The Grenade

Albuquerque Journal Editor's Notebook

December 12, 2004

By Karen Peterson

In the early morning sun, that golden oval sculpture outside Linda Durham's gallery on Paseo de Peralta, with its bright red "tag" and green top, gleams like an oversized tree ornament.

Actually, it's a six-foot-tall, gold-encrusted grenade.

Gallery director Patrick Carpenter says it's an anti-war statement. Artist Martin Cary Horowitz notes that it went up in front of Linda Durham's a week before the November 2 election.

"People thought it was perfect timing," Horowitz said. "Stop the war, get rid of what's-his-name."

Reaction to the piece varies, however. "It's been bringing people in the door," says Carpenter, many of them wondering whether the gallery "is supporting war or terrorism or something."

"They thought (the grenade) was threatening in some way," he said.

Others view the grenade in a more positive light, although neither Carpenter nor Horowitz could quite articulate this view. "Thank God there's strength in armaments, and yadda yadda," said Horowitz, who also has applied gold leaf to variously sized bomb casings and real (but disarmed) grenades.

Reviewing two new books about Iraq by his fellow war correspondents in the latest New York Review of Books, New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges noted that "combat has an undeniable attraction." One consequence of this, says Hedges, is that war reporting too often delivers "the mythic narrative of war" rather than its "revolting and horrifying" reality.

Weaponry beaten into art, if Horowitz's grenade is any indication, may suffer from the same conundrum. "Making death pretty," was how one person in our newsroom described the sculpture this week. Not coincidentally and not altogether unlike the news from Iraq, it's also a saleable commodity. A six-pack of Horowitz's small grenades can be had at Linda Durham for $4,000. The larger ornament outside will set you back $35,000.

In an effort to "stimulate conversation," presumably of both art and the war, Carpenter said the gallery held an essay contest on the grenade. The results will be announced shortly - perhaps this week. We'll be interested to hear what Santa Fe has to say on the subject.

Copyright 2004 Albuquerque Journal