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Orlando Museum of Art: Love Letters

Image: Love Letters exhibit, omart.org
Image: Love Letters exhibit, omart.org

By now, the overwhelming horror of the Pulse shootings has begun to recede. Some of us have started to be able to release the shock and dread that were a constant in the first few weeks afterward.

But still, fireworks don’t sound the same. The phrase “trigger warning” is wince-inducing, even now when it’s most needed. So I doubt that anyone will be able to look at the art of Noelle Mason, currently hanging at Orlando Museum of Art, with ease.

Mason’s body of work examines our perceptions of violence. She extracts imagery from public formats, like surveillance video and reinterprets it in unexpected mediums.

Among several pieces on display, one in particular might puncture any serenity you’ve managed to pull together. The large installation called “Love Letters / White Flag ” takes up two walls, and comprises dozens of vintage handkerchiefs embroidered with tiny black writing. As you look closer, eventually, it becomes clear that these are handmade replicas of pages from the journal of Columbine shooter Eric Harris.

This isn’t about shock value. “Love Letters” is minimal and sort of pretty, in fact, until you realize what you’re looking at. But Mason’s intention is for the viewer to confront disturbing material “in a quiet space, like a museum” and in a radically different form, in hopes of changing our response to it.

If, as Mason says, the artist’s job is not simply to create but to challenge a culture of violence, then the viewer’s job is not simply to witness, but to change that status quo.