EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A Tucson-based artist brought her colorful “United States of Ammunition” art installation to El Paso Saturday morning. The temporary installation used over a hundred spray-painted bullet casings arranged in the state of Texas near the El Paso Walmart memorial site.
Artist Maureen Cain tells KTSM just as she was finishing the installation, she learned of the shooting in Midland-Odessa which has since claimed the lives of seven victims and injured nearly two-dozen more.
Cain, of Tucson, started the project with her daughter, Erin Cain-Hodge in Washington State on July 28, the day a gunman killed four people at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California. In her initial two-week road trip, an estimated 1,500 Americans, including at least 17 in mass shootings were killed by gun violence, Cain said.
The pair started their road trip to create and photograph bullet-casing art installations at sites of gun violence in each of the 50 states, as of Saturday, Cain had reached eight states.
Through the process, Cain intends to gather and paint 30,000 bullet casings- representing the number of deaths caused annually by firearms in the United States. Those bullet casings will then travel to locations where lives were lost to gun violence.
Her tour will end on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Capitol building where a large-scale map of the U.S., using all 30,000 casings, will be installed.
“My job as an artist is not to explain but to reflect what I see back to the viewer,” Cain says. “What I see, everywhere, is gun violence.”
So far, on her journey through the Western U.S., Cain has visited Maryville Pilchuck High School, site of a 2014 school shooting that resulted in the death of four students, Yakima Washington, at the site of a school shooting where a 19-year-old was killed by a 17-year-old. Pendleton, Oregon at the site of a suicide by gunshot inside a car, Boise, Idaho near the site of the murder of a 19-year-old killed by her partner in a case of apparent domestic violence.
They have also visited the Las Vegas mass shooting site, and the nearby memorial site of Tupac Shakur, who was killed by gunfire in 1993. They have since visited grocery store where Gabby Giffords was shot in 2012 and six others were killed and the U.S.-Mexico Border.
In total, Cain has visited Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and now Texas.
When asked if she planned to visit Odessa, Cain said she has considered the idea, but there are “just too many shootings.”
The Walmart installation was temporary, because, Cain says, she is not able to leave the bullet casings at any of the installation sites permanently.
She says that although many of the sites of her installations are well-known, most are sites of everyday gun violence. She says that includes the locations of suicide by gun, which claims an estimated 22,000 lives a year, and locations of domestic violence by gun, which she says results in the death of an average of three women a day.
“I want the viewer to be drawn in by something beautiful, to open their hearts, to take in what they see, and then to bring their own interpretation to the moment,” Maureen sain says.