly every man, woman and child in the country.

At the core of Hansen’s “The Void” series is a desire to consider these facts and create images that speak to their implications. Each image in this series is created from individual bullet holes. While shooting is essentially a destructive act, by bringing these holes into the darkroom, enlarging them and then processing and printing the results, Hansen balances destruction with creation. Viewers are presented with images that speak to the sublime — both attractive and terrifying at the same time. Hansen notes in many ways this reflects society’s opinions of guns in America, a country where the debate between rights and controls is at the forefront of public discussion in 2018 as much as ever.

While “The Void” explores a single bullet’s power, Hansen’s “Silhouette” series examines the broader gun culture in America. Every week, the artist goes to a local gun range and collects cardboard backings used behind the standard target, which depict an unarmed man’s silhouette. Each shooter is presented with a fresh target, while the backings slowly erode from rounds and rounds of shots at the unarmed man. The artist notes with the backings that the groupings most often seen are in and around the chest and head. Hansen collects the cardboard and brings them into the darkroom as well. This time he makes full sized contact prints, which are then scanned and form the basis for his final pieces of art made from mirrored plexiglass that are one-to-one replicas of the original cardboard backings. As viewers approach these pieces, they see their own reflections hollowed out by countless bullets.

The third component to Hansen’s ongoing gun project is comprised of bullets collected from gun ranges. Each bullet, sculpted by impact with a ballistic steel wall, takes on a dramatic new form. The contortion each bullet goes through speaks to the violence in the act of shooting and the transformation of each fired bullet from a sleek projectile into a twisted piece of lead.

Hansen’s newest work related to guns is an ongoing series titled “Memorial.” Each piece in this series documents gun deaths in a specific place and for a specific period of time. The first incarnation of this work, “Memorial – Kentucky, 2016,” is comprised of 12 panels. Each panel represents a single month in Kentucky and records every homicide involving a gun that occurred during that month. The work aims to acknowledge the heavy price of having a heavily armed civilian population.

A graduate of Grinnell College, Hansen studied economics and political science during his undergraduate years. He earned his master’s degree in photography from Indiana University and has taught at several universities in the United States and Asia. His artwork deals primarily with issues of place and how we grow to know and understand the world around us. Hansen has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United States, Europe, South America, Australia and Asia. 

South Arts, one of the country’s six Regional Arts Organizations, was founded in 1975 to build on the South’s unique heritage and enhance the public value of the arts. South Arts’ work responds to the arts environment and cultural trends with a regional perspective. The organization offers a portfolio of activities designed to address the issues important to the region and to link the South with the nation and the world through the arts. South Arts works in partnership with the state arts agencies of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Support for South Arts comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, member states, foundations, businesses and individuals.

Hansen is the second UK faculty member to win the Kentucky Fellowship from South Arts. Becky Alley, lecturer and gallery director of Bolivar Art Gallery, was last year’s recipient.

The UK School of Art and Visual Studies, at the UK College of Fine Arts, is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of art studioart history and visual studiesart education, and digital media and design.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue