Specifically, it's the perspective of an artist who is barely half the age of the 22-year-old shooter and not yet old enough to drive, let alone own a gun.
The 12-year-old artist, who lives in
"I'm not against the 2nd Amendment, or I'm not against people hunting, because I mean if that's what they want to do, they're allowed to," Charles said by phone Tuesday. "But I'm just against people getting hurt from guns."
'Only in an art gallery'
The title of the Townley exhibit is "Gunstruction 101," but the slogan at the top of the news release -- "I wish guns were only in an art gallery" -- may articulate the message most clearly.
In crafting his work, Charles tapped his knowledge of art history, with pieces modeled after the styles of
Charles' first gun-themed work, which he made at age 9, addressed reports of gun violence in the news. In this case, the artist worked the media into his craft: He wrapped a replica gun with newspaper clippings, then mounted it on a similarly coated backdrop.
By now, Charles estimates that he's sold more than 50 of his works. On family trips to
It was at an indoor exhibit -- Artexpo New York, which brings together hundreds of artists every year in
Charles' work impressed Townley with its Pop Art appeal, but the timeliness of its theme -- especially coming from a 12-year-old artist -- struck him most.
"It could be what every kid in school is in fear of, that someone's going to come with a gun to school," Townley said. "So it has a lot to do with children and guns."
Growing up with his parents and older brother, Charles had no aversion to guns. He played with them -- the Nerf variety, at least -- like many kids do. Also like many his age, Charles showed an interest in visual art, but he approached it as more than a hobby.
Early in elementary school, he began setting up shows in his family's living room, posting advertisements around the house and even handing out tickets. He began taking art classes but dropped out because he felt they didn't afford enough freedom. Finally, when he was 9, his father,
The table featured an assortment of work, from nature paintings to gun-themed pieces, but it quickly became evident which ones caught the attention of passersby.
"Right away, you could just tell the young people were coming up and oohing and aahing over these gun pieces, because they had a real slick look,"
"I watched a super well-educated, successful, middle-aged attorney pull his wallet out and hand Charles a
As a young professional, Charles has encountered the tough side of the art world as well. According to his father, people at both ends of the political spectrum have attacked him via email, accusing him of being either too pro-gun or too anti-gun.
Charles actually put his project on hold after the shooting in
After more than two weeks, though, Charles resumed the series. And if the Townley show -- his first gallery exhibit -- draws a few emotional reactions, well, that's part of the point.
"I don't think he's trying to tell people that we shouldn't have self-defense or we shouldn't have SEAL Team 6,"
What: "Gunstruction 101"
Information: (949) 715-1860 or townleygallery.com
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