By Design: We Pull the Trigger

By Design: We Pull the Trigger
James Pate and Dayton Early College Academy Students

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charcoal on paper

About the Cover

“Who pulls the trigger?” is a simple four-word question that is compacted with complexities and no clear-cut answer. The question is saturated with historical reference, social/political interaction, mental health mystery, media influence, and religious/spiritual justifications, to say the least. Answering the question artistically, or otherwise, was over my head, and beyond my maturity and intellect, until I collaborated with high school students from Dayton Early College Academy (DECA).

Surprisingly, from the offset of our initial conversation, the students took ownership of the question with a consensus that “we” (society) pull the trigger. We discussed other ideas and perspectives that centered on gun violence, which shaped and dictated the result of our piece. In a fundamental, yet complex way, this work of art attempts to illustrate and replace “who” with “we” pull the trigger. Our very own imperfect chemistry/biology seems to naturally energize to create an environment filled with negative and positive content that ironically backfires and influences our “we” behavior. Some of the content in this environment are art(s), standards by which to socialize, chemistry of all sorts, the creation of weapons and other firearms, religion, mass media, and so on.

In the foreground of this piece is a diagram of a bullet that “we” designed. It also has a chemically/biologically charged fetus dressed in a hooded sweatshirt (a.k.a. hoodie) while cradling a firearm in preparation for an environment that has a hostile design. There’s a simulated concept-patented design of a firearm system that allows only the registered owner to pull the trigger. In the background are chemical/biological representations of a human brain, neurotransmitters, and DNA helix strands made of bullets.

When the DECA students conclude that “we” pull the trigger, in essence, they are saying that the trigger was pulled long before a trigger was ever conceived. More to the point, before the trigger was designed, “we” were designed. Fittingly, the title of this 5’ x 10’ charcoal drawing is “By Design: We Pull the Trigger.”

—James Pate

about the artist
James Pate is an innovative multi-stylist whose work has been exhibited in a number of galleries, contemporary art centers, and museums throughout the country. James is a past winner of the highly competitive Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award grant and a two-time recipient of the Montgomery County Individual Artist Fellowship. James’ acclaimed series of charcoal drawings titled “Kin Killing Kin,” which depicts the devastation of black-on-black homicide, is currently touring the country.

DECA students
Ana Zacarias
Lyric Fields
Kayla Mitchell
Gregory Sampson-Fields
Ron’Necia Tanner
Tanisha Hampshire
BrAnn Porter
Jeremiah Holloway
Tommy Favors
Jordan Grandy
Ebony Anderson
Kiondria Robinson
Chloe Tate
Jovian Chapman
Zach Ellis
Dache Amos
Niela Flowers